Ten on the Storage Hot Seat for 2008

It's getting warmer for a few storage companies, and 2008 could be the deal maker - or breaker

January 1, 2008

5 Min Read
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Is it getting hot in here? It sure is, if you're one of the companies listed below. As we do every year, we've picked the top 10 storage players that face crucial junctures in the coming months. Some of the hot-seaters below, like Sun, have been on our list before, but a few are newcomers. And keep in mind that with the upcoming slowdown predicted in storage spending, along with other macroeconomic woes, lots more organizations are apt to feel the flames in 2008.

Without further ado, here are our picks:

No. 10: Dell

Most pundits hailed Dell's November purchase of EqualLogic for $1.4 billion as a move that opens intriguing possibilities. And Dell's latest earnings show excellent storage growth. Dell has also beefed up its storage roster with the addition of iSCSI SMB wares and the acquisition of IT consultancy Networked Storage last week. Still, analysts say Dell faces weakness in the PC market, the perception among VARs that the EqualLogic buy makes Dell a competitor, and the changing relationship with partner EMC. The coming year will force Dell to deal well with these and other challenges.

No. 9: NetApp

What, a key NAS player in the hot seat? At least one analyst sees NetApp as vulnerable to an expected upcoming IT spending slowdown. And IDC figures released in December 2007 place NetApp's NAS growth at 1.9 percent from the third quarter of 2006 through the third quarter 2007, compared with EMC's growth of 12.3 percent and IBM's growth of 55.1 percent in the same timeframe. While NetApp's shown strong software growth in IDC's figures, the winds of economic change could result in a spark or two hitting NetApp's posterior in 2008.

No. 8: Data Domain

Sure, Data Domain's meteoric IPO has put the company in the pink. The challenge in 2008 will be to stay there. Data Domain's top-dog position is threatened by competitors nipping at its heels, particularly in the still-untapped enterprise market.No. 7: Citrix

A longtime leader in the remote computing space, Citrix is faced with a head-to-head confrontation with VMware in several markets. Citrix's purchase of XenSource for $500 million this year was a step in the right direction. Citrix has unveiled plans for XenDesktop, a competitor to VMware's VDI. And the company's announced a focus on comprehensive "end to end virtualization," spearheaded by the potential 2008 rollout of a hypervisor embedded in hardware from server vendors. But any competitor of VMware's is taking on Goliath in a space where the odds are stacked firmly in the incumbent's favor.

No. 6: LSI

Four months after LSI sold its mobility products division to Infineon for $450 million, it looks like the company's efforts to refocus its sights on storage and networking are taking positive shape. Release of a 10-Gbit/s Ethernet card for IBM's BladeCenter, an expanded channel agreement with Intel, and ongoing momentum in disk drive manufacturing all point to solid progress. But the volatile storage market and ongoing macroeconomic factors make it tough to be definite about anybody's comeback these days.

No. 5: HGST

Rumblings from Tokyo raise questions about the future of Hitachi's Global Storage Technologies (HGST), which IBM sold to Hitachi in 2003. Despite progress in 1-Tbyte drives and other successes, HGST is affected by an industry move away from very small disk drives for consumer devices, and rumors that HGST is losing money persist. Hitachi's mixed messages about its subsidiary are only making matters more confusing. The next few months should be decisive ones.

No. 4: Sun Microsystems

More than two years after Sun closed its $4.1 billion acquisition of StorageTek, the vendor continues to face questions about its storage strategy. The merger of Sun's storage and systems group under the leadership of John Fowler; the growth of the aptly priced SunFire X4500, and Sun's acquisition of the Lustre file system are all steps in the right direction. But 2008 will be a test for Sun storage.

No. 3: NEC America

The Advanced Storage Products Group at NEC has impressed industry observers with its Hydrastor disk-based storage system, which combines backup and archiving, features modular architecture, and packs de-duplication and data compression. Trouble is, Hydrastor doesn't seem to impress customers quite as much. The coming year will help determine whether NEC has a good shot at the enterprise storage market or the best project at the science fair. No. 2: Bakbone

Bakbone Software buckets along, enhancing its data protection wares, supporting partners, getting certified, and adding CDP. But its accounting problems show no sign of diminishing, despite years of reported effort. The upcoming year could bring pressure on a number of companies, including ones that can't get their books in order.

No. 1: Isilon

It's pedal to the metal for NAS specialist Isilon, whose public debut late last year was followed by losses, filing delays, and cutbacks at key customer Kodak. A change of CEO and CFO has put founder Sujal Patel now back at the Isilon helm, and the recent launch of new high-end hardware could help push the vendor closer to profitability. We'll see. Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Byte and Switch's editors directly, send us a message.

  • BakBone Software Inc.

  • Citrix Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CTXS)

  • Data Domain Inc. (Nasdaq: DDUP)

  • Dell Inc. (Nasdaq: DELL)

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • Hitachi Global Storage Technologies (Hitachi GST)

  • Hitachi Ltd. (NYSE: HIT; Paris: PHA)

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)

  • Isilon Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: ISLN)

  • LSI Corp. (NYSE: LSI)

  • Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP)

  • Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW)

  • XenSource Inc.

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