Best storage products of the year

The editors of Storage magazine and SearchStorage.com present the winners of the 1st Annual Products of the Year.

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The editors of Storage and SearchStorage.com sat down this past fall to assess the 2002 crop, with an eye toward helping you choose those products that you have to include on your "A" list for evaluation. From our conversations with storage managers, we knew that innovation, while certainly the hallmark of great new products, wasn't sufficient to single out such products.

Given tight budgets, short staffs and ever-increasing data volumes, we decided on the following criteria as being most critical:

  • Innovation
  • Performance
  • Ease of integration into environment
  • Ease of use and manageability
  • Functionality
  • Value

And so we solicited nominations from vendors, scoured the market for our own nominations and recruited a panel of judges composed of independent industry experts, storage managers and editors. They reviewed a total of 39 products in five major categories. The results are presented within.

You'll see products that are simply the best at what you're doing now, that next step in the evolution of current technology. You'll see products that are just the opposite - they break the mold and let you go where you've been unable to go. None are a panacea - all have to be evaluated as part of your overall storage infrastructure. But we think you'll agree they all have a mix of valuable attributes that when matched to the right task in the right environment, advance the state of the art in storage.

Categories

Disk & Disk Subsystems
Networking Equipment
Backup Hardware
Backup & Disaster Recovery Software
Storage Management Software
Disk & Disk Subsystems

GOLD:  

Nexsan's InfiniSAN ATAboy2 has "monstrous capacity for an astonishingly low price"
Nexsan InfiniSAN ATAboy2
2002 was a tough year for storage managers who were charged with running their departments on flat - or even shrinking - budgets in the face of ever-increasing data storage demands. So it's only fitting that as winner of the disk subsystem category, our judges chose a product characterized by monstrous capacity for such a low price: Nexsan's InfiniSAN ATAboy2.

Based on up-and-coming ATA drives, the current generation of the ATAboy is the ATABeast, which comes with 13.4TB of capacity in a 4U enclosure, with a list price of about $40,000. That's under $3/GB, or under a third of a cent per megabyte.

Nexsan's ATAboy family is primarily marketed as a target for disk-based backup, but it's also being used by organizations that store large quantities of so-called fixed content. For example, the Museum of Television and Radio in New York City uses Nexsan's ATAboy to archive digitized television and radio shows. As one judge put it, "This is the one for the up-and-comer. It has the value small shops low on capital need."

Judges weren't only impressed by the ATAboy's low price point, but also its relatively high performance. Unlike some ATA-based arrays, all 42 drives in the ATABeast can be active simultaneously, for 25,000 IOPS and sustained data transfer rates of 180MB/s.

Judges also seemed to appreciate ATAboy for the ease with which it integrates into end-user environments. Unlike some ATA-based arrays targeted at backup or fixed content, you don't need to write to any special APIs, nor are you limited to using it as a target for a backup application. It can be used in conjunction with Nexsan's InfiniSAN D2D data management application, which provides timed online replication with multiversion control so that files are stored and accessed in native file format, for immediate restores. This is in contrast to tape backup applications, which store data in their own proprietary format.

Other vendors also launched ATA-based products targeted at fixed content this year - for example, EMC with its Centera array. And while judges scored it highly for its innovative architecture, it ultimately lost points on cost and integration concerns.

SILVER:  

The FAS900 series comes with a complete set of software functionality
Network Appliance FAS900 Series
Among judges, Network Appliance's FAS900 - the company's first attempt at a storage area network (SAN) - got major brownie points for innovation. In the past, storage managers looking for both file and block capabilities could either install two separate systems, or put a network-attached storage (NAS) head in front of a SAN. The FAS900's operating and file systems, however, can natively serve up either file or block from the same physical disks, while maintaining a single point of management and a single set of software tools.

To be sure, converged file and block services are a nice technological feat, but the real reason judges rated the FAS900 so highly is because like its filer cousins before it, it's easy to implement, easy to manage and comes with a complete set of software functionality. In a world where companies spend up to $7 to manage every $1 of physical storage, that's a compelling recommendation.

BRONZE:  

3PAR's family of storage servers provide fault tolerance and single system image for simplified management
3PAR Utility Storage System
3PAR's utility storage server isn't the everyman's disk subsystem. With capacity that can scale to 375TB in a single S800 system (using 2,560 147GB drives) and 47,001 SPC-1 IOPS performance, 3PAR has delivered on what is commonly known as utility storage - storage suited for the most demanding data center environments.

It's not only that 3PAR's Utility Storage Server is fast and gigantic that appealed to our judges. It's also the system's ability to serve up that performance and capacity as needed to a variety of different hosts and applications. Equipped with between two and eight clustered controller nodes, these data movement engines can handle mixed workloads simultaneously, while providing fault tolerance and single system image for simplified management.

For storage managers that want to consolidate their storage, 3PAR's Utility Storage Server presents them the opportunity to efficiently house all their diverse applications on a single system, without fear of wasting expensive storage resources.

Networking Equipment

GOLD:   Brocade SilkWorm 3200
The brocade silkworm 3200 got the gold because it's an excellent switch for companies starting to move from direct-attached storage (DAS) to entry-level SANs. The eight-port SilkWorm 3200 is priced right (around $1,000 a port) and offers the performance (2Gb/s) that meets the requirements of a small SAN.

The 3200 supports Windows NT/2000, Linux, and Unix server clustering applications. It replaces legacy hub or loop switch devices, provides a highly scalable backend for NAS devices and serves as a stepping stone to enterprise-wide SAN deployment. It's the right-sized switch for implementing departmental and workgroup SANs. As one industry analyst put it, "Products such as the SilkWorm 3200 move the [SAN] entry price point toward the equivalent points of Ethernet networks."

The SilkWorm 3200's low port count doesn't mean cut-rate features, either. Quite the contrary, it includes:

  • Automatic sensing and speed matching between 1Gb/s and 2Gb/s on a port-by-port basis;
  • Brocade management utilities like WebTools and Fabric Manager simplify switch management;
  • The ability to upgrade to a full fabric through a non-disruptive software license key;
  • Features such as Inter-Switch Link (ISL) trunking, frame filtering and hardware-enforced zoning offer a high degree of SAN security;
  • Fully compatible with older Brocade products.
  • Command line or Web-based GUI management;
  • Call home, e-mail or pager notification

There are other eight-port, 2Gb/s SAN switches on the market. But none, in our opinion, offer all the management functionality that comes with the 3200. Brocade has raised the bar for entry-level SAN switches.

SILVER:   McData Intrepid 6140 Director
Storage needs are growing at alarming rates, along with the requirement to meet business continuance goals, match SLAs and adapt to changing business needs. The McData Intrepid 6140 Director can handle almost any task thrown its way. Simply put, it's an immense, capable switch built for quickly growing large Fibre Channel (FC) SAN fabrics and mainframe FICON environments. Because the Intrepid 6140 extends the scalability to 140 ports, it provides less complicated connectivity for large SANs. The Intrepid 6140can scale up from 64 to 140 ports in four-port increments and with its protocol-independent architecture, 60 buffer credits per port, low switch latency and 2Gb/s speed, is designed to support many emerging technologies, such as 10Gb/s, iSCSI, FC over IP, and InfiniBand.

It's nice to see a large port-count switch that can grow with a company's storage requirements - and grow in a way that protects prior investments. McData's hot code load and activation technology (HotCat) allows new firmware and software to be deployed without network disruption. And because of its high number of ports, cabling and inter-switch connections are simplified, which reduces costs. The judges liked the McData Intrepid 6140 director because it was designed to meet a company's storage needs today, and most importantly, can scale to tomorrow's needs as well.

BRONZE:  

Emulex's MultiPulse provides failover and automatic load balancing
Emulex LightPulse LP9802 HBA
Emulex has upped the host bus adapter (HBA) ante by stuffing a lot of neat features into its 133MHz LightPulse LP9802 PCI-X Fibre Channel (FC)HBA. For example, there's end-to-end parity protection for data integrity, multiple protocol support (SCSI and IP), data buffering for up to 100 km of cabling supporting high bandwidth over long distances and full duplex 2Gb/s FC speed that's backward compatible with 1Gb/s SANs.

But here's the really cool stuff: In contrast to previous methods - which require HBAs to be managed on a server-by-server basis - Emulex's HBAnyware driver technology provides the ability to upgrade HBA firmware anywhere in a FC or iSCSI SAN from a single console. Additionally, Emulex's MultiPulse provides failover and automatic load balancing capabilities that intelligently manage multiple I/O streams.

We also like the fact that Emulex is forging agreements with other SAN vendors - such as Brocade and TrueSAN, for example - to further extend its HBAs' capabilities and make SAN management even easier.

Backup Hardware

GOLD:  

For the price, it's hard to top Overland's Neo Series 4000
Overland Neo Series 4000
The words "tape" and "innovative" usually don't occupy space in the same sentence. But in the eyes of the editors and judges, the Overland Neo Series 4000 tape library couldn't seem to shake the words. The Neo sparked attention with its superior scalability and failover capabilities.

To get some of the specs out of the way - the Neo LXN4000 series libraries scale from one drive and 52 cartridges to 16 drives and 240 cartridges. The Neo LXN4000 series accommodates DLT8000, SDLT, SDLT320, LTO-1 and recently added support for LTO-2 drives. Clearly, this library option can accommodate enterprises forecasting widespread growth. The Neo also supports 1Gb/s and 2Gb/s FC technology.

So where does the innovation come in? In a couple of areas, the Neo has features not readily available on tape libraries. For instance, the Neo is able to be remotely repaired on the fly. This allows administrators to find an error and fix it without bringing systems down and without tinkering with cabling.

Bob Abraham, President of Ojai, CA-based analyst firm Freeman Reports, says that the Overland series has some upscale features for a midrange product. Freeman points out that the Neo Series is attractive to midsized companies that have their eyes on growth. The Neo Series can accommodate this by economizing floor space with its rack design. This rack-and-stack feature allows anywhere from 4TB to 66TB and can write 115GB/hour to 1,840GB/hour.

Additionally, the Neo has a partitioning option that allows for virtual sublibraries. These sublibraries allow for a centralized point of management. Included in the ease of manageability is a touch-screen GUI. Software companies participating in the certification of Overland's Neo tape libraries range from Computer Associates, Legato, Veritas, Tivoli, BakBone, CommVault, Syncsort, Atempo, everStor, and LiveVault.

One of the only setbacks we could find with the Series 4000 was its lack of support for AIT. But for the price, anywhere from $22,500 for the low end and about $115,000 for the full boat, and the features you get, it's tough to top Overland's Neo Series 4000 for backup hardware needs.

SILVER:  

The two-drive, compact ADIC Scalar 24
ADIC Scalar 24
One of our judges summed up the ADIC Scalar 24 in one concise statement: "Using proven technology and the value of tape, this one is a ringer." If you're looking for value and performance, going with ADIC's Scalar 24 is a solid choice.

Scalar 24 allows small and midsized companies to get enterprise-level performance. IDC's Senior Research Analyst Robert Amatruda says the Scalar 24 addresses the needs of companies that want a high-density, low-cost library at an aggressive price.

ADIC offers this with one or two drives, with multiple tape technologies and the ability to integrate into a large SAN.

The Scalar 24 supports one or two LTO-1 or SDLT320 drives, and up to 24 tape cartridges for up to 64MB/s throughput and 6.8TB of capacity. At a starting price of about $12,500, this is value that's tough to beat.

BRONZE:   Quantum DX30
One of our judges didn't call the Quantum DX30 Enhanced Backup Solution "dead sexy" for nothing. You may want disk for backups and tape for restores, but how do you combine these technologies for the least disruption to your current backup procedures? Enter the DX30.

The disk-based DX30 emulates a tape library, making it easy to implement without changing your infrastructure or backup policies. Because it doesn't use an operating system, it backs up large blocks of data and achieve transfer speeds beyond 216Gb/hour, increasing the likelihood of successful backups and reducing restore time to less than 10 seconds. If floor space is a concern, no worries here. It packs 3TB capacity into two rack units.

The DX30 is the first of a family of products based on Quantum's Adaptive Disk Array Management Technology platform (ADAM), which enables high density and large data transfers without a lot of power consumption. One downside to the DX30: The list price for a fully configured DX30 is about $55,000, or about $16/GB - to which one of the judges exclaimed, "Gimme a break."

Backup & Disaster Recovery Software

GOLD:   CommVault Galaxy 4.1
When we looked at the entries in this category, we expected our winner to go beyond the hype in its marketing brochures and deliver the goods: namely, drastic reductions in backup/recovery time. CommVault Galaxy didn't disappoint, rising quickly to the top of our judges' list of favorites.

The Galaxy received high praise from judges for its innovation, ease of use, ease of integration into existing IT environments and its inherent value.

Galaxy is one of the first serverless backup/recovery solutions for Microsoft Windows and Unix environments. But it goes beyond that. Commvault Galaxy takes an application-centric and logical view of a company's mixed media storage resources. This top-down approach allows for faster, volume-level backup with minimal impact on either the production host or application performance.

CommVault Galaxy 4.1 also claims faster restores than its competitors. By writing backups to disk via random access, Galaxy exploits disk's inherent strengths. According to CommVault, most competing products write to disk sequentially, requiring a sequential and lengthier restore process.

This approach requires fewer manual steps for an administrator to follow in order to restore data rapidly at the application level, such as a rapid restore of an Oracle database.

Offering block-level incremental backup of Oracle databases, the product provides what the company claims is a "consistent, recoverable image of the data to be protected." The product also has built-in support for third-party snapshot and third-party copy applications, giving administrators a single browser-based interface for scheduling, managing or cataloguing snapshots and for viewing their global storage resources.

CommVault Galaxy shines in heterogeneous, mixed storage media environments (disk, tape or optical media). The product views all backup media from an abstract, logical layer as universal storage resources, as opposed to viewing it from just the physical storage or device layer, as does many of its competitors.

The CommVault Galaxy 4.1 has policy-based management features that allow administrators centrally manage and apply policies to each media resource. This also lets them manage data movement for each resource in a similar way, regardless of the media type.

CommVault Galaxy 4.1 supports heterogeneous operating systems, applications and storage platforms, including Unix, Linux, Microsoft Windows, Microsoft .NET, Novell, Oracle, several other Microsoft products, Lotus Notes/Domino and some EMC and Network Appliance products. Of special note to our judges was the fact that it also supports all network storage environments - whether DAS, SAN, LAN or WAN. Base pricing for CommVault Galaxy 4.1 starts at $2,000 per server.

SILVER:   This tool by Bellevue, WA-based Bocada, Inc., won a special place in our judge's hearts. After checking out Bocada's BackupReport, it became clear why this product received more glowing accolades from analysts, reviewers and customers than virtually any other storage software we've seen.

One judge even proclaimed, "Products such as these are desperately needed in the field." BackupReport does just what its name implies: It reports on the relative success or failure of your organization's backup processes. Using an intuitive GUI, it offers visual cues to identify how well your backups succeeded, often within moments of initial install. Surprisingly to most administrators, the final reports can quickly identify up to several hundred gigabytes that haven't been backed up successfully.

The product uses an agentless architecture that supports multiple operating systems and all major backup software products, including Veritas, Legato, IBM Tivoli, products by HP, Computer Associates, and Microsoft.

Pricing starts at $4,300 for a perpetual license to a single backup server in a homogeneous network environment.

BRONZE:   Veritas NetBackup 4.5
It should come as no surprise that Veritas NetBackup 4.5, released in April 2002, also made our list as a solid contender across all areas, including innovation, ease of use, functionality, value and performance.

After all, Veritas NetBackup has had a history of innovation in the market. This includes being one of the first to support serverless backup, via its E-Copy functionality. With its latest product version, Veritas has added some much-needed backup functionality, such as calendar-based scheduling. Customers will also see more robust backup and disaster recovery features, such as Bare Metal Recovery (BMR) and integrated vaulting with Veritas NetBackup Vault, which enables automated rotation of tapes to an off-site backup facility.

Perhaps more important to data managers who handle Oracle database backups are the automated backup/recovery wizards that now mask the complexity of Oracle's underlying RMAN commands. Now following a few simple steps in plain English, DBAs or administrators can be trained quickly to back up their Oracle databases.

Pricing starts at $5,000 for Windows and $10,000 for Unix. Pricing for NetBackup BusinessServer 4.5 starts at $1,995 for Windows and $3,995 for Unix.

Storage Management Software

GOLD:   Fujitsu Softek Storage Manager
Users have had it with vendor promises of heterogeneous management. While software makers have been racing to bring the best management tools to market this year, one product has emerged from the pack to answer the call for automated storage provisioning, archiving, security and overall SAN management.

Fujitsu Softek's Storage Manager not only centralizes and automates storage management in multivendor environments, but it goes the extra mile by allowing users to pool management of disparate data and storage hardware types, including both open and mainframe systems, through the use of virtualization, replication, migration and storage resource management technology.

Our judges took special notice of Storage Manager's wide platform support. Softek Storage Manager software works with Windows NT/2000, Sun Solaris, HP/UX, AIX and mainframe platforms OS/390 and Z/OS.

Fujitsu - which was one of the first software vendors to integrate features through a policy engine - doesn't overlook the fundamental functions of storage management. The software links storage directly to application requirements and warns when storage servers are near or reach maximum capacity, runs reports, delete files and automatically provisions storage in virtualized SAN environments.

Storage Manager is reverent of the past. Legacy storage also falls under the software's reign, letting users view not only networked NAS and SAN systems, but DAS as well. The software monitors and automates actions such as archiving, deleting files and provisioning storage resources using set storage policies across servers or groups of servers.

Fujitsu's victory over the runners-up for Storage Management Product of the Year was indeed slim, but the experts believe Storage Manager gives users the most management for their IT buck.

SILVER:   FalconStor IPStor
IPStor nearly captured the gold, but our panel of judges frowned on the fact that the software only runs on the Unix and Linux operating platforms.

FalconStor's IPStor software centers around storage virtualization, and according to our panel, its modular architecture better serves storage environments that need to scale.

FalconStor's IPStor facilitates consolidation of heterogeneous storage environments along with provisioning of both SAN and NAS resources for file sharing from the same storage pool all while laboring from the middle of the data path. The software supports any SCSI or FC-attached disk and tape storage devices.

By offloading tasks such as backup, restore, volume management, mirroring, snapshot and replication from the application servers and the storage devices and putting them right into the SAN, IPStor chops administrative overhead. Everything is managed from a single point including diagnostics and reporting.

Another feather in IPStor's management cap is its protocol support. The software connects anything that moves data including FC, IP, iSCSI, SCSI, CIFS, NFS and more.

BRONZE:   Veritas SANPoint Control 3.5
What would a software category be without the V word? No, we don't mean virtualization, we mean software juggernaut Veritas. Like our Gold and Silver winners, Veritas SANPoint offers a centralized storage management interface to deploy, monitor and manage multivendor networked storage environments.

SANPoint Control manages everything from the application to the storage array and tackles tasks such as performance and policy management, storage provisioning and zoning while actively managing storage resources and service level agreements.

Judges pointed out that SANPoint Control 3.5 currently supports HP-UX, Solaris and Windows 2000, features such as Install Wizard and automatic discovery of storage resources, which help ease the need for highly skilled IT staff. The one drawback to Veritas' software, according to the judges, is a lack of options for some operations. One judge thinks that the SANPoint Control 3.5 "should support discovery of other backup packages."

This was first published in January 2003

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