Small vendors can offer some great cost-saving benefits

They often bundle software with hardware for free

Earlier this week, IDC announced that Dell, EMC, Hitachi Data Systems, Hewlett-Packard and IBM hold the top spots in the storage market. But what do these numbers really tell us?

Being familiar with their products, one thing it tells me is that most users are still unaware that there are better options out there. There's nothing wrong with these vendors' storage arrays per se, but overall, they lag newer products because they don't offer bundled software.

Conversely, storage arrays from companies that don't even hit the radar screen, like 3Par, EqualLogic, LeftHand Networks and Pillar Data Systems, provide software that allows users to manage and manipulate data stored on their arrays.

Granted, the top vendors provide users with ways to do this. But often these options are either external to the storage array or require extra licenses. For managers, this presents two problems: Few can justify spending extra money upfront for features that they may want at some time but can't justify now, and then they are penalized if they need them later because they have to pay a premium.

New vendors' storage arrays circumvent these problems by sometimes offering features such as clustering and replication for free. This allows you to have the storage you need and the features you want without trying to justify why you're spending extra. Even if you decide to stay with your primary storage vendor, you can certainly use new storage vendors as leverage against your primary vendor to obtain the features you want for free or at reduced cost.

Major storage vendors are gaining or holding market share, but users need to ask how much additional value are their storage arrays offering, and at what cost? If the answers are "unclear" and "too much," it might be time to look beyond the top 5.

Jerome Wendt is the president and lead analyst at DCIG Inc. He may be reached at

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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