External disk storage shipments surpass 7 exabytes in Q3

Multi-protocol storage system sales worldwide drive growth

Disk storage capacity shipped by vendors worldwide surpassed 7 exabytes for the first time in a quarter, according to IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Disk Storage Systems Tracker report.

The total disk storage capacity shipped by vendors in the third quarter reached 7.1 exabytes or 7,100 petabytes, representing 24.4% year-over-year growth, according to IDC.

Driving the double-digit growth in storage was demand for multi-protocol storage systems, such as Fibre Channel and Ethernet-based storage combined in one box, as well as a strong demand for upper mid-range and high-end storage systems, said Liz Conner, a senior research analyst at IDC.

"End users continue to invest in storage infrastructures despite persistent concerns surrounding global and regional economies," Conner said in a statement.

In past quarters this year, total storage capacity shipped (which includes internal disk drives and external array systems) ranged from 6.1 exabytes to 6.6 exabytes per quarter.

"The growth rates aren't 60% like they were seeing three or five, but there are headwinds out there we're still moving past," said Eric Sheppard, research director of Storage Systems for IDC.

For example, storage sales are facing a major economic downturn in Eastern Europe and elsewhere. Additionally, technologies such as data deduplication, thin provisioning, solid-state drives (SSDs) and automated tiering has significantly increased storage utilization rates, which should have decreased the raw demand for storage capacity.

"You have this confluence of market forces and technology advancements that would suggest users can get by with less, and yet there's still consumption growth," Sheppard said.

For the quarter, the total disk storage systems market posted just under $7.9 billion in revenues, representing 3.7% growth from the prior year's third quarter.

IDC's report also showed sales of just external disk storage systems in the third quarter totaled just over $5.9 billion, indicating 3.3% year-over-year growth.

EMC maintained its lead in the external disk storage systems market with 30% revenue share in the third quarter, followed by NetApp and IBM, which were tied for with 11.9% and 11.7% market share, respectively. Hitachi and HP finished the quarter in a statistical tie for the fourth position with 9.7% market shares each.

The total open networked disk storage market (NAS Combined with Open/iSCSI SAN) grew 4.7% year over year in the third quarter to just over $5.1 billion in revenues. EMC continues to maintain its leadership in the total open networked storage market with 33.5% revenue share, followed by NetApp with a 13.7% revenue share.

In the Open SAN market, which grew 4.4% year over year, EMC was the leading vendor with 29.8% revenue share, followed by IBM in second with 14.0% market share and Hitachi and HP tied for third with 12.2% and 11.8% shares, respectively.

The NAS market increased 5.7% year over year, led by EMC with 43.6% revenue share and followed by NetApp with 29.4% share. The iSCSI SAN market continues to show good growth, posting 6.9% revenue growth compared to the prior year's quarter.

Dell led the market with 28.3% revenue share, followed by EMC in second with 19.8% market share. NetApp was in third with 13.3% market share.

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed. His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com.

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Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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