According to recent studies by IDC and Gartner, the enterprise storage hardware and software markets continue to grow briskly. IDC's Worldwide Disk Storage Systems Quarterly Tracker reports that worldwide external disk storage systems revenues grew to $4.2 billion in first quarter 2006, up 10.3 percent from first quarter 2005. Gartner pegged overall external disk storage system revenues at $3.8 billion in first quarter 2006, up 8.6 percent from last year.

Growth in enterprise storage software was just as robust, according to IDC. According to its Worldwide Quarterly Storage Software Tracker report, the storage software market grew a healthy 10.2 percent compared with first quarter 2005, hitting $2.4 billion in total revenues. This marked the tenth consecutive quarter that the storage software market has achieved double-digit growth on a year-over-year basis.

EMC Leads the Hardware Pack

Interestingly, the overall external disk market-size differential isn't the only disagreement in the Gartner and IDC reports. Although both reports give EMC the leading share of the storage hardware market, Gartner lists EMC share at 24.1 percent, up from 23.3 percent in first quarter 2005, whereas IDC reports a 21.8 market share for EMC, virtually flat with the 21.4 percent it held last year. Additionally, IDC and Gartner disagree about who holds the second position. IDC gives that spot to HP with 17.9 percent market share, whereas Gartner reported that HP held only 12.4 percent of the market, just behind IBM's 12.7 percent market share.

Dell and Hitachi/Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) rounded out the top five in both reports from IDC and Gartner; however, the reports differ as to which company holds the larger market share. IDC has Dell in fourth place with 8.2 market share and Hitachi/HDS holding an 8.1 percent share. Gartner has these positions reversed, with Hitachi/HDS having a 9.2 percent share compared with Dell's 7.5 percent share. Gartner also pointed out the surge in Sun Microsystems' share of the market, driven largely by its StorageTek acquisition.

IDC also reported that network disk storage systems, which include NAS and Open and iSCSI SAN, grew by 15.4 percent year over year. The NAS market climbed 14.7 percent year over year, while iSCSI SAN jumped an eye-popping 37.7 percent compared with the same quarter last year. Of course, the overall iSCSI SAN market is still less than $100 million in total revenues. The strongest sector of the market, which grew 40 percent, according to IDC, was the high-end sector that's defined as systems costing $500,000 and more. Finally, in what can be seen as a proxy for the high-end Fibre Channel SAN market, Gartner reported that the Fibre Channel SAN Switch market moved up 20.3 percent compared with last year.

The total disk storage systems market, which includes both internal and external systems, wasn't quite as strong. According to IDC, it grew 6.7 percent compared with first quarter 2005. The total storage capacity shipped in the first quarter was 627 petabytes, up 51.5 percent compared with the same period in 2005.

Software Revenues Rise

The numbers for storage software are just as encouraging. Besides the overall 10.2 percent growth, according to IDC, the storage-replication market achieved 15.2 percent growth year over year. Additionally, while the archive and Hierarchical Storage Management (HSM) market, which can be seen as a proxy for Information Lifecycle Management (ILM) solutions and email archiving, jumped 30.2 percent in first quarter 2006, compared with a year earlier. In response to the growing sophistication of the storage software market, IDC has now segmented the market into eight categories, ranging from data protection and recovery to storage-device management.

What Do the Numbers Mean?

The IDC and Gartner report results indicate that enterprises are investing ever-increasing amounts in both storage hardware and software. Though many pundits anticipated that lower-cost iSCSI SANs would take market share away from more expensive Fibre Channel SANs, enterprises still seem ready to invest in high-end, costlier technologies, according to these reports.

Along the same lines, many industry experts used to believe that effective investments in storage software could dampen growth on the hardware side, which apparently hasn't happened. Companies have continued to invest heavily in new capacity as well as more efficiently use existing capacity to avoid drowning in the rampaging sea of data in which they find themselves.