Market for External Disk Storage Systems Continues Growth, but Slows

By Thor Olavsrud

External disk storage systems posted double-digit growth for the sixth consecutive quarter in the third quarter of 2011, according to research firms, but the market is also showing signs of slowing.

"The third quarter of 2011 was a strong quarter for enterprise storage, posting solid growth in factory revenue and signaling a return to 'business as normal'," said Liz Conner, senior research analyst for Storage Systems at IDC. "The trend of increased spending during the economic recovery period, specifically on high-end systems, has started to draw to a close. As IDC predicted, year-over-year growth has started to slow and is now approaching pre-economic crisis levels."

Roger Cox, research vice president at Gartner, added, "The third quarter, year-over-year growth rate was the smallest percentage increase in the past seven quarters," said Roger Cox, research vice president at Gartner. "The North American region, which grew 6.7 percent in the third quarter, appears to be finally laboring under the weight of an extremely sluggish economy. Moreover, the prolonged debate and uncertainty around the debt ceiling as the quarter came to an end also had a negative influence on third-quarter revenue."

IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Disk Storage Systems Tracker found worldwide external disk storage systems factory revenue posted year-over-year growth of 10.8 percent, a total of just under $5.8 billion, in the third quarter of 2011. The firm said the total disk storage systems market grew to $7.6 billion in revenues for the quarter, representing 8.5 percent growth compared with the year-ago quarter. IDC found that total disk storage systems capacity shipped reached 5,429 petabytes, growing 30.7 percent year-over-year.

Gartner, on the other hand, found that worldwide external controller-based (ECB) disk storage revenue posted 10.4 percent year-over-year growth, a total of $5.1 billion. Gartner said Asia/Pacific and Latin America posted the largest year-over-year revenue gains -- 23 percent and 15.3 percent, respectively. But EMEA was the surprise story. Gartner said EMEA continued to achieve results that defied its economic woes.

All three regions, according to Gartner, benefited in particular from the conversion of direct attached storage (DAS) infrastructures to fabric attached storage (FAS) infrastructures as the result of the transition to virtualized server environments. They also benefited from the trend of migration from tape to disk as organizations seek to modernize their backup/recovery methodologies.

Both IDC and Gartner agreed that EMC continued to rule the roost in external disk storage systems. IDC reported 28.6 percent revenue share for EMC in the third quarter, while Gartner gave it 32.1 percent of the ECB market. Gartner pointed to EMC's broad ECB market coverage, including its leadership in the block-access and Special Purpose Disk Active Archiving System (PDAAS) segments, and the Isilon acquisition and new VNX series, which gave it the top spot in the NAS segment for the first time.

IDC said IBM and NetApp tied for second place in the overall market with 12.7 percent and 12.1 percent respective revenue share. HP took the fourth position with 11.3 percent revenue share, while Hitachi and Dell shared the fifth spot with 8.8 percent and 8 percent revenue share, respectively.

"Strong growth in the midrange segment helped the overall growth in the third quarter of 2011," said Amita Potnis, senior research analyst for Storage Systems at IDC. "The trend to buy modular systems offering enterprise level functionality, such as scale-out architectures, tiering, data deduplication, etc., continues."

Thor Olavsrud is a contributor to InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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This article was originally published on December 09, 2011