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EMC Still Tops Growing Storage Market

There seems to be no end to the amount of data that needs to be stored, and that results in an ever-growing need for more storage systems to store that data. Despite pervasive uncertainty in the global economy and a shortage of hard disk drives earlier this year, disk storage systems maintained steady growth in Q2, according to IDC's newest Worldwide Quarterly Disk Storage Systems Tracker.

The industry hit just under $8.1 billion in total sales, up 8% year-over-year. External disk storage alone accounted for almost $6 billion, a 6.5% improvement. IDC attributed the uptick to double-digit growth in emerging markets and strong demand for mid-range storage systems, which the report defines as those in the $25,000 to $250,000 range.

Total capacity shipped surged by more than 24%, reaching 6,667 petabytes. EMC led the charge with $1.8 billion in sales, or 22.6% of the market. Both figures represent year-over-year improvements for the Massachusetts-based company, which also topped the industry in Q2 of 2011.

HP was second. It was about flat in terms of market share but boosted revenue by 8.5%. IBM, Dell, and NetApp rounded out the top five, posting revenue growth of 9%, 11.5%, and 1%, respectively. Only NetApp lost market share, falling from 9.6% in Q2 2011 to 9%.

When the picture is limited to external storage, EMC still comes out on top, claiming 30.4% of revenue share. IBM and NetApp were in a statistical tie for second, with 12.9% and 12.1% respectively, and HP was fourth, with almost 11% of the market. Among the top six players, which were rounded out by Hitachi and Dell, only IBM declined in revenue, albeit somewhat negligibly at 0.1%. All companies lost market share except Dell, which was flat, and EMC, which increased its grasp by 6.3%.

Open networked disk storage also saw sustained improvement. EMC had 33.7% of the market thanks to 45.7% of the NAS market and 29.4% of the Open SAN market, IDC reported. iSCSI SAN sales, which were up by 5.9% overall, were led by Dell, which captured over 28.3% of the market. EMC didn't drop far from its usual place atop the report's lists; with just over 20% of iSCSI SAN revenue, it ranked second.

IDC analyst Eric Sheppard said in an interview that growth in data creation sustained healthy demand for storage. He stated that big data initiatives were a factor, but that a variety of traditional enterprise needs, such as archiving company emails, were also growth-drivers.

Though cloud services such as Amazon Glacier are attempting to infiltrate traditional storage infrastructure markets, Sheppard said that businesses continue to invest in their own hardware because "it's yours to keep, yours to manage, and yours to ensure resiliency." He also noted that in many parts of the world, regulations prohibit corporate information from leaving the country. If cloud providers cannot provide that assurance, he said, it makes sense to rely on in-house resources.

He said it was unclear how the Thailand disaster affected the report's numbers. The floods contributed to storage price increases--higher costs are "the new normal," Sheppard said--so it's possible that some revenue increases are simply rebounds in a formerly depressed market. Still, he said it is more likely businesses see value in new technologies and features, such as solid-state storage and tiering, that facilitate effective use of data and optimal utilization of capacity.