External storage sector sees record-breaking sales, Gartner says

External controller-based disk storage has recovered from the global recession, exceeding the record sales figure from 2008 with revenue in 2010 of more than $19.4 billion, according to research company Gartner.

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External controller-based disk storage has recovered from the global recession, exceeding the record sales figure from 2008 with revenue in 2010 of more than $19.4 billion, according to research company Gartner.

Enterprises and service providers alike are investing more in external storage as they virtualise servers and build cloud-based services, said Gartner analyst Roger Cox. Migration from tape to disk for backup is also helping the market, he said. In addition, slow spending in 2009 amid the economic doldrums led to pent-up demand, Cox explained. Growth in China and India is also helping to power increased external storage spending.

Investment in file-based storage platforms is growing much faster than for block-based systems, though the latter remain the biggest part of the market, according to Gartner. File-based external storage system sales grew 36.2 percent from 2009 to 2010, compared with just 14.9 percent for block-based products.

Enterprises are deploying file-based systems to deal with unstructured data such as digital media and scanned medical records, which are proliferating much faster than block-based content such as databases, Cox said. File-based storage is also better suited to virtualisation, he said.

"It's easier to install and provision and manage file-based storage in a virtualised server environment," Cox said. EMC and NetApp have capitalised on this advantage by focusing on Network File System platforms for storage in virtualised data centres, he said.

Overall, in 2010 the external controller-based storage market grew 18.1 percent from 2009, when revenue reached just $16.5 billion and beat 2008's record revenue of about $18 billion, according to Gartner. Results for the fourth quarter of 2010 were also strong, with a 16 percent increase in revenue from 2009's fourth quarter.

EMC retained its leadership position in 2010, with 28 percent of the market for the full year. Its 2010 revenue rose 32.4 percent from the previous year, hitting $5.4 billion. IBM remained in second place, with 14.4 percent of the market in 2010. IBM had about $2.8 billion in revenue, a gain of 14.7 percent from 2009. But NetApp jumped three places in the race for market dominance, moving from sixth place in 2009 to third place in 2010. NetApp's revenue grew nearly 51 percent from year to year, according to Gartner. NetApp had 10.7 percent of the market in 2010.

"It's hard to say that they're doing anything wrong," Cox said of NetApp. The company offers block-based as well as file-based systems and does well in storage virtualisation. It is also leading the charge toward unified storage, in which the same software manages both block-based and file-based storage, Cox said.


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