No matter what kind of data a company generates and receives, it has to have a place to live and be safe, and the list of top storage companies here represents the cream of the global crop in this sector.
Storage, along with computing and networking, is one of the three fundamental components of IT: You can’t stay in business without it, whether you’re storing data in machines on your campus or in the cloud. All of these companies offer both of these options, but we're focusing on physical on-premises solutions in this article.
Deciding which vendor to trust in storage is a long-term strategy because data is a long-term value object for all enterprises. Investments in storage hardware and software licensing can be expensive, so you need to get it right the first time. If budgets allow, buyers of enterprise storage hardware should invest in fast solid-state arrays for use in verticals such as financial services, retail, hosted web services and anything with data analytics. Slower, less-expensive serial ATA (SATA) storage using hard drives is perfect for general business that doesn’t need to be completed in real time, including the use of data involving human resources, tax records, monthly or quarterly financial closings, and so on.
Vendor reputation is huge in this sector; most companies tend to buy replacements from the original vendor they choose, usually because of efficiency reasons. All of the companies below have improved their security performance over the years, thanks largely to the introduction of artificial intelligence (AI), automation and multi-level security schemes that are now in favor in the markets.
The companies on this list own in aggregate about 90 percent of the enterprise data storage hardware market. They also all have connected their cloud storage options to their hardware.
Round Rock, Texas
Value proposition for potential buyers: One cannot have a discussion about the world leaders in data storage without starting at No. 1, which is Dell EMC. Since long before the huge $67 billion merger of server and PC maker Dell with data storage giant EMC in 2016, EMC had ruled the roost in this sector—in fact, since 2003. The merged company has continued to maintain EMC's storage hardware leadership legacy by remaining No. 1 in the external enterprise storage systems market, essentially the arrays that make up a storage area network and/or network-attached storage network. Product lines of note include Isilon NAS storage, EMC Unity hybrid-flash storage arrays for block and file storage, SC series arrays and the enduring VMAX family of products.
- Wide variety of choices for medium-size and large systems. An enterprise buyer can spend a long time going through all the choices offered by Dell EMC. Individual systems can range from $10,000 into the millions of dollars. Company product “counselors” can assess older systems and suggest digital transformation.
- Heavy-duty linear storage: Dell EMC has Isilon NAS storage, which has been a mainstay of movie producers for more than a decade. This is because it moves heavy video and computer-generated image files straight to and from a preconfigured destination in a very fast dedicated network. Most movie producers and CTOs have selected Isilon as their movie production storage favorite.
- EMC Unity hybrid-flash storage arrays for block and file storage, great for specific types of use cases involving big data sets, such as genomics, credit-card data and government agency information.
- SC series arrays and the enduring VMAX and VXRail product lines.
- Support: Considered high-level, due to Dell and EMC’s longtime reputation of listening to customers.
To take under advisement: Dell EMC is the largest storage company in the world, thus new customers will have to go through various layers of administration before they determine which people they actually need to deal with.
Who uses it: SMBs to large enterprises; used by storage admins, CTOs, CIOs, chief data officers
How it works: subscription cloud services, physical on-premises arrays
eWEEK score: 4.8/5.0
Read user reviews of Dell EMC
Value proposition for potential buyers: NetApp, once considered simply a “good little file-server company,” is a true survivor among storage—in fact, all—tech companies, having opened its doors in 1992. It is the largest pure-play independent storage company on the planet. NetApp long ago left its reputation as a storage provider for small and midrange companies to become an international-level storage player and is listed in the top three of storage revenue leaders. The company has more than 100 kinds of storage hardware devices for data centers in its product list; they are all connected by a common operating system and are designed to plug in and work together on demand.
- High-end arrays: NetApp Cloud Volumes offer extreme data-movement performance and advanced data management in the data center for hybrid and private clouds.
- Hyper-converged all-flash arrays: NetApp HCI is designed to accelerate digital transformation with the high-performing, lowest-cost all-flash hyperconverged infrastructure.
- AFF all-flash array: Speeds up everything with its cloud-connected, fully non-volatile memory (NVMe)-enabled architecture. Any type of storage that uses such a schema will be among the fastest available.
- Support: NetApp is well-known for its personalized support and go-out-of-their-way-to-help approach to working with customers on installation and maintenance of its systems.
To take under advisement: NetApp has always had the reputation of being a sort of “little brother” to the larger, more well-known companies, such as Dell EMC, IBM and HPE. This is not a “thing” anymore.
Who uses it: SMBs, midrange to large enterprises; used by infosec personnel, storage admins, CTOs, CIOs
How it works: subscription cloud services, physical on-prem arrays
eWEEK score: 4.8/5.0
Read user reviews of NetApp
San Jose, Calif.
Value proposition for potential buyers: HPE Storage, the umbrella portfolio of HPE storage products, wants to be a one-stop shop for all things storage, competing directly with Dell EMC and NetApp. The list includes the full gamut of data storage products: arrays, high-end enterprise online storage, near-online (nearline) storage, storage networking, archiving, deduplication and storage software. HPE has developed many industry-first storage technologies to simplify network storage. The company is a proponent of converged storage, which is storage architecture that combines storage and compute into a single entity.
- AI everywhere: HPE has taken a leadership position in getting AI and machine learning in or at least near every storage package it sells. This is because AI means automation, and automation means ease of use and intelligent execution of storage strategies.
- Reputation: HPE hasn’t been in business since 1939 without being a dependable provider of IT hardware and software to its customers. It is one of the three longest-surviving storage companies in the world; the others are Iron Mountain (physical data storage) and IBM. It has an excellent repeat-business record.
- Large product set: HPE has literally hundreds of storage and networking products in its portfolio from which to choose. It can be overwhelming if you haven’t done your homework on what system you really need for your use cases.
- Memory-driven flash arrays: These are relatively expensive, but their performance is about as fast as you’re going to get in the 2019 market. If you have the budget, require the performance to complete the desired UX (user experience) and the use case fits, flash is the approach to pursue.
- Support: Generally considered excellent all around. This has been a hallmark of HPE since the beginning.
To take under advisement: HPE may not have quite the number of product options companies such as Dell EMC and IBM have, but it’s working on providing them.
Who uses it: Midrange to large enterprises only; used by storage admins, IT managers, CTOs
How it works: subscription cloud services, physical on-prem arrays and servers
eWEEK score: 4.8/5.0
Read user reviews of Hewlett-Packard Enterprise
Value proposition for potential buyers: IBM, like Microsoft and other long-established vendors in other sectors of IT, was slow on the uptake when needing to modernize its product line to solid-state storage arrays a few years ago. It waited until the market spoke, and only then—after a couple of important buying cycles—did it come to fully embrace flash in its arrays. Two years ago, the venerable company announced a big push into NVMe-based storage in a bid to keep moving the enterprise storage performance forward. Now, with the engineering might and full force of the global organization behind it, IBM has gone full-force into flash storage and is equipping all its data centers around the world with the super-fast data-moving storage tech.
- Reputation: Once a company buys IBM, it often doesn’t waver in buying it again. All the major providers on this list have loyal clients, and it’s because these vendors take good care of the customers they have.
- Large product line: As one might imagine, a potential customer can sit down with an IBM rep and pore over hundreds of storage options; this means that customers can virtually design their own custom systems from the vast product lines IBM owns. You get what you pay for, however; the more customized a system is, the more expensive it will likely be.
- Support: Considered very good for a large company, but still not in the class of NetApp or HPE. It’s a humongous organization.
To take under advisement: IBM wants to let everyone know that it can handle any size of business, and it can. But for a smaller local company, it probably would be overkill to invest in an IBM storage hardware solution. Also, because IBM has so many other businesses and does not concentrate on storage only, it may be a little difficult to navigate through to the right company representative—at least at first.
Who uses it: Midrange to large enterprises only; used by storage admins, IT managers, CTOs
How it works: subscription cloud services, physical on-premises services
eWEEK score: 4.6/5.0
Read user reviews of IBM
Santa Clara, Calif.
Value proposition for potential buyers: Veritas is a long-established, highly trusted data storage provider with a long list of loyal clients, including the U.S. government, the military, scientific installations and health care providers. The company went private in 2015 and separated from Symantec following a rocky 10-year relationship with the data security provider, and it's turned out to be a good thing. Founded in 1983 by Eli Alon and Dale Shipley (both from Intel) and Stanford professor and entrepreneur Mark Leslie as Tolerant Systems, Veritas was one of the first providers of data backup and recovery, now a required feature in all storage. It has a global clientele of about 50,000 customers.
- High-end data backup: Veritas NetBackup 8.0, the company's flagship data protection solution for enterprises, now provides storage tiering in Microsoft Azure, which improves data lifecycle management by optimizing the movement of data. This lowers costs for enterprises and provides increased operational benefits of Azure while reducing the need to deploy additional storage with a separate point product.
- Snapshot management: Veritas CloudPoint 2.0 features new-generation snapshot management and orchestration technology that uses Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud native snapshots. Adding extensive data-protection capabilities gives users new ways to replicate, search and classify their data.
- Supporting popular workloads and multi-cloud/hybrid-cloud environments: Veritas supports a wide array of workloads and applications, including Microsoft SQL Server, MongoDB, VMware and Oracle. It also supports an array of multi-cloud environments, giving customers choice with consistent data protection alternatives across the board with just one intuitive, centralized dashboard.
- Support: Veritas has an excellent reputation in this area.
- Finding the right data: Veritas includes extensive cataloging capabilities that enable granular recovery of data. Customers can use the snapshotting technology to find specific pieces of information and restore it in seconds—right down to a single file.
- Advanced disaster recovery: Organizations can easily replicate data between regions of the same cloud (intra-cloud replication), advancing disaster recovery efforts. Customers can also set policies so that snapshots are taken automatically at set intervals.
To take under advisement: Veritas has long been the kind of company that relies more on word-of-mouth than on heavy duty marketing and advertising. Thus, it doesn’t have the overall visibility that many of the companies on this list have. But that doesn’t negate the quality of the products and services it offers.
Who uses it: Midrange to large enterprises; used by storage admins, IT managers
How it works: physical on-prem arrays, subscription cloud services
eWEEK score: 4.7/5.0
Read user reviews of Veritas
Santa Clara, Calif.
Value proposition for potential buyers: Hitachi Vantara, started in September 2017 as a wholly owned subsidiary of the global Hitachi Ltd., is now showing its own storage-business personality. The corporate move hooked up Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) with Pentaho and the Hitachi Insights Group to create a subsidiary focused on data integration, internet of things (IoT), big data analytics and enterprise storage. This is now a formidable competitor to the top four companies in this list.
- Combining strengths in storage tech: HDS storage systems live on in the form of the company's Hitachi NAS Platform and G Series arrays. This is much more than just an organizational update. Hitachi Vantara is essentially a new company resulting from the convergence of HDS, Hitachi Insight Group and Pentaho. The new entity combines Hitachi's 107-year experience in operational technology with 59 years of IT expertise, providing data management for business insight.
- Newest products: HV's new all-flash VSP F series and hybrid-flash VSP G series systems offer an agile data infrastructure with up to three times more IOPS performance and 2.5X greater scalability than previous versions. Improved cloud and container integration allow more workloads to run on a single system while helping to eliminate data silos and supporting new workloads, HV said.
- Hybrid is the trend here: The new enterprise-class Hitachi VSP models include the all-flash VSP F700 and VSP F900 and the hybrid flash VSP G700 and G900 systems. To reach a broader range of customers, Hitachi is introducing new midrange models: the VSP F350, F370, G350 and G370 systems. These systems are powered by the next generation of the Hitachi Storage Virtualization Operating System, SVOS RF, which has been rearchitected for increased performance, scalability and data efficiency.
- Creative pricing: All new VSP systems are backed by Hitachi's new flat-charge service model and come with a foundation software package that includes the company's infrastructure analytics and copy data management software.
- Support: Overall considered very good, but some people believe this is a work in progress.
To take under advisement: Hitachi has a global reputation for good quality hardware; not so much for software and services. It has never been up to the quality/performance levels of the three or four leaders in this segment, but it is trying to remake its legacy with Vantara, and it is indeed making strides toward the top of this list.
Who uses it: SMB,midrange to large enterprises; used by storage admins, IT managers
How it works: physical on-prem arrays, subscription cloud devices and arrays
eWEEK score: 4.4/5.0
Read user reviews of Hitachi Vantara
Honorable mention: Oracle, Huawei, Fujitsu, WD, Pure Storage, Tegile, Kaminario