The storage networking market includes a range of key vertical segments, each with its own set of requirements and buying patterns. During 2006, some loomed larger than others, boding well for more growth in 2007. Below, in order from smallest to largest slice of the pie, is our take -- empirically, if unscientifically, derived from our own observations -- on where the top storage buyers are located:
No. 10: SMBs. Suppliers have finally wised up to the fact that this huge market requires specially tailored gear. Instead of stripping down existing midrange wares and then forcing users to upgrade later, the vendors are seeing the potential in SMB volume sales. The segment's demands are also paving the way for new kinds of NAS-plus-iSCSI gear. (See Dell, Microsoft Team on NAS-Plus-iSCSI.)
No. 9: HPC. High-performance computing may be a niche market, but it's giving birth to a strain of high-end storage gear we'll soon start to see in areas like financial services and manufacturing. The HPC market is also tied into government and education segments, where massive R&D projects influence the shape of tomorrow's storage products.
No. 8: Service Providers. Managed services of all kinds are getting more popular in IT, and storage is no exception. Ask Seagate, which just shelled out $183 million to buy EVault. (See Last Minute Shopping for Seagate.) Under increased pressure to organize and protect data, IT pros are turning to outsourcers for help with everything from online backup to email archiving. (See Managed Storage Moves On.) And providing for the providers is a key focus for storage vendors. Just ask 3PAR. That vendor claims that about half its "growing customer base" comprises providers of managed storage services. (See Managed Services Resurge.)
No. 7: China and India. OK, these are geographic regions, not industry segments, but these areas of the world contain some of the hottest growth markets for storage. Cisco and EMC have earmarked India for investment. (See Cisco Updates Investment.) Huawei-3Com is pursuing a sizeable IP SAN market there. (See Huawei Sets Sights on IP SANs.) And Hitachi, which knows these markets, noted in its first-half 2006 earnings report that "Asian economies grew strongly, reflecting a high growth rate in China and other factors. European economies, meanwhile, staged a moderate recovery." Storage, by the way, was listed among Hitachi's key growth markets. (See Hitachi Sees Growth.)