Technology, competition, drive A-P storage costs

While the cost of data storage hardware continues to fall consistently, end users in some Asian countries are paying almost 20 percent more for a gigabyte of storage than their more fortunate counterparts in other countries.

China is the most expensive country to buy external storage, with vendor revenue reaching US$36 per gigabyte, 17.6 percent more than in Singapore, where the revenue of $30.60 makes it the cheapest place to buy, according to figures released Tuesday by Gartner Inc.

One reason for the disparity is the mix of topologies being used -- the more advanced SAN (storage area networks) and NAS (network-attached storage) topologies are generally cheaper to use than DAS (direct-attached storage), according to Phil Sargeant, Gartner's research director for servers and storage in Asia-Pacific.

"The SAN market in China has not yet matured," he said. "There is an initial cost for implementing SAN but overall it is a more cost-effective way (of building storage systems)."

In Asia-Pacific (excluding Japan) overall, 53 percent of storage systems bought are now of the fabric-attached type, which includes SAN and NAS. One of the factors helping keep Singapore's average cost per megabyte down is its high level of SAN/NAS purchases, which represent 66 percent of all storage bought in the country.

But other factors exist which maintain a price differential between countries, no matter what topology users choose.

"There are a lot of storage vendors operating in Singapore and so the market is very competitive," Sargeant said. "In China, while IBM (Corp.) does very well, there is less competition and maybe IBM can keep its prices up."

Taiwan, although home to many major PC manufacturers, lacks competition in its storage and server markets, which keeps its overall cost high at $35.60 per gigabyte, according to Gartner figures.

A third factor is the geographical cost of installing storage. Singapore has good logistics and small size, compared to China and also India, where average storage cost works out at $35.56 per gigabyte.

"India is still very DAS-oriented," said Sargeant.

But the high cost of storage in China will fall soon, according to Sargeant.

"It's a big market, and all the vendors are trying to get in there," he said. "The vendors tend to take over from the resellers and distributors when systems become more complex, as they are with SAN."

Vendor storage hardware revenues and price comparisons, Asia-Pacific 2002
Country Vendor storage revenues (US$ millions) Average price per G byte of storage (US$)
China $230 $36.03
India $66 $35.60
Taiwan $124 $35.56
Hong Kong $64 $33.97
New Zealand $29 $33.10
Australia $174 $32.24
South Korea $301 $32.22
Singapore $92 $30.63
Rest of Asia-Pacific $95 $36.35
Total Asia-Pacific $1,175 $33.84
Source: Gartner Inc., June 2003

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