Disk storage still bouncing back, IDC says

HP led in enterprise disk products but won't get a big boost from 3Par's small sales total

The market for enterprise disk storage systems grew strongly in the second quarter, continuing to recover from a slump brought on by the economic slowdown of 2008 and 2009, research company IDC said on Friday.

Factory revenue in the worldwide disk storage system market grew 20.7 percent in the second quarter from a year earlier, IDC reported. The revenue grew to almost US$6.8 billion from about $5.6 billion from the same quarter in 2009.

The storage market bottomed out in the second quarter of 2009, so it's not surprising that vendors are reporting sales gains versus that period, said IDC analyst Liz Conner. "If companies didn't go up, it was going to be a really big red flag," she said. However, revenue was also up from the first quarter of 2010. That was a good sign, even though only an increase of 1.1 percent, she said.

Hewlett-Packard had the biggest revenue in the quarter, growing to 19.3 percent market share as its sales increased 33.3 percent. EMC, IBM and Dell filled out the top four. However, HP's planned acquisition of high-end storage specialist 3Par isn't likely to improve its position much in the short term, Conner said. The company HP is buying had only 0.58 percent of the total external storage systems market, according to IDC. The acquisition is likely to help HP in the long run, but how much will depend on HP's success at integrating 3Par and increasing its sales, Conner said.

Excluding disks within servers, the industry grew 20.4 percent to just over $5 billion in factory revenue. In this market, which IDC calls external disk storage systems, EMC continued to dominate with a 25.7 percent market share. Its sales were up 40.6 percent, not counting OEM (original equipment manufacturer) sales through its partners, such as Dell. IDC counts factory revenue based on the brand on the product instead of the manufacturer. IBM, NetApp and HP filled out the top four in this category.

NetApp had the strongest growth in the external market for the quarter, with revenue up 55.3 percent. In part, this was driven by demand for systems that aren't locked in to one I/O technology, such as Fibre Channel or iSCSI (Internet Small Computer System Interface), because NetApp specializes in more flexible products, Conner said. Sun Microsystems, which became part of Oracle in the second half of 2009, was the only major vendor in this business with falling sales. Its revenue fell 11.3 percent, partly because the company stopped reselling Hitachi storage products after Oracle took over, Conner said. On the other hand, the Exadata online transaction processing product co-developed by Oracle and Sun is selling well, she said.

A continuing explosion in the amount of data enterprises have to store will bring disk storage revenue back to pre-recession levels by 2011 or 2012, Conner believes. In the second quarter, the total disk storage systems capacity shipped grew 54.6 percent from a year earlier, reaching 3,645 petabytes, according to IDC. (Revenue grew at a lower rate because the cost per gigabyte of storage went down.)

"It's not something you can buy once and then forget about for five years," Conner said.

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