Storage Sales Defy Economic Downturn


In a quarter in which the economic decline accelerated after Lehman Brothers went bankrupt and a handful of other financial giants had to be propped up by the federal government, storage sales grew nearly 9 percent.

"While the economic turmoil has already started impacting spending in various IT segments, including PCs and server systems, the market for external disk storage systems remained in stable condition with solid year-over-year growth," Natalya Yezhkova, IDC's storage systems research manager, said in a statement today.

The storage sector's resilience in the face of the worst recession in decades could get tested in the fourth quarter, as the economy has slowed dramatically since Lehman's mid-September bankruptcy. But then who could have guessed it would hold up so well thus far?

Yezhkova said IDC surveys have found that "storage is one of a few hardware categories where buyers are reluctant to cut spending independent of the economic situation."

That said, Yezhkova noted that tighter budgets are leading to longer purchasing cycles for storage systems and the adoption of storage optimization technologies such as thin provisioning and de-duplication.

IDC storage research analyst Liz Conner said midrange systems ($15,000-$299,999) were particularly strong in the third quarter, growing 15 percent year-over-year. IP storage was a major factor in the growth, she said, led by strong adoption of iSCSI SANs, particularly within virtual server environments, and solid growth in NAS-based solutions, "addressing the ever increasing growth in file-level data."

IDC said worldwide external disk storage systems factory revenue grew 8.8 percent from the third quarter of 2007 to $4.9 billion. The total disk storage systems market grew 1.1 percent to $6.6 billion, held back by softness in server systems sales. Total disk storage systems capacity shipped reached 2,170 petabytes, up 41.7 percent.

EMC (NYSE: EMC) led the pack with 16.2 percent growth, maintaining its market share lead (see table at bottom). IBM (NYSE: IBM), HP (NYSE: HPQ) and Hitachi posted flat-to-modest growth, while Dell (NASDAQ: DELL) and NetApp (NASDAQ: NTAP) grew strongly, up 8.6 percent and 13.8 percent, respectively.

Sun's (NASDAQ: JAVA) market share wasn't big enough to make the IDC press release, but the company put out its own press release saying IDC had credited it with 16.1 percent external systems revenue growth in the third quarter, matching EMC's growth rate. Sun's open storage efforts have been one of the few bright spots for the beleaguered company.

The total network disk storage market (NAS combined with open SAN) grew 15.3 percent to more than $3.7 billion. EMC held onto its lead with a 27.9 percent revenue share, followed by HP with 12.3 percent revenue share.

In the open SAN market, which grew 14 percent year-over-year, EMC led with a 25 percent revenue share, followed by HP with 14.7 percent. The NAS market grew 19.7 percent, led by EMC with a 37.7 percent share, followed by NetApp with 28.2 percent share.

The iSCSI SAN market posted another strong quarter, with 96.7 percent year-over-year revenue growth. Dell led the market with a 31.1 percent revenue share, followed by EMC and NetApp, with 13.3 percent and 12.5 percent, respectively.

Top 5 Vendors
Worldwide External Disk Storage Systems Factory Revenue, Third Quarter 2008

(Revenues are in millions)
VendorQ3 2008
Market shareQ3 2007
Market shareRevenue
All vendors$4,859100%$4,467100%8.8%
Source: IDC, December 2008
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