IDC: Storage demand aplenty in Asia-Pacific

IDC Asia-Pacific's storage market report published in March of this year indicated an ongoing demand for storage capacity. Revenue from disk storage systems in Asia-Pacific (excluding Japan) increased by 10.6 percent, from US$544.5 (AU$764.33) million in Q3 2003 to US$602.3 (AU$845.5) million in Q4 2003.

For 2003, the disk storage systems revenue totalled US$2,155.9 (AU$3,027.3) million. Although this was lower than the revenue of US$2,298.8 (AU$3,227.9) million in the preceding year, the market showed a good recovery from the impact of the Asia economic downturn and the impact of the SARS health issues encountered during the year, says IDC.

The report also noted a steady increase in the demand for new storage capacity throughout the Asia Pacific region as storage capacity increased by 38.1 percent to 79,480T bytes in 2003.

"The strong growth for the quarter heralds a strong year for storage, as customers across Asia Pacific continue to show strong interest in new storage capacity, and increasingly in networked storage, in 2004," says Graham Penn, storage research director at IDC Asia Pacific.

IDC also reveals that the total disk storage systems revenue in Australia, Indonesia, People's Republic of China, Singapore and Thailand, was particularly strong in Q4 2003 compared with the previous quarter, reflecting stronger demand for storage capacity in these markets.

Meanwhile, the value of external disk storage shipments (networked storage and external DAS) in Q4 2003 increased by 13 percent to US$460.9 (AU$646.9) million from Q3 2003. In comparison, the value of internal disk storage systems increased by 3.5 percent to US$141.4 (AU$198.46) million in the same period. IDC says that this is consistent with the long-term trend associated with users moving from storage that is internal to the server, to using external disk storage systems. External storage accounted for 76.5 percent of revenue and 64.0 percent of the total capacity shipped in the quarter.

In Q4 2003, HP maintained a slight lead over IBM for the total disk storage system market in Asia Pacific (excluding Japan). HP achieved a revenue share of 27.4 percent compared with IBM's 24.9 percent, EMC's 13.2 percent, and Sun's 8.2 percent revenue share. HP also achieved the highest market share position in external disk storage systems in Asia Pacific with a 26.4 percent share of end-user revenue. In second place was IBM with a 24.0 percent. EMC, HDS and Sun followed with 17.3 percent, 10.4 percent and 7.7 percent revenue market share respectively.

Closer to home, HP also came out tops among its competitors. According to Chew Eng Lai, country business manager for network storage solutions at Hewlett-Packard Sales Malaysia, the company's revenue from the storage business in 2003 totalled US$38.8 (AU$54.5) million, giving the company an overall revenue market share of 50.8 percent. The local outfit shipped a total of 1,750 terabytes of storage to customers, and secured over 59 percent of total storage space shipped in the country for 2003, Chew adds. He also says that HP Malaysia's latest storage revenue figures show that the company has gained another US$2.7 (AU$3.8) million from Q1 2003 to Q1 2004.

The growth in storage requirements is evidently coming from the SME market, as Chew notes that the demand is mainly driven by the fact that more SMEs today are deploying ERP and CRM applications that require more storage capacity.

Chew's observation is supported by IDC's Storage Tracker report for Q1 2004, where it was noted that HP has captured 55.8 percent market share in terms of revenue for storage deployed in the server space that were primarily sold to the SMEs. "Data has become one of the most valued assets for the SMEs, thus they are investing more into storage solutions to protect and manage their data," says Chew.

Hitachi Data Systems' (HDS) product marketing manager, Lim Beng Lay, agrees. "Besides being more concerned about protecting their data and business continuity, SMEs are also looking for high-end enterprise-type capabilities in storage solutions," says Lim.

K. Raman, managing director of EMC Malaysia, concurs that SMEs are now seeking high availability storage solutions that were initially targeted at large enterprises. He explains that changes in the global economy has required SMEs to scale production, incorporate more sophisticated supply chain capabilities and different strategies for serving distribution channels, customers and other parties.

"SMEs are now seeking better solutions to manage and protect their data. They need solutions that can deliver today and also be able to integrate well into their environment in the future when their requirements grow."

To serve the SME market, EMC is offering its low-end storage systems comprising the CLARiiON AX 100 and NetWin 110. The CLARiiON AX 100 combines the functionality and data protection features of the company's RAID architecture with high-capacity serial ATA (SATA) disk drives. Meanwhile, the NetWin 110 is positioned as an entry-level NAS box that combines an Intel-based server, Microsoft Windows Storage Server 2003, and the CLARiiON storage and information management software.

For HDS, its offering for the SME market is the mid-range Thunder storage system. According to HDS, the Thunder range of storage systems delivers scalability and performance previously available only to enterprise customers.

With the volume of data increasing at such a rapid pace, the window in which applications can be taken offline for backup is also shrinking. However, organizations still want their applications to be recovered and data restored more quickly than ever. For these reasons, EMC's Raman says, the traditional tape-based backup and restore operations no longer meet today's business requirements. And this has paved the way for a new, disk-based paradigm for backup and recovery.

He says that some customers have avoided disk-to-disk backup because the cost of disk storage has usually been higher than tape. Furthermore, customers are not keen to change their existing backup processes.

"However, disk libraries nowadays offer customers faster, more reliable backup at a lower cost and without the need to upgrade software, retrain staff, or change existing backup and business processes," says Raman.

Until recently, customers had to choose between cheaper serial ATA (SATA) drives and more expensive but faster Fibre Channel ATA drives (FATA), the latter which is usually used in more demanding online transaction processing applications. With EMC's CLARiiON CX range, customers now have the option of mixing SATA and FATA in the same storage system - using the SATA drives for the less frequently accessed information with a lower value, and FATA for more frequently accessed, high value data.

Similarly, HDS offers its SATA Intermix Option that allows customers to consolidate SATA and FATA on the same storage array. "As it consolidates both channels, it simplifies storage management and protects customers' existing SATA investments," says Lim of HDS.

Nevertheless, the emphasis on disk libraries does not spell the end of tape, says Gartner's research director Phillip Sargeant. "The use of tape has never dwindled. It has simply been used differently. Historically, tape was the primary backup device for most organizations. These days, many larger organizations use disk as their primary backup device but continue to use tape as their secondary backup," he adds. Sargeant also notes that tape will continue to be used for many more years for archival purposes, as disk is still too expensive to be used as an archival media.

Tape technology has also advanced tremendously in terms of speed to the extent that the line is blurred between online and nearline storage. StorageTek, for instance, has recently announced its new StreamLine tape library series, a higher-end offering than its flagship PowderHorn range.

"We've improved our tape libraries and drives to three time faster than our existing range. Up to eight robotic arms can work simultaneously to eliminate downtime," says Boey Yoke Khew, regional marketing manager for StorageTek Malaysia.

"In addition, more than 1,000 swaps per hour can be performed. It can also scale up to 300,000 slots and almost 2,000 drives to accommodate years of storage growth. Thus, the tape option is not to be underestimated," he adds.

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