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Our fifth annual Products of the Year awards honor 15 new or improved storage products that had the most significant impact in 2006.

If, generally speaking, 2005 was the year of new storage product introductions, 2006 might be called "the year of upgrades," as most manufacturers scrambled to refine and improve their storage offerings. But don't think for a moment that 2006 was boring. It's not easy to improve products so that they're more interoperable, behave better in the data center, are easier to manage and, in many instances, do more and cost less than previous versions. For the editors of Storage magazine and SearchStorage.com, as well as an expert judging panel of analysts, consultants and users, it was a challenge to sort through all of the supremely qualified nominations to select this year's winners.

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For many storage managers, the goal is to do more with fewer resources across a broader range of platforms. Thankfully, improved storage technologies and products helped them achieve that goal. Hard drives gained capacity; more capacity meant fitting more storage into fewer devices, which consume less power, cooling and data center space. And even though data continues to grow at an almost uncontrollable rate, new ways to cut down on storing redundant data, such as data deduplication (single-instance storage), helped trim capacity needs. Storage virtualization products, although not new in 2006, have improved, as have remote replication and WAN optimization products that move data effortlessly from remote offices to the main data center for better protection and more centralized management.

What does it take to be a Product of the Year? It starts with our judges--your peers--who gauge each nomination on six key criteria: ease of integration, functionality, innovation, manageability, performance and value. Top-scoring products must then pass another hurdle: practicality and importance. By considering how well a product solves real problems and weighing its long-term impact on the storage industry, the "wow factor" is eliminated, leaving us with the best products in each category. Congratulations to all of this year's winners!

This was first published in February 2007

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