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The winners of Storage magazine's Products of the Year were surprising

Storage Bin: The winners of Storage magazine's Products of the Year were surprising, as so few of them were big-name storage vendors. Here's Steve Duplessie's take on the subject.

Upstarts shake up the storage status quo

The votes have been tallied, and to the victors go the spoils ...

WELL, I HOPE. I found this year's "Products of the Year" awards fascinating (see "Best storage products of 2005," Storage, February 2006). None of the winners, with the possible exception of McData and Sun Microsystems, can be considered old school.

First, understand that I had nothing to do with picking the winners. Second, recognize that however the judges came to their conclusions, most of these winners were NOT the safe bets. I could add up the marketing budgets of the four smaller (not Sun) winners and it would still be a small fraction of one month's budget of one of the big boys. That shows some bravado by this magazine and makes me proud to cling to this back page.

Two of the winners, Avamar Technologies and Kazeon Systems, won by being radically new. Avamar won for being smart (and lucky) enough to start a company that would revolutionize the backup/restore world with engineers who had no background in the backup/restore business. They've built a formidable customer base of huge shops that could no longer ignore the fact that their current solutions were no longer working. Avamar, with its Earth-axis altering commonality factoring (data de-duplication) suddenly made the impossible entirely possible--and saved space, network bandwidth and many hair follicles along the way. The fact that it has done this in a very mature market with massive incumbency is impressive. If nothing else happens, the big guys are now on notice, and you can expect to hear much more about data de-duplication in the coming years. You should also note that data de-duper Data Domain took second place in the backup hardware category.

Kazeon won the storage management category for its IS1200 appliance that helps folks to categorize and classify file data. The firm signed an OEM deal with Network Appliance, and then it nailed a deal with Google to boot. Not bad for Kazeon's first year shipping. You've heard me ramble on about the importance of finding stuff, as opposed to just storing it, and Kazeon is at the head of the class of a whole new breed of technology players trying to solve this problem. Categorization/classification is a major element of Intelligent Information Management--it prepares data to be managed. I like this space.

Sun's L1400M tape library took top honors in the backup hardware category. Now tape libraries are about as exciting as an Air Supply cover band, but this one supports four different media types--which will matter in this age of consolidation. McData won the networking equipment category with its i10K Director. It's another piece of plumbing, but it's loaded with legitimate technology features like 256 true non-blocking ports and smarts to boot. This is boring like your liver is boring--just try living without it.

The most interesting category was disk and disk subsystems. I expected to see EMC's Centera or perhaps Hitachi Data Systems' midrange virtual arrays. Instead, we got three awesome choices. Xiotech won with its Magnitude 3D 3000e, followed by Isilon Systems and Compellent Technologies. What do they have in common? Each is super-scalable and offers great cost advantages vs. traditional architectures. These boxes perform with superb automation, tune themselves and do it without asking you to become a Ph.D. or babysitter. Want to add on? Go ahead; the system will figure out what to do. For those of you who attend Mensa meetings to find storage admins to provision a LUN, products like this might save your life.

Makes me wonder what next year will look like.

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