Disk storage market set to explode

According to recent studies by research firms IDC and Robert W. Baird & Co., the disk storage market is set to explode. Experts say now is the time to upgrade disk storage systems.

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Disk-based storage is one of the hottest trends in the data center space, and it's only going to get hotter.

IT research firm IDC speculated that revenue generated by disk storage systems would jump by almost $4 billion by the end of the decade, from $22.6 billion in 2004 to $26.3 billion in 2009. IDC believes the numbers are driven by factors such as compliance issues and the continued evolution of cost-optimized, easy-to-manage tiered storage.

A survey released by Robert W. Baird & Co. Inc., a Milwaukee-based financial adviser, backs up IDC's assertions about disk storage spending and points toward a trend in general IT spending. According to Baird, 85% of participants project that they will spend at least as much on IT in 2005 as they did last year -- up 21% from 2004 -- and 40% say IT spending will rise.

Charles King, principal analyst with Hayward, Calif.-based Pund-IT Research is noticing a trend -- companies feel now is as good a time as ever to upgrade their disk storage systems. And King thinks the numbers reinforce the fact that data storage has been, and will continue to be, one area of consistent growth in an IT world filled with uncertainty.

"The trend in storage over the last decade is that the price continues to drop even as density of storage devices continues to grow," King said. "There's a move afoot for a lot of customers that say they can get a lot more bang for their IT buck than a couple years ago, and it could start a whole new wave of storage investments."

A lot of customers say they can get a lot more bang for their IT buck than a couple years ago, and it could start a whole new wave of storage investments.
Charles King
Principal AnalystPund-IT Research

Two of the biggest areas of projected growth in this space are Advanced Technology Attachment (ATA) and Serial ATA (SATA) drives. The Baird study said 56% use ATA or SATA drives in their organizations -- a jump from just 26% in 2004 -- and 33% said those drives are used for primary storage.

Don't sleep on capacity-oriented disk drives, either. According to Baird, over 50% of all storage terabytes shipped in 2009 will be based on capacity-oriented drives.

King sees a parallel between the growth of disk storage systems and the recent processor boom, which produced a fertile market for vendors.

"It's analogous to what's been going on in processor space," King said. "When people have lots of cheap empty disks, they tend to fill them up with stuff. … You've got businesses that are able to afford storage infrastructure 10 times as much as before."

One of the biggest reasons why disk storage growth is so robust is the growth of virtualization strategies for both servers and storage as an increasingly tangible strategy for data centers.

Virtualization, the use of software to emulate hardware or a total computer environment other than the one the software is running in, has emerged as one of the hottest trends in the data center space, having recently been dubbed a "megatrend" by Gartner. What makes it such an attractive option for storage concerns is its ability to provide data center managers a single point of access for getting at their data.

"Virtualization has a big impact on storage in general because of differences in how storage is deployed and managed from a data center perspective," said Natalya Yezhkoza, a senior research analyst for IDC. "It's a more comprehensive -- but less complicated -- approach to dealing with data and storage devices data centers have."

IDC said that while the storage industry is responding well to the needs and desires of users, there are storage issues that still need attention, which include data protection strategies, data migration tools and technology transitions. But according to IDC, these issues give vendors opportunities for differentiating themselves -- and for smaller outfits -- to meet specific market needs.

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Luke Meredith, News Writer

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