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Best storage products of 2003

The editors of Storage and present the winners of the second-annual Products of the Year.

Many storage managers had a heads-down 2003, struggling just to keep pace. If you were one of them, you may not have noticed that 2003 was a watershed year in many areas: new storage architectures, the arrival (finally!) of real iSCSI products, more useful storage management tools and a host of other beneficial and welcome additions to your arsenal.

To make the lives of busy storage managers easier, the editors of Storage and once again present the 15 best products introduced and shipped in 2003.

As in the past, our criteria are:

  • Innovation
  • Performance
  • Ease of integration into existing environments
  • Ease of use and manageability
  • Functionality
  • Value
More than 100 submissions were scrutinized, and the best of that group were judged by a panel of independent experts, storage managers and editors. Products were scored on all of the previously mentioned criteria. Some of the winners were highly innovative; some set new benchmarks for value or another attribute; and some just had a great combination of several qualities. But all represent a new state of the art for storage products.


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


Symmetrix DMX has speed, high performance and features galore
EMC Symmetrix DMX
It's innovative, fast and it's full-featured. That, in a nutshell, is what our panel of judges had to say about EMC Corp.'s Symmetrix DMX. And to top it all off, they said it's reasonably priced, given the level of performance and reliability it delivers.

The Symmetrix DMX family, first introduced in February 2003, is EMC's sixth version of its flagship monolithic array. The DMX family ranges from the entry-level 800 model to the mammoth DMX 3000, which supports up to 576 disk drives, or 84TB of raw capacity. Add-ons include EMC's usual suite of software, including synchronous data replication suite, SRDF, SRDF/Asynchronous, as well as EMC Snap, the first copy-on-write snapshot capability for a high-end array. Connectivity includes Fibre Channel (FC), ESCON, FICON and even iSCSI--a first for high-end storage.

In particular, the judges admired EMC's new approach to its cache architecture. In a departure from the old Symmetrix bus architecture, EMC has built Symmetrix DMX around a so-called "direct matrix" architecture--dedicated point-to-point connections between the front end and the back ends (disk drives). That ties into the new Symmetrix's main selling point: performance. "Symmetrix DMX is a good choice for shops requiring the highest performance and reliability," said one judge.

Hats off to EMC for Symmetrix DMX's pricing as well. In the old days, Symmetrix was practically synonymous with exorbitant prices. Now, pricing for Symmetrix DMX is merely "competitive" says one judge, assuming "you know how to work with EMC."

SILVER:   Xiotech Magnitude 3D
Xiotech's original magnitude array always had a good usability story, thanks to the dynamic provisioning technology that allowed users to bring new hosts and applications onto the storage area network (SAN) with ease. Then last year, Xiotech introduced the new and improved Magnitude 3D, based on a so-called Dimensional Storage Clustering Architecture. Together, dynamic provisioning and storage clustering help fulfill Xiotech's goal for its systems: no planned or unplanned downtime.

Some judges had their doubts about its performance, but they were universally wooed by its clustering implementation, which provides for failover at the controller and cluster level locally. Overall, Magnitude 3D was deemed "a quality midtier storage solution," according to one judge. In particular, one judge said: "The Magnitude 3D is a real winner for storage shops that change their configuration frequently."

BRONZE:   NetApp FAS200 Series
Once again, a Network Appliance Inc. product steals the judges' hearts with its ease of use, ease of integration and functionality. An entry-level version of the FAS900 series that was introduced in 2002, the FAS200 has a split personality: It can serve up data as either files or blocks, eliminating the "NAS vs. SAN?" question. As such, "it does establish a new price point for major feature/function," said one judge.

The FAS200 family consists of two models: the FAS250, a 3U rackmount unit that supports NFS, CIFS, HTPP and iSCSI protocols, and scales to 1TB of capacity with FC drives. The FAS270 adds native FC connectivity, offers optional active-active clustering and scales to 4TB across 42 spindles. And as with all NetApp products, the FAS200 line runs the company's Data ONTAP operating system and interoperates with the company's entire suite of add-on software.

Networking Equipment


Cisco MDS 9509 is paving the way with VSANs.
Cisco MDS 9509
Cisco Systems Inc.'s MDS 9509 has raised the bar for director-class switches. The MDS 9509 is playing a leading role in bringing intelligence to the storage fabric with virtual storage area networks (VSANs), security, advanced traffic management and unified SAN management. In addition, the Cisco MDS 9509 provides multiprotocol integration and an open platform for embedding intelligent storage services such as network-hosted virtualization.

Cisco has championed VSANs as one way to consolidate SAN islands onto a single physical SAN, while still partitioning them as completely separate logical entities. VSANs provide all the security and fabric services of traditional SANs, yet give organizations the flexibility to easily move and isolate resources from one VSAN to another, which can simplify management.

In addition to VSANs, the Cisco MDS 9509 provides an open platform for hosting storage services such as network-based virtualization and replication. The switch supports all the major security standards including RADIUS authentication, Simple Network Management Protocol Version 3, Secure Shell Protocol, Secure File Transfer Protocol and FC Security Protocol, as well as hardware-enforced zoning, LUN zoning, read-only zones and ACLs.

In storage, things don't always go as planned. To help isolate and solve problems, the Cisco MDS 9509 has an impressive number of diagnostic features such as Switch Port Analyzer and Cisco Fabric Analyzer, which allow a user to remotely and nondisruptively diagnose fabric events. These tools significantly decrease the time to install, reconfigure and maintain a storage network. Other helpful debugging tools such as FC Ping, FC Trace Route and an extensive set of debug commands further help analyze and fix network problems.

Other nice-to-have bells and whistles include full redundancy of all major components, up to 224 2Gb/s and 1Gb/s auto-sensing FC ports and ties to other leading storage company products via an open API.

SILVER:   CNT UltraNet Edge Storage Router - Model 3000
Computer Network Technology Corp.'s (CNT) UltraNet Edge Storage Router is a flexible, multiprotocol storage networking platform that interconnects and extends FC and FICON SANs over IP, ATM or SONET networks. The CNT router eliminates many of the headaches involved in managing diverse networks and reducing the cost of shipping data over long distances.

The largest expense associated with remote storage applications is the network bandwidth. Judges praised CNT for implementing a number of techniques to reduce bandwidth costs by efficiently utilizing available network resources. For example, the Edge 3000's hardware-based compression can achieve 4:1 to 20:1 compression ratios, which significantly lowers the amount of bandwidth needed to support an application. CNT's management software allows users to view, configure and manage their entire remote storage application from a single console across multiple protocols and domains. The management software can be closely linked to policy engines to facilitate cross-domain analysis of performance, fault isolation and application impact.

In addition, the Edge 3000 includes a configuration attribute called State Change Management, which isolates faults from propagating through a fabric domain and minimizes the impact of component outages. The Edge 3000 also manages mixed traffic within a network. This means a storage manager can keep storage traffic from oversubscribing the network and causing issues with other applications.

The UltraNet Edge 3000 storage router is a useful tool for managing storage data over diverse networks.


Sanrad's V-Switch 3000 has advanced features and a price that's right.
SANRAD V-Switch 3000
We like Sanrad Inc.'s V-Switch 3000 because it brings advanced storage features to an IP SAN for a low price. With the switch's intelligent routing functions, a company can build a high-performance IP SAN that includes security, multipathing, failover protection and data replication at a fraction of the cost of a traditional FC SAN.

The iSCSI V-Switch gathers all physically attached storage resources (SCSI and FC) into a single pool of virtualized storage. From a single management interface, storage administrators can create virtual volumes and provide secure access to distributed servers and defines secure user access for each individual storage volume. Volume management includes mirroring, striping, intra-SAN synchronous mirroring and LUN carving.

The iSCSI V-Switch is compatible with Linux, Microsoft, Novell and all popular disk and tape storage systems. Prices for the V-Switch 3000 range from $15,000 to $25,000, which places SAN technology well within the reach of small to medium-sized companies that were previously unable to afford the cost of a FC SAN.

Backup Hardware


Data Domain's DD200's compression rate wowed judges.
Data Domain DD200 Recovery Appliance
When reading through the specs of Data Domain's DD200 Recovery Appliance, one of the judges wondered if the company's claim of 20 times compression was a typo. Another eye-popping stat that could have been misconstrued as a typo is the appliance's ability to house more than 23TB of recovery data. Are the specs typos? Nope.

The DD200 uses a combination of standard tape compression and a data reduction technique Data Domain calls Global Compression Redundancy Pooling. Together, these two types of compression reduce capacity requirements by 20 times. The 20 times compression rate allows 1.2TB of useable physical capacity to look like approximately 23TB of compressed recovery data.

One judge said, "DD200 is the first product I have seen that allows me to use the existing tools, and yet it reduces the heck out of the amount of data."

Using the existing tools is key in implementation. DD200 is a "non-invasive product" that's essentially a plug-and-play appliance which can be up and running in a day. DD200 also works seamlessly alongside Veritas Software Corp. and Legato Systems Inc. backup software.

And what about price? One storage manager we asked said, "The price is excellent, assuming that it includes capability for storing 23TB. It seems well worth the $58,000 for a single-purpose disk backup facility."


TotalStorage's speed is worth the high price tag.
IBM TotalStorage Enterprise Tape Drive 3592 Model J1A
IBM's 3592 tape drive is expensive, but in the long haul, it's well worth it. This successor of the IBM 3590 tape drive is capable of storing 300GB on a single cartridge at a 40MB/s data stream rate and it can support up to a 120MB/s transfer rate to move a terabyte approximately every three hours.

One of the judges praised the 3592, calling it a "superior tape technology and engineering effort." The 3592 features dual FC-2 ports that allow for attachment to Fibre Channel-arbitrated loop (FC-AL), FC SAN or a direct connection with a supported server. Speaking of support, this drive is supported in IBM and StorageTek 9310 Powderhorn tape silos and standalone racks.

Some of the innovations the 3592 provide are "capacity scaling"--allowing fast access to data by initializing cartridges. It also employs a "virtual backhitch" which improves performance by eliminating backhitch operations.

One storage manager said the drive can be "useful in a mainframe environment replacing older, lower capacity drives."

BRONZE:   EMC Centera with Compliance Edition
A number of the judges used the word "innovative" when describing the ATA disk-based fixed-content features of EMC Corp.'s Centera with Compliance Edition. We agree. Centera essentially marked the start of the content-addressed storage (CAS) offerings. Its write once, read many (WORM) disk capabilities make this a perfect candidate to handle the massive crunch compliance regulations are applying to many shops.

Using the features of the Compliance Edition, Centera uses integrated hardware and software codes to leverage rewritable disk and make it unalterable. This method of "fingerprinting" data makes for easy recovery. While the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) doesn't require this function, the Centera performs it as a quality control measure by leveraging it to check with data periodically to make sure it hasn't been tampered with. These features allow Centera to meet and clearly exceed today's strictest record retention regulations.

Why just the bronze for a product this innovative? One storage manager we spoke to said he liked the idea of CAS, but was unsure he'd buy a separate device for that specific function.

Another wrinkle to watch--Centera's proprietary API interface.

Backup & Disaster Recovery Software

GOLD:   CommVault QiNetix 4.2
Judges gave their highest marks to CommVault Systems Inc.'s QiNetix in the areas of functionality, value and innovation. In describing the QiNetix suite, one judge said it was a "good implementation with complex functions [that] integrated well."

Another judge agreed that QiNetix is a "competitive solution in an already crowded landscape." He added that he thought CommVault's product effectively met the expectations of enterprise-class IT organizations with its combined quality of support, service and functionality. A special nod was given by one of the judges to many of CommVault's built-in backup and recovery features.

The QiNetix platform is based on a single management console and underlying policy-driven framework that allows users to deploy one or several QiNetix modules into their environments. With this offering, users will notice CommVault has married several intelligent, policy-driven features with its more traditional backup functionality. The result is a sophisticated approach to backup and disaster recovery (DR).

CommVault Galaxy is the cornerstone of CommVault's backup and recovery software offerings within the QiNetix platform. Its most notable features include its media management functionality, ability to perform high-speed backups, reporting tools and support for multiple application environments and operating systems.

Other QiNetix modules include the QiNetix DataMigrator, which works with Microsoft Exchange to automatically migrate e-mail messages and attachments to secondary storage, based on predefined policy settings.

The QiNetix Quick Recovery module allows users to create snapshots for rapid recovery of applications. Features found in QiNetix Quick Recovery include easy tracking and administration of point-in-time snapshots; policy-driven, automatic snapshot aging; and snapshot cataloging functionality that captures snapshot details such as current mount point, last mount point, time of snap and size of volume.

Finally, management tools under the software label of QNet complete the QiNetix suite. QNet provides virtualization or storage "pooling" functionality and supports better storage resource management and asset utilization. It offers a single view of storage assets across the enterprise and provides reporting on a site's primary, secondary and archive storage. It also offers centralized monitoring and management of all other QiNetix software modules and services.

CommVault has since released a new version, Version 5.0, of its QiNetix storage management suite. Based on the submission requirements for our Products of the Year awards program, the company chose to submit its earlier product, Version 4.2, for the judges' consideration.

SILVER:   FalconStor IPStor 4.0
FalconStor Software Inc.'s IPStor 4.0 took our silver medal for backup and recovery software and services based on the extensiveness of the DR functionality found in its myriad software options, such as advanced replication and snapshot services, bare metal recovery, backup acceleration, real-time data migration functionality and IPStor's ability to perform continuous online and nearline backups.

One judge said that the product was "useful as a DR solution in many environments." Another judge chimed in with the insight that IPStor was a "well-engineered product with all of the functionality you'd expect for enterprise-class IT."

All was not coming up roses for IPStor from the judges, however. Some areas questioned by our panel included IPStor's high price tag and its lack of consistency groups, or write-ordering, that one judge said was essential for a full-blown DR solution. Additionally, in-band virtualization is not everyone's cup of tea, but IPStor does it as well as anyone.

Overall, the IPStor product scored high on the judge's list in terms of its functionality, all-around performance and innovation.

BRONZE:   CA BrightStor Enterprise Backup 10.5
Computer Associates International's (CA) BrightStor Enterprise Backup version 10.5 took our bronze medal for backup and recovery as a robust, pure-play backup solution for the enterprise. Judges seemed to be most impressed with BrightStor's backup/recovery performance, followed by its overall functionality and ease of integration into the environment.

The judges took special notice of BrightStor's record-setting performance to back up and recover multiterabyte databases. Performance numbers submitted by CA in high transaction-processing environments included a sustained throughput rate of 2.21TB/hr to recover a 2.5TB database. Likewise, backup performance numbers were clocked at a sustained throughput rate of 2.66TB/hr on a database loaded with 983 transactions per second.

The product shines as well in its integration options, including full integration with other BrightStor products. It's also built to be integrated into CA's overall storage management platform, CA BrightStor Portal. The product is able to manage, monitor and report on competing solutions (IBM Tivoli, Legato and Veritas). Customers have also been favorably impressed by the fact that the product's backup agents can be upgraded in phases, and are backward compatible to prior versions.

While judges deemed BrightStor Enterprise Backup a definite enterprisewide backup contender, some expressed concerns about the price. One judge had reservations about the product's lack of support for various operating system environments, claiming it was only equipped to work well in Solaris, HP-UX and AIX-based data centers. The product is also available for Windows environments--including NT 4.0, Windows 2000 and Windows XP--and those running the HP/Compaq Tru64 operating system.

Storage Management Software

GOLD:   AppIQ StorageAuthority Suite Version 3.0
You might not have heard of a company called AppIQ Inc., but if you intend to manage storage using standards-based software in the next few years, chances are that you will be using its technology. With features such as SAN management, automated provisioning and an application-level view of storage all built from scratch on standards-based technology, our panel of judges awarded this year's gold medal for best storage management product of the year to AppIQ's StorageAuthority Suite version 3.0.

The StorageAuthority builds a storage utility for the enterprise through integrated SAN management, storage resource management (SRM), storage provisioning and storage operations management capabilities. The software provides heterogeneous device support, application management, automation tools--all architected from the ground up on the Storage Management Initiative Specification (SMI-S) management standard.

When it comes to device support, the StorageAuthority Suite has a laundry list of platforms and systems that it can manage including Solaris, IBM AIX, HDS Dynamic Link Manager and several EMC product lines, including the Symmetrix DMX family of storage systems, the Connectrix family of switches and directors and Clariion disk arrays with PowerPath, raw volumes, Brocade and LSI Logic firmware revisions.

AppIQ's wide range of device support is a direct result of helping other vendors comply with the SMI-S management standard. It instantly supports management of SMI-S compliant devices without requiring converters and adapters to translate proprietary APIs to SMI-S. That's why Brocade, HDS, Hewlett-Packard, LSI Logic, McData, NetApp, SGI, and Sun Microsystems have all licensed AppIQ's CIMIQ device integration program to make their switches and subsystems SMI-S compliant.

According to our judges, AppIQ is far ahead of most other software solutions on the market when it comes to standards-based storage management.

StorageAuthority offers specialized management modules for applications including Oracle databases, Microsoft Exchange, Veritas NetBackup and file server and chargeback applications. AppIQ has also added file-level SRM capabilities, heterogeneous device support, provisioning and backup and recovery management features to its management software in recent months.

SILVER:   CreekPath Storage Operations Management Suite 3.0
Our panel of judges was impressed by CreekPath's ability to provide SAN management, SRM, security, database and backup operations management through a single console. One judge said that while the Storage Operations Management Suite has not yet been widely accepted in the industry, it does "address a significant problem with good technology."

The CreekPath Suite's workflow engine allows for automated provisioning through a graphical flow based on policies and explicit rules or manual wizards. The customizable workflow automates the entire change management process within IT operations all through a single management console.

Like our gold medalist AppIQ, CreekPath's Storage Operations Management Suite version 3.0 supports SMI-S compliant storage arrays and FC directors and switches that implement SMI array and fabric profiles, including EMC Symmetrix and Clariion systems, the Lightning and Thunder from HDS and IBM's Enterprise Storage Server and FastT. CreekPath also supports all arrays from HP as well as systems from Brocade, Cisco, LSI Logic, McData, NetApp and StorageTek.

The CreekPath Suite operates outside of the data path, allowing the software to be installed quickly without disrupting existing networks or application environments. Once installed, the Storage Operations Management Suite automatically detects, analyzes and acts to improve the efficiency of a given storage network.

According to one expert, CreekPath's architecture automates discovery, monitoring, reporting and provisioning of storage networks, while its module-based approach allows for the addition of new management tools without disrupting its centralized management capabilities.

BRONZE:   OuterBay Application Data Management 3.0
Outerbay Technologies' Application Data management (ADM) 3.0 Software Suite's ability to save the end user money by migrating data on high-end storage gear to less-expensive storage platforms resonated with our panel of judges.

ADM 3.0 is implemented as an operationally transparent extension of application, database and storage environments. OuterBay's software supports Oracle, PeopleSoft and custom applications as well as open standards and systems such as Linux and ATA. ADM 3.0 monitors and manages data growth to maintain application performance and speed upgrades. The suite is made up of the Application Resource Monitor (ARM), Instance Generator and LiveArchive.

The Instance Generator eliminates full-sized production database copies in favor of smaller subsets of the database. LiveArchive improves application performance and reduces the downtime needed for consolidations and upgrades by managing application data growth. It works by identifying inactive application data and moving it onto more cost-effective storage, where it remains online and accessible to users from their existing application user interfaces.

OuterBay's award was solidified by its advanced management features. One judge said it offers "data facility hierarchical storage management and data facility storage management subsystem capabilities for the little guys."

Next year's competition: Products of the Year for 2004 will accept submissions between September 7 and October 22, 2004. Details for qualification and instructions on submission will be posted at Anyone can submit a product for consideration.
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