Storage Sales Swell Despite Compression, Thin Provisioning, And Dedupe
March 25, 2013 Timothy Prickett Morgan
Despite the best efforts of storage array makers to make their gear less wasteful in terms of capacity, companies keep buying storage both inside their server skins and outside in external arrays like there is no tomorrow. And the amount of capacity that companies are consuming is growing at near historical levels before various kinds of technologies, such as thin provisioning, de-duplication, data compression, and other features were added to arrays to try to curb the appetite for gigabytes.
In the final quarter of the year, according to market research from IDC, worldwide disk capacity shipped in the quarter accounted for a total of 8 exabytes (abbreviated EB, and it won’t be long before we are talking about zettabytes, or ZB for short). That was 25.3 percent growth in capacity shipped during Q4 2011. Now here’s the good news for storage buyers: the revenue generated by that capacity was only up seven-tenths of a percent, to $8.6 billion. That means customers are getting more for their money, in theory, but you have to remember that a lot of the sophisticated data management functions that allow companies to cram more stuff into less storage capacity are add-ons that are tracked separately.
External disk array sales–machines that sit in their own enclosures and reach back into servers through various kinds of switches–made up a little over $6.7 billion of that total, rising 2.3 percent year on year. And for the full year, companies consumed more than 20 exabytes of capacity on external disk arrays, a rise of 27 percent over all of 2011, and spent $24.7 billion on that capacity. IDC did not give full-year figures for overall disk array revenues and capacity shipped, and it similarly did not distinguish between disk and flash storage in these arrays.
Here’s how the external disk array sales in the fourth quarter broke down by vendor:
As usual, EMC owns the largest part of this market but there is still plenty of room for the incumbent server makers and NetApp to get a piece of the action. IBM did not grow as fast as the market at large so it lost a tiny bit of market share, while EMC and NetApp raised the class average. Hewlett-Packard‘s external disk array sales fell by 7.4 percent, the worst performance among the top five, and Hitachi, which used to have HP and Sun Microsystems reselling lots of its external disk arrays, lost those deals years ago but still ranks in the top five; however, Hitachi’s external array biz continued to shrink.
If you add up the internal disk arrays sold in servers to the external disk arrays, you get a slightly different picture:
All of the incumbent server makers put a lot of disk controllers and disk and increasingly flash drives under the skins of their boxes, but if you do the math, then these external arrays only accounted for just under $1.9 billion in sales. But that was off 4.6 percent compared to last year, and is more or less in line with the relatively sluggish server market. As you might expect. However, as more and more big data workloads are starting to put computing and storage on the same distributed clusters, it stands to reason that internal disk storage could see a revival as these parallel data warehouses, Hadoop big data munchers, and other applications take off.
It is highly unlikely that all external storage array sales will cease to exist. SAN and NAS arrays make more sense for many workloads where a lot of computation is not necessary in the storage array and you want many modest compute elements to share access to the same storage. So long as some workloads need more spinning arms than you can fit in a 2U or 4U chassis, external disk arrays will be around. But, you can never tell in the IT racket.