Storage Products of the Year

Our storage guru Jon Toigo has always been suspicious of industry awards. Rather than looking at slick literature, Jon evaluates dozens of products each year to find what's worthy of your consideration. Here are the Toigos for 2005.

It’s almost that time of the year when awards are given out—often without much explanation of their rationale. The storage industry seems prone to receiving kudos from publications based more on the slick-ness of their product literature and volume of advertising than on the basis of any real product value.

Not so with the “Toigos.” To get one of these babies, there has to be a pretty good reason. Here are my picks for 2005.

Best Product in the Enterprise Storage Market: TagmaStor “Junior” (NSC 55): I know that this choice is going to raise the hackles of more than a few readers and raise questions about my relationship with HDS—financial or otherwise—but I assure you that the decision can hold up to close scrutiny. This product is simply a smart packaging of an elegant storage approach for the larger middle tier or smaller enterprise tier that simplifies the complexity of FC fabric design, management, and virtualization. CTO Hu Yoshida has given us an inordinate measure of his time to work through the details of his switching head and to clarify differences (including improvements he would like to see) in his architecture versus his competitors. I also select Yoshida as Storage CTO of the Year.

Best Product in the Network-Attached Storage (NAS) Market: The "Toigo" goes to OnStor for its Bobcat 2280. Equipped with an extra network processor optimized to provide a DMA-like channel between its storage processor and its network processor, Bobcat expedites read requests and data delivery. It’s the reason why OnStor was selected by Yahoo! over long-installed Network Appliance for its streaming media service. I am also fond of OnStor’s storage-agnostic approach. Their NAS head can sit in front of arrays and FC fabrics from any manufacturer and when you deploy a lot of them, you still have a single point of management. Good packaging and a good price.

Runner Up: RelData. They don’t have the power of the Bobcat, but they do have a solution that works and is priced for the SMEs out there.

Best Product in the IP Storage Market: NetGear StorageCentral, featuring Zetera Technologies’ Z-SAN technology. Finally, someone has come to market with a strategy for chasing cost out of disk. With Zetera Z-SAN, you use IP DHCP services to add a drive to the network and IP multi-casting to stripe across a bunch of drives and create an array. The first product is strictly consumer/SOHO class, but the technology is ahead of the curve and I suspect it will find its way into business class storage shortly. Some smart storage giant had better buy this company fast!

Best Integrated Storage Management Software Suite: CA BrightStor. All storage management toolsets have their warts, and CA’s BrightStor is no exception. Some tools in their utility belt work better than others, but at least the belt doesn’t slip down around your rear end like some of CA’s competitors. CA is unique in that they took about a year out of the market to do some backend integration of their products—you know, real integration at the database and code level. Then, they went from city to city and listened to storage geeks talk about their problems, educating their sales force in the process. Bottom line: the folks from Islandia are doing good things and we should encourage them.

Most Promising Archive Manager: BridgeHead Software. Seems like archiving tools, specialized for e-mail, database, enterprise content, instant messaging, and unstructured files (to name just a few) are popping out of the woodwork as companies wrestle with compliance and data management. Bridgehead is out to build a software layer for managing the metadata across multiple archives and, from what I can see, they are ahead of the pack.

Best Backup Reporting Tool: Tek-Tools Storage Profiler. In the past, I might have chosen Bocada, but CEO Ken Barth and company have been putting a lot of work into their wares and their storage and backup reporting tools are the best I have seen to date. Their SRM story isn’t half bad either, though they have made the smart decision to specialize in a niche and work out from there rather than competing in a big pond (SRM) with 271 other contenders. Smart guy, that Barth.

Best Content-Addressable Storage Solution: There isn’t one. The products in the market today are proprietary and patented vendor lock-ins. Watch for a hardware-agnostic solution in 2006 that will overturn the current crowd.

Best Information Lifecycle Management Solution: What’s ILM? Ask 15 vendors, get 15 answers. The scariest response: “What do you think it means?”

Best Storage PR Person: We have a three-way tie between Judy Smith at JPR Communications, who was last year’s winner, and two folks in Europe, whereI have spent a lot of time this year: Frederica Monsone of A3 Communications and Rose Ross of Omarketing. All three provide us with prompt responses to our queries and all have a knowledge of their clients’ products that is sometimes vital to making deadlines. An added plus: they remember what I are working on and keep our e-mail inboxes clear of irrelevant information and pitches outside our area of interest. I am sure that JPR, A3 and Omarketing serve their clients well.

Of the above, my choice for Product of the Year is OnStor’s Bobcat NAS head. As it unveils its business products, I expect to see Zetera in close contention for this honor in 2006.

Did I miss one of your favorites? Let me know:

About the Author

Jon William Toigo is chairman of The Data Management Institute, the CEO of data management consulting and research firm Toigo Partners International, as well as a contributing editor to Enterprise Systems and its Storage Strategies columnist. Mr. Toigo is the author of 14 books, including Disaster Recovery Planning, 3rd Edition, and The Holy Grail of Network Storage Management, both from Prentice Hall.