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Storage Market Smokin'

The choices IT managers have had to make in this tricky economy aren't hurting the storage market any. A look at an IDC study tells the tale: Storage-software sales are up. A particularly strong third quarter -- typically the slowest of the four -- shows software sales up more than 10 percent over the previous year.

IDC analysts say that large enterprises overcommitted during the boom years in buying storage capacity, but now they're finding that they need the space, as well as ways to manage it. The increasing move to storage area networks (SANs) also contributes, as network managers need packages that can handle their shifting needs flexibly.

SANs are also driving the storage market beyond the large-scale enterprise. Because the cost of a SAN setup has dropped markedly over the past couple of years, small- and medium-size businesses are better able to deploy them, according to market researcher iSuppli Corp. -- and just in time to meet federal regulations that mandate better record tracking. If the economy continues to firm up through 2004, more mid-level businesses will be able to justify SANs, both in terms of cost and need, as their operations see more growth and compliance issues mandate additional storage purchases.

Those indicators have storage company executives in a very good mood. Attendees at a New York City conference this past week said they see the next two to three years as busy ones, with companies adding capacity before even considering larger system overhauls. Likewise, Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers recently told analysts that his company expects a potential billion-dollar revenue haul from storage products, a fairly new area for Cisco.

Nobody's booking that kind of revenue just yet, but the formerly mundane world of storage looks ready to catch fire.

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