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Despite a year-long financial and housing market crisis, the storage market continues to hold up, according to the latest storage market statistics from IDC.
Worldwide external disk storage systems revenues grew 16.7 percent to $5.1 billion in the second quarter, the research firm said, while storage software sales rose 14.2 percent to $3.1 billion.
The total disk storage systems market grew 10.9 percent to $6.9 billion.
Surprise winners included Sun Microsystems (NASDAQ: JAVA) on the hardware side with 29.2 percent growth, and Symantec (NASDAQ: SYMC) on the software side, with 26.9 percent growth.
It was the best performance for the sector in two years, although it remains to be seen if storage spending can continue to hold up as the economy slows.
Sun's big quarter was driven in part by 70 percent growth in its high-end StorageTek 9000 line, but the company wasn't the only one benefiting from the rising tide. EMC (NYSE: EMC), IBM (NYSE: IBM), Dell (NASDAQ: DELL) and NetApp (NASDAQ: NTAP) all experienced double-digit growth in external storage systems sales, while HP and Hitachi were in the high single digits. EMC once again claimed the top market share spot in both software and external storage systems.
IDC research analyst Natalya Yezhkova said the sector is benefiting from growing volumes of data that need to be housed and regulations requiring that data be protected and stored. Disk storage systems capacity shipped reached 1,777 petabytes in the second quarter, an increase of 43.7 percent year over year.
"Those are the reasons we don't see a decline in demand for storage capacity. Data protection, fixed content and compliance are the big drivers, along with a general day-to-day data growth," said Yezhkova.
"The second quarter was remarkable because of the ability of vendors to meet a variety of needs among customers with a diversity of products and initiatives," she said. "As an example, we started seeing more entry-level products for server-centric environments, and products designed specifically for content-intensive environments, like Web 2.0 communities.
"While some needs can be served with traditional products, there is more interest [and spending] for products designed for specific needs and environments," the analyst said.
But another industry watcher predicts that the growth may subside as more tech budgets get squeezed and users work on improving storage efficiency.
"Information growth will not subside, but capital budgets will," said Brian Babineau, senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group. "That means companies are going to have to find a way to store data more efficiently and make investments that support that strategy. Technologies like thin provisioning and de-duplication will probably be at the top of the budget lists during this difficult economic period."
Dell held a commanding lead of the iSCSI market with 32.8 percent revenue share, thanks to its acquisition of EqualLogic.
Sun Storage Shines
According to IDC, Sun's storage growth was mainly tied to the 9900/9990 series, which at this time last year was actually being ramped down. But then Sun decided on a product refresh.
"Customers are finally investing in high-end purchases that they had been delaying due to economic uncertainty," said IDC analyst Liz Conner.
The second hot spot for Sun was its Thumper system, which was up about 46 percent year over year.
"The real question is if Sun's growth is sustainable, or just a happenstance of various events this quarter," said Conner. "I have a funny feeling we won't see quite as good of a turnaround from the high end, but that Thumper should stay strong, although Sun's growth in the near term might show signs of unevenness."
Sun cited acceptance of its open storage initiative and said it has more interesting products on the way.
Mike Shapiro, a Sun distinguished engineer who leads the company's FISHworks development team (Fully Integrated Software and Hardware), said Sun will soon release its first fully integrated storage appliances.
The first appliances will combine NAS and iSCSI in a unified storage approach based on Sun's ZFS file system that Shapiro said will offer enterprise-class reliability, quality and scalability.
Shapiro's team is also working on innovations in management, flash technologies and a visual interface for its DTrace analytics tool that Shapiro calls "really transformative."
This article adapted from Internet News