2008's best storage products

Summary:The world of data storage is changing faster than it has since the mid-90's saw the rise of storage arrays and storage networks. While some of the products - personal SSDs and online storage I'm looking at you - aren't quite ready for prime time, they are improving fast.

The world of data storage is changing faster than it has since the mid-90's saw the rise of storage arrays and storage networks. While some of the products - personal SSDs and online storage I'm looking at you - aren't quite ready for prime time, they are improving fast.

Here's the Storage Bits take on the top storage products, both consumer and enterprise, of 2008.

10) Personal Solid State Drives - although they didn't live up to the hype - longer battery life! reliable!! faster!!! - they've educated a new generation of interested storage consumers on the issues of storage system architecture. The many problems will get sorted out. As flash prices drop personal SSDs will gain in popularity. But if you want capacity, rotating disks are the only way to go.

9) The 500 GB 2.5" drive. At only 1/3rd the capacity of the biggest 2.5" drives, they augur the switch to 2.5" form factors in desktop and enterprise systems. 3 years ago 2.5" drives were 1/5th the capacity and even higher in price per GB. The gap is closing fast.

8) Personal online storage services. Few people back up their data, mostly because it is a pain. Online backup services have made it easier to backup and offer small businesses disaster recovery at an affordable price. While none of the services I've seen currently merit more than a B- grade, they'll keep improving and someone will get it right.

7) Corsair's 16 GB Voyager GT USB drive. I'd become convinced that all USB flash drives were slow - so why bother with high capacity? But this unit is 4x faster than cheap drives. Which makes the capacity 4x more useful. Please Corsair, make a 32 GB model.

6) Oppo Digital's DV-983H upscaling dvd player. I'll publish a review next year, but the short version is it upscales ordinary DVDs to near Blu-ray quality. Yes, even better than the upscaling you see on a Blu-ray player. One less reason to pay the Blu-ray tax.

5) The Drobo FireWire array. The original USB-only Drobo had ease-of-use that Apple would envy, but not the performance. With FireWire 800 the new box is usable for video as well as photos. I recommend it to storage-nongeeks who need protected storage: RAID without tears.

4) Western Digital's 300 GB, 10,000 rpm SATA Velociraptor drive. Western Digital builds excellent drives, and the 10k VR is one of their best. Think Viagra for your desktop: its knocked a third off my boot times and every app load is noticeably snappier. Best effect: virtual memory is painless. I don't even notice 3 GB of active swap space. Yay!

3) Enterprise SSDs. Consumer SSDs have stringent price limits. But enterprise SSDs cost thousands of dollars for performance that customers want. 2008 is the year that every major vendor introduced or announced SSDs for high-end arrays. These high-end SSDs will displace 15k high-end disks in the next 5 years. Even better, their architectures will filter down to consumer SSDs.

2) Zero-maintenance storage. Xiotech and Atrato introduced storage boxes that guarantee certain levels of capacity, performance and uptime with no maintenance for 5 and 3 years respectively. Eliminating variability is a Very Good Thing. Update: It is Xiotech that provides a 5 year warranty. I had the terms reversed. End update.

1) Fusion-io's flash-based io-Drive. Rather then make flash look like a disk, Fusion-io has put it close to the CPU on a PCI-e bus for maximum bandwidth and low latency. Solid state disks are convenient because they look like disks. But flash belongs between the CPU and disk layers: that's where we'll get the most benefit for the added cost.

0) EMC's Atmos cloud storage. EMC, the world's largest independent vendor of storage, introduced the first commercial cloud storage a couple of months ago. Sure, you can rent cloud storage, but until Atmos you couldn't buy a product designed for cloud storage. But the important thing is that EMC has embraced storage clusters based on commodity hardware and mostly open-source software. That's what Google did years ago and pretty soon many companies will.

The Storage Bits take With the global recession coming on fast, storage prices are plunging. There will be great deals on many storage products through Q1/09 until vendors get their production in line with demand.

The best news though is that there are so many great products to buy and many more are on the way. There's never been a better time to be a storage glutton.

Comments welcome, of course. What are YOUR favorite products? What did I miss?

Topics: Storage, Hardware

About

Harris has been working with computers for over 35 years and selling and marketing data storage for over 30 in companies large and small. He introduced a couple of multi-billion dollar storage products (DLT, the first Fibre Channel array) to market, as well as a many smaller ones. Earlier he spent 10 years marketing servers and networks.... Full Bio

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