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Year In Review: Flash Comes of Age

If disk is the heavyweight segment of the storage market, dominated by seven vendors--three pure-play (EMC, NetApp and HDS) and four IT generalists (IBM, HP, Dell and Oracle/Sun)--holding more than 80% of the market, then flash (or solid state) is the cocky up-and-comer and 2011 was the year that flash finally made the jump to legitimate contender. And while disk continues to muscle along, accounting for the lion's share of the storage market being driven by data growing at almost 60% per year, the much smaller flash market is undergoing hypergrowth.

While IDC put the enterprise storage systems market up 18% in customer revenue between 2009 and 2010, reaching $30.8 billion in 2010, it was projected to grow at a 3.9% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between 2010 and 2015, with revenues expected to reach $37.3 billion in 2015. But 2010 saw SSD revenue increase 103.4%, due to strong growth in the enterprise segment, albeit on a smaller base, reports IDC.

The enterprise storage market was expected to grow 13% in the second half of 2011, according to IHS-iSuppli, and while hard disk drives would account for 71% of this revenue, they were only projected to be up 0.9% from the first half of the year. Meanwhile, SSDs would be up 61%, to $1.35 billion from $843 million.

Although solid-state drive technologies and high-speed memory adoption appears to be skyrocketing in the enterprise market, the market will be hotly contested, according to a study from Storage Strategies NOW (SSG-NOW). Accounting for almost half the responses, HP (including 3Par) was the preferred SSD vendor (44.5%), followed by EMC (plus Isilon), IBM, and Fusion-io and NetApp tied for fourth.

Just over half the respondents said they had deployed a drive device format in a new storage array, followed by an appliance attached for access acceleration and drive device format in workstations and laptops. Looking ahead, new storage arrays will dominate (57.1%), followed by workstations and laptops, as well as access acceleration.

The primary drivers for adoption were the need to reduce response times, storage tiering to help throughput and increasing business agility. Key applications for 2011 were headed by database and transactional structured data, followed closely by OTLP and high-performance computing applications. For 2012, data warehousing moves to the top of the list, followed by primary data, Tier 0 storage, and business continuity and disaster recovery.

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