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Enterprise data storage 2019 Products of the Year finalists

The field of entrants in our 18th annual Products of the Year contest has been winnowed to 50 contenders vying for gold, silver and bronze glory in five data storage categories.

You don't have to be a storage manager to encounter enterprise data storage. Chances are, no matter what kind of IT professional or corporate business decision-maker you are, issues with implementation, provisioning and management of storage capacity come to your attention. But with so many products available, it's difficult for even the most seasoned veteran to separate the wheat from the chaff. Enter Storage magazine and SearchStorage's annual Products of the Year competition.

Now in its 18th year, Products of the Year compares the best in enterprise data storage hardware, software and services to award gold, silver and bronze to the year's most deserving products. As in the past, the 2019 awards process required vendors to submit new and upgraded products across five categories. This year, those categories are backup and disaster recovery hardware, software and services; cloud storage; disk and disk subsystems; hyper-converged and composable infrastructures; and storage system and application software. We then narrowed the competition down to 50 finalists.

All finalist products were rolled out or significantly upgraded by vendors during the preceding year. No incrementally upgraded products were allowed. Our panel of analysts, consultants and users consider innovation, performance, ease of integration into environment, ease of use and manageability, functionality and value when weighing the competition.

We tip our hats to all the finalists in the 2019 enterprise data storage Products of the Year competition. While earning a medal is the ultimate award for competing vendors, the designation of finalist is an achievement that should be applauded. We will reveal the gold, silver and bronze award winners next month on SearchStorage and in the February issue of Storage magazine.

Backup and disaster recovery hardware, software and services

Although cloud-based data protection is a fast-growing segment, many of the competing vendors sought to provide comprehensive data protection platforms in 2019.

Several offerings go beyond typical backup and recovery elements, providing capabilities that include analytics, security and compliance. Like last year, ransomware protection features prominently, as that cyberthreat remains strong.

The category includes backup and recovery software; cloud backup and recovery services; and on-premises backup, snapshotting, replication and archiving products. It also covers data protection hardware, backup software integrated with hardware appliances, tape libraries and drives, backup media, disk backup targets and deduplication devices.

The 12 finalists include a couple of new vendors -- launched just in the last two years -- as well as legacy players and some top names in the industry.

Actifio Go. The "copy data management-as-a-service" platform not only provides backup and disaster recovery, it goes beyond data protection, enabling analytics and database cloning for DevOps and cloud migration. Its software-as-a-service implementation and recovery elements also impress.

Asigra Cloud OpEx Backup Appliance. Asigra Inc. integrated its Cloud Backup V14 software with Zadara Storage's software-defined cloud storage, converging data protection and cybersecurity. The Asigra Cloud OpEx Backup Appliance also includes quality ransomware protection.

Cloud Daddy Secure Backup V1.5. A newer vendor that launched its first product in 2018, Cloud Daddy Inc. provides enterprise backup and DR, specifically for AWS. Its comprehensive protection also includes cost management and security.

Clumio. Another new entrant, launching its product in 2019, Clumio Inc. provides enterprise backup as a service for VMware workloads. It built its architecture specifically for the public cloud and includes enterprise-grade data services, such as encryption and compliance.

Cohesity DataProtect (software release Pegasus 6.3). Cohesity Inc. designed this software-defined product to help enterprises get more value out of backup infrastructures and data. DataProtect uses machine learning to help fight ransomware in this release.

Commvault Complete Backup & Recovery V11 SP 17. The platform's "complete" protection includes DR, snapshot management, endpoint protection and archiving. Enhancements include support for Nutanix File Shares.

Druva Phoenix DRaaS. Standout features include recovery automation and failback to either VMware Cloud on AWS or on-premises data centers. Druva's disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) air-gap and encryption capabilities are particularly useful in protecting against ransomware.

IBM TS1160 Tape Drive. Dubbed by IBM as the highest-capacity drive available, the TS1160 offers cyber-resiliency and cost-effective long-term data retention. A possible alternative to cloud backup, the TS1160 illustrates how large enterprises are still buying tape.

Iland Autopilot Managed Recovery. A DRaaS that provides end-to-end design, implementation and management of the DR environment, Iland paid special care and attention to the needs of users.

Veeam Software Availability Suite 9.5 Update 4. Veeam's flagship product enables availability for virtual, physical and cloud workloads. The update includes enhanced mobility across AWS and Azure environments and adds native support for several cloud object stores.

Veritas Technologies NetBackup 8.2. This update to Veritas Technologies LLC's NetBackup protects cloud, virtual and physical environments with new features such as fully integrated data protection across any hypervisor for virtual environments and support for Docker and Kubernetes containers.

Zerto 7.0. The combination of continuous data protection and Zerto's elastic journal provides both short- and long-term data retention. A significant step forward for Zerto, the release offers enhanced analytics.

Cloud storage

Cloud storage is one of the fastest-growing segments of the broader enterprise data storage market, and for good reason. Cloud storage is easy to use, scales quickly and is often priced cheaper than local alternatives. The cloud comes with its own set of challenges, however.

All finalist products were rolled out or significantly upgraded by vendors during the preceding year.

Unmonitored, cloud-based storage can grow faster than IT budgets. And while the availability of cloud storage has enabled organizations to house ever-growing pools of data, data scientists need tools to help them analyze and derive business value from all that data. In short, IT buyers want cloud-based storage and management products that help solve today's thorny data management challenges.

To qualify for this category, products must run in in the cloud and not be dependent on underlying on-premises hardware. This year's list of 10 finalists includes a variety of products that aim to help control data storage costs, solve hybrid storage challenges, manage cloud-hosted data and address the unique security challenges posed by the cloud.

Filebase. Aggressive entry-level pricing helps make this object storage platform attractive, while Filebase Inc.'s adoption of blockchain -- to aid in managing and securing decentralized cloud storage globally -- is also helpful given increasing concerns about data security and stewardship.

Hammerspace. With Hammerspace, organizations can abstract unstructured data from on-premises and cloud infrastructure, so they can access and manage it through a global namespace. This approach aims to create a sweet spot offering for hybrid storage needs that should help make hybrid computing simpler and more achievable.

Komprise Intelligent Data Management V2.11 with Deep Analytics. Out-of-control data growth is an old story, often masked by how much of that growth has gone to the cloud where costs are usually lower. Komprise's newly added Deep Analytics capability targets customers that need to identify the right unstructured data sets to analyze across multiple on-premises and cloud storage systems.

LucidLink Filespaces 1.0. This new service takes aim at companies that need to facilitate access to large files over long distances. Protocols separate metadata from file data, synchronize the metadata locally and enable high-quality, on-demand data streaming from any location.

MinIO Object Storage Server. MinIO Inc.'s innovative open source Object Storage Server addresses the object storage performance problem. It's designed for developers that are migrating off Hadoop HDFS and building data lakes.

NetApp Cloud Volumes. Many enterprises are just starting to consider using file storage in the cloud. NetApp, a major storage vendor with a lot of customers, has put significant effort into extending its file storage to the public cloud.

Panzura Freedom 8. This release of the Freedom multi-cloud file services and storage product adds cloud mirroring and improves performance and scalability. The technology provides clear opportunities for users to strengthen both security and performance through mirroring, as well as many bells and whistles to round out its capabilities.

Portworx Enterprise 2.2. Containers may have arrived, but no one is claiming they have all the answers for making them meet every enterprise requirement. Portworx takes container technology up a notch by addressing multiple management and operation challenges, including security, data management and support for multi-cloud deployment and Kubernetes.

Pure Storage Cloud Block Store for AWS. This product enables Pure Storage Inc.'s Purity operating system to run on AWS, facilitating data snapshots, replication and deduplication. Pure Storage designed Cloud Block Store for AWS to bridge the gap between on-premises and cloud-based storage.

Scality Ring8. Companies need to find a way to manage all the data they collect at the edge through IoT devices. Scality offers an interesting approach to meet this need and help integrate data and data management activities across multiple collections of edge-based systems and traditional compute/storage cores across clouds.

Disk and disk subsystems

The disk and disk subsystems category includes storage arrays and systems available with flash storage, HDDs or a hybrid mix. Entries range from flash and disk drive-based Fibre Channel and iSCSI SAN arrays to NAS, multiprotocol systems, converged infrastructure products, disk controllers and caching appliances. Storage arrays and systems must have all their software management and enterprise data storage features integrated with the storage media and not be software that can be run on any appliance.

The NVMe flash storage protocol is a common feature among this year's category finalists. It helps products meet the speed and low-latency needs of AI and other high-performance workloads.

Besides the NVMe emphasis, several finalists' platforms support multi-cloud and hybrid cloud storage, capitalizing on the flexibility of cloud storage. Integrated predictive analytics and AI functionality also stood out for optimizing storage performance and workload placement and for providing self-management capabilities.

Meanwhile, a computational storage drive among the 10 finalist products reflects the trend to move data processing closer to the edge. A few finalists make use of other emerging technologies, including quad-level cell (QLC) flash, 3D XPoint and NVMe-oF.

Cloudian HyperStore Xtreme. This object storage system combines Cloudian's fully S3-compatible object storage software with Seagate's high-density storage systems for private cloud infrastructures. HyperStore Xtreme supports on-premises, hybrid cloud, multisite and multi-cloud scenarios and is deployable as either a preconfigured appliance or software-defined storage.

DataDirect Networks DDN AI400. The performance density of this NVMe all-flash array is impressive, with 49 GBps of throughput, more than 1.5 million IOPS and 240 TB of NVMe capacity in a 2U form factor. Optimized to serve AI workloads, DataDirect Networks' design emphasizes saturating GPUs.

Dell EMC Isilon F800 all-flash scale-out NAS. Performance enhancements in sync with the increasing demand for high-performance file systems help the Isilon F800 deliver 250,000 IOPS per 4U chassis with less than 1 millisecond latency. It has a full set of enterprise features, along with simple expansion capabilities and auto load balancing across nodes.

Dell EMC Unity XT. A midrange offering, the Unity XT array is NVMe-ready and comes with Unisphere management integrated with Dell EMC's CloudIQ storage analytics. It includes replication and data-at-rest encryption, supports multi-cloud scenarios and can be consumed as a Dell Technologies Cloud Validated Design.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) Primera 600 Storage. One of the key features of Primera 600 Storage is its integration with HPE's InfoSight intelligent monitoring and management infrastructure. InfoSight uses predictive analytics and AI to optimize performance and workload placement in real time. Primera supports massively parallel operations, has a multi-node design with nondisruptive upgrades and guarantees 100% availability.

IBM Cloud Object Storage Gen2. IBM's cloud storage platform can scale to multi-petabyte or exabyte capacities and supports integration with more than 90 validated systems. It provides flexible deployment options for private cloud, hybrid cloud and a fully managed public cloud service. Advanced features include SecureSlice, in which all data is erasure-coded when ingested and then transformed into slices to make it more secure.

IBM Storwize family. Although designed for midsize application workloads, IBM Storwize comes with impressive enterprise features, such as 99.9999% availability, IBM FlashCore technology, IBM Spectrum Virtualize, IBM FlashWatch and IBM Storage Insights. As a result, the platform profits from cloud-based analytics and resource management, guaranteed controller upgrades and other enterprise-level benefits.

NGD Systems 32 TB Newport U.2 NVMe computational storage drive. The Newport computational storage drive targets organizations requiring more storage capacity in environments with power and space limitations, such as edge locations. It uses less than 12 watts of power to operate and on-site processing eliminates having to move data to main memory prior to processing.

Pavilion Data Systems Hyperparallel Flash Array 2.3. This high-performing storage array supports as many as 20 active-active controllers and 40 100 Gb Ethernet or InfiniBand ports. Its NVMe and NVMe-oF architecture takes a fabric-centered approach to delivering storage, providing separate I/O channels for each CPU in the data plane. Pavilion Data Systems Inc. claims 16 million 4K IOPS at less than 1 microsecond latency in a half-populated array. Hardware flexibility and no forklift upgrades are nice as well.

Vast Data Universal Storage V2.0. This system provides exabyte-scale storage with QLC flash, 3D XPoint, NVMe-oF and advanced algorithms to optimize performance. Its architecture disaggregates the control layer from the system state for independent scaling and tenant-based pooling of stateless containers. Vast Data Inc. claims performance of as much as 100 million IOPS at 2 millisecond latency.

Hyper-converged and composable infrastructures

Hyper-convergence took the integration concepts behind converged infrastructure further by tightly consolidating server resources -- compute, storage and networking -- into highly scalable individual nodes. When a company needs more storage or processing power, it can simply plug in another node.

But when all resources come in preconfigured appliances, users run into the problem of having to purchase enterprise data storage resources they don't need. The latest evolution of the converged data center is composable infrastructure, which provides managers with more flexibility to assign resources to the workloads that need them.

Deployed in a rack like converged infrastructure, composable infrastructure disaggregates, pools and manages resources using a software-defined layer like hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI). It takes things further, however, by also serving as infrastructure as code, where programmatic techniques enable users to automatically spin up virtual servers that meet the specific requirements of a workload and then spin them down again when finished.

Products that qualify for this category include hyper-converged systems or software that combine storage, compute and virtualization resources for management as a single system through a common tool set. Composable systems and software that use a unifying API to disaggregate and manage shared pools of physical resources -- and treat them as services -- also qualify. These types of products and some that fall in between are represented by our nine finalists.

Ctera Networks Edge X Series. A timely product as HCI goes to the edge, the Edge X Series has proven features, such as Ctera Networks Ltd.'s file services combined with HPE SimpliVity HCI software. Its Global File System creates a single file sharing mount point and namespace that spans multiple on-premises, remote office/branch office (ROBO) and cloud environments, while auto-tiering keeps hot data on local flash while migrating cool data to cloud services.

Datrium Automatrix. The product brings multi-cloud capablities to Datrium Inc.'s HCI platform by combining useful features from on-premises and cloud technology to store and protect data across clouds. Automatrix can serve as primary and secondary storage. It also offers cloud-like subscription pricing and includes automatic data encryption over the wire and on disk, along with an emphasis on automating routine admin tasks.

HPE Nimble Storage dHCI. HPE's disaggregated hyper-converged infrastructure (dHCI) brings InfoSight predictive analytics to this market for efficient maintenance while retaining the simplicity hyper-convergence is known for. Based on a proven Nimble storage platform, this product does not collapse the traditional three tiers as standard HCI platforms do. Instead, it enables organizations to independently scale compute and storage.

HPE SimpliVity 325 Gen10. A smaller-footprint version of an original HCI platform, the 1U rack server enclosure brings proven SimpliVity HCI technology to edge and ROBO deployments without compromising features. This model also eliminates the trademark accelerator card that defined SimpliVity, yet retains impressive data reduction and performance levels more than suitable for edge needs.

HiveIO Hive Fabric 7.3. A forward-thinking midmarket hyper-converged system tuned for remote clients with new GPU acceleration to boost VM performance, Hive Fabric also brings software-defined networking and memory storage into HCI architecture. The latest version adds support for two-factor authentication that works with third-party authentication systems.

NetApp HCI 1.4. NetApp HCI is among the newer disaggregated convergence products that can independently scale compute and storage, but meets the same use case designs as traditional hyper-converged infrastructure. The product incorporates SolidFire's proven all-flash technology and Element OS developed for enterprises. It is also a part of NetApp's overall hybrid cloud suite.

Scale Computing HE500 series. The product brings true, inexpensive and compact hyper-convergence to edge and ROBO deployments. Among the first HCI vendors, Scale Computing has made its systems easy for SMBs to deploy and manage.

VMware vSAN 6.7 Update 3. This upgrade advances vSAN's usefulness with better performance, reliability, Kubernetes support and improved provisioning, monitoring and capacity management -- all solid additions for an HCI software market leader.

Western Digital OpenFlex F3100 Series Fabric Device. The most composable entrant in this finalist lineup, OpenFlex's disaggregated architecture embraces open source to scale across public and private clouds. Impressive performance and density in a 3U all-flash array, the system is the only NVMe-oF entry in this category. Disaggregating storage from servers by using NVMe-oF will improve storage utilization and performance balancing.

Storage system and application software

While the cloud is still a much sought-after feature, the way in which system and application software use the cloud took a distinct data analytics bend in this year's competing products. As predictive analytics and machine learning play a big role in storage today, it should come as no surprise that category finalists include products with analytics and machine learning updates.

Along with predictive analytics and AI, finalists in this category were clearly mindful of modern enterprise data storage needs beyond simply meeting high-performance and low-latency requirements. With ever-present ransomware threats, updated security features proved a must-have, while products that made strides to meet changing compliance regulations also made the cut.

Products eligible to enter the storage system and application software category include storage resource management software, as well as third-party analytics, performance monitoring, configuration management, provisioning and data reduction products. Storage-related software products that are not dependent on a specific storage array or device could also compete.

Here are the nine finalists in this category.

DataCore Software-Defined Storage (SDS) PSP9 Update. The key enhancement is DataCore Insight Services, a cloud-based predictive analytics engine. The PSP9 update for DataCore's SDS also includes visibility across an entire IT architecture.

Dell EMC CloudIQ. With CloudIQ, Dell EMC steps into the cloud-based analytics arena by enabling users to look at their storage environment through a cloud-based application. CloudIQ maintains two years of historical data from all Dell EMC storage arrays for analytics purposes.

Excelero NVEdge. With its NVMesh product, Excelero has already demonstrated a knack for efficient networked storage. The newer NVEdge aims to do the same for distributed requirements by delivering high-performance storage in edge environments.

Formulus Black Forsa 3.0. With 3.0, Formulus Black gave Forsa a practical update to take advantage of in-memory architecture for much lower latency. Forsa 3.0 can run applications entirely in memory instead of off a device, making it easier to deploy.

Quobyte Data Center File System. A flexible distributed file system, Quobyte Inc.'s Data Center File System is designed with machine learning in mind. Along with speed and security updates, this past year, the Data Center File System received a significant upgrade in the form of the TensorFlow Plugin. TensorFlow is an open source library for time series databases and numerical computation that helps the distributed file system handle the high-performance needs of machine learning.

Spectra Logic Spectra RioBroker V1.01. Spectra Logic Corp. has updated its BlackPearl converged storage platform with Spectra RioBroker. The company designed version 1.01 of the data migration tool to tackle unstructured data by converting data to open standard formats and tiering it without affecting applications.

Veritas Technologies InfoScale 7.4.2. Enhancements to the Veritas InfoScale OS and file system include features for clustering applications across AWS availability zones and providing support for Nutanix, Dell EMC, ScaleIO and Pure FlashArray. The update also brings security enhancements, including AES 256-bit and two-factor authentication.

Waterford Technologies MailMeter 7.1. New features target email compliance in Waterford's cloud-based compliance and data management platform. It also adds real-time automatic monitoring to identify noncompliant email messages.

WekaIO WekaFS. WekaIO's scale-out file system received major security updates over the past year. WekaFS uses NVMe, NVMe-oF and microservices to deliver high performance and low latency and also provides zero-copy storage and hybrid cloud data management.

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What hardware, software or services deployed over the past year are your organization's data storage management MVPs?
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Disk and disk subsystem category: a big absence, NetApp. Sounds really weird!
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Have you heard of the new Compass offering from Cobalt Iron? It's said to Automate over 90% of backup tasks while combining data protection. Any chance this will get a review?
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