Best Data Storage Solutions and Software 2021

The data storage market used to be a simple landscape. There were direct attached storage (DAS), storage area networks (SAN), and network attached storage (NAS). The primary arguments were: why keep everything directly attached when you should be using a SAN; or which is better for you, a SAN or NAS? 

That simple world is long gone. Data storage solutions have changed markedly of late. Whether it’s the cloud, object storage, or software-defined storage, the many permutations of storage make for a complex picture. 

But one thing remains: International Data Corp. (IDC) continues to release its quarterly storage reports. The “Worldwide Enterprise External OEM Storage Systems Market Revenue Increased 1.7% During the First Quarter of 2021” lists the top five storage vendors and gives a good overview of the market. 

Interestingly, IDC makes the point that regardless of the cloud, this report continues to give an accurate picture of who is selling the most storage. After all, the big cloud providers buy storage hardware and software from these same companies. So even though the percentage of enterprise storage sales to cloud vendors is rising steadily, it is all storage whether in the cloud or on premises.  

One aspect of this guide which made it challenging is the wealth of storage assets offered by each vendor. Due to expansion over the years as well as acquiring data storage solutions from startups and rivals, each vendor provides a great many offerings. Therefore, they are summarized so as to include the primary product lines and items in one place.  

Whether you are looking for SAN, NAS, DAS, object storage, or data storage software, the following offerings should fit most needs. 

Also read: Top Data Management Platforms & Systems 2021

Top Data Storage Vendors 2021

Here are the top data storage vendors and what they offer in this everchanging category. 

Dell 

Dell EMC logo.

Dell leads the way in storage sales. In its early days it developed its own storage. But over the years, it has acquired a great many vendors, including EMC. Its data storage solutions cover the gamut. 

Primary Storage

  • Dell EMC PowerStore is a modern mid-range infrastructure platform built from the ground up with industry-leading technology and expertise to support traditional and modern apps.
    • The PowerStore 500 delivers enterprise performance and storage services at an accessible price point.
  • Dell EMC PowerMax is delivers high levels of performance and efficiency. It features end-to-end non-volatile memory express (NVMe) and a machine learning engine. It is typically used for their mission-critical traditional, modern (containers), and mainframe-based consolidated IT workloads.
  • Dell EMC Unity XT storage arrays are mid-range, NVMe-ready, and include dual-active controller architecture, and data services. 
  • Dell EMC PowerVault Series is an entry-level block storage array for price-sensitive SAN and DAS environments. The ME4 Series supports workloads such as HPC, surveillance/CCTV, virtualization with VMware and Microsoft, and server expansion.

Unstructured Storage

  • Dell EMC PowerScale is a family of unstructured data storage products. It is the next evolution of the OneFS operating system for scale-out NAS. OneFS clusters include a choice of all-flash, hybrid and archive nodes.
  • Dell EMC ECS is an object storage platform and appliance portfolio. 
    • Dell EMC ObjectScale is now object storage with a software-defined, containerized architecture that delivers enterprise-class, high performance object storage in a Kubernetes-native package. It scales to any capacity and connects sites from edge to core. 

NetApp

NetApp logo

NetApp has two primary lines, AFF and FAS. AFF is high-performance all-flash storage. FAS is capacity oriented storage which includes both all-flash and hybrid-flash implementations. AFF and FAS, as well as Cloud Volumes ONTAP (CVO), are powered by ONTAP data management software.

  • AFF All Flash. AFF systems deliver high performance, flexible data services and cloud integration to accelerate, manage, and protect data in the hybrid cloud. From entry-level to high-end systems, they support NVMe-attached SSDs and front-end NVMe over Fibre Channel (NVMe/FC) host connectivity. AFF is aimed at performance-demanding enterprise apps such as Oracle, SQL, SAP HANA, analytics, virtualization, and consolidation of workloads.
  • FAS Capacity Oriented Storage. NetApp FAS storage arrays help build storage infrastructure that balance capacity and performance. It is optimized for easy deployment and operations while also having the flexibility to handle future growth and cloud integration. The FAS family has unified capabilities for SAN, NAS, and object workloads. FAS is favored for capacity oriented workloads such as back-up and recovery, unstructured data, and workloads for media and entertainment. 
  • ONTAP. NetApp ONTAP 9 data management software is said to bring the simplicity and flexibility of cloud to the data center. It helps IT to deploy a range of storage architectures including hardware storage systems, software-defined storage, and the cloud. 

The company also offers: 

  • StorageGrid for object storage. 
  • E-series hybrid flash arrays (part disk and part flash).  
  • EF-series all flash arrays for giant workloads. 

Huawei 

Huawei Logo (PRNewsfoto/Huawei)

Huawei delivers unified storage solutions for large enterprise applications and demanding technical workloads. Whether your requirement includes NAS, SAN or SSD, Huawei enterprise storage systems can manage data.

  • OceanStor Dorado. Huawei OceanStor Dorado all-flash storage is good for mission-critical business applications. The high-end models employ Huawei Flashlink technology to provide 7 million IOPS, with 0.5 ms consistent latency with inline compression, inline deduplication, and snapshot enabled. It is used for databases, VDI, server virtualization, and SAP HANA.
  • OceanStor Pacific. The OceanStor Pacific Series supports erasure coding and can scale to 4,096 nodes. The decoupled storage-compute big data solution provides native HDFS, and is compatible with mainstream big data platforms and components for data analysis.
  • FusionCube. FusionCube 1000 (Hypervisor) & FusionCube 1000 (Data) provide data storage infrastructure based on converged architecture. They pre-integrate a distributed storage engine, virtualization software, and cloud management software to support on-demand resource allocation and linear expansion. Mainly used in hybrid workload scenarios — such as databases, Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), containers, and virtualization — this is a simplified, efficient, and reliable Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI) choice for enterprises.

HPE 

HPE has been a major player in enterprise storage for decades. Its offerings cover just about all areas of the storage landscape. Most of the storage below is also available as a service. HPE’s portfolio includes a wide range of all flash and hybrid arrays that can be used to host data from the edge to the cloud with workload-optimized infrastructure. 

  • HPE Alletra offers a cloud experience for all apps. It offers a cloud-native data infrastructure that delivers a cloud operating and consumption experience for data anywhere. 
  • HPE Primera is intended as tier zero storage for mission-critical apps. It is embedded with HPE InfoSight to optimize performance and workload placement in real time.
  • HPE Nimble Storage. Nimble is the HPE line for hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI). Its disaggregated HCI (dHCI) delivers a hyperconverged experience that includes business-critical speed and resiliency alongside independent scaling of compute and storage. 

Hitachi Vantara

The Hitachi Vantara storage portfolio includes several different lines: 

  • Virtual Storage Platform. The VSP 5000 is available as all-flash or a combo of flash and disk. The VSP E990 is more of a midrange storage array. They both support NVMe SSDs. 
  • E series offers a data availability guarantee, and low cost per IOPs in the industry as well as flexibility. 
  • F series is cloud-ready storage with sub-millisecond latency for consistent performance.
  • G series is Hitachi’s midrange systems that include the data availability guarantee. 

Also read: Three Key Memory Technologies Driving Data Management

Beyond the Top 5

The above five are very much the big guns in the storage world in terms of overall sales and capacity shipments. But there are others in the storage world who offer popular enterprise tools that often compete in these same markets. 

Datacore logo

DataCore 

DataCore’s software-defined storage portfolio includes:

  • DataCore SANsymphony software for block-based storage enables users to centrally automate and manage capacity provisioning and data placement across diverse storage environments, providing the benefits of hardware independence, flexibility, availability, performance, and efficiency/cost savings.
  • DataCore Swarm object storage software, designed from the ground up to securely manage billions of files and petabytes of information. Swarm provides a foundation for hyperscale data storage, access, and analysis, while guaranteeing data integrity and eliminating hardware dependencies.
  • vFilO software, a next-generation distributed file and object storage virtualization technology uniquely designed to help enterprises organize, optimize, and control large volumes of data scattered on-premises and in the cloud. It simplifies shared access, control and protection of distributed file systems while maximizing efficiency and minimizing costs.

Pure Storage 

Pure Storage offers two primary arrays. These arrays serve needs ranging from departmental to large-scale enterprise deployments. They provide performance, reliability, and availability for mission-critical operations — both block and file.

  • FlashArray//X is aimed at high performance. It offers 100% all-flash end-to-end NVMe and NVMe-oF array.  
  • FlashArray//C is the high-capacity version. The FlashArray//C is more about consolidating workloads with consistent all-flash NVMe performance and data protection. 

FalconStor

FalconStor is all about data protection. Its products are compatible with existing backup and archive software, hardware, and processes. The company also takes advantage of object storage in its on-premises and cloud archival offerings, with secure data containers that can take advantage of the various capabilities offered by the major object storage offerings, both on-premise and in the cloud.

  • FalconStor StorSafe. StorSafe seamlessly adds object storage to some of its data protection products and solutions. It uses the metadata management capabilities of object storage to access the most applicable data. It harnesses the immutable storage of WORM-compliant offerings to provide a perpetual, always available archive. By breaking data into fragments and dispersing them throughout the cluster, availability goes up, while a data center breach resulting in a stolen machine yields no data loss- no complete dataset can be mounted.
  • FalconStor StorGuard. FalconStor StorGuard is heterogeneous continuous replication software that operates between the application servers and target storage systems to protect the data. It logs every write to the server and enables a single RPO across the stack. It operates on-premise, in cloud, and on tape backups, and offers IT the ability to find the right mix of backup, security, and business continuity. 

Read next: Establishing Sustainability in the Age of Data

Drew Robb
Drew Robb has been a full-time professional writer and editor for more than twenty years. He currently works freelance for a number of IT publications, including eSecurity Planet and CIO Insight. He is also the editor-in-chief of an international engineering magazine.

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