The best independent data out there comes from IDC -- the de-facto gold standard in this category.
Every quarter, they publish their scorecard on vendor and category shares. Since getting a detailed analysis requires a subscription to their service, I occasionally pore through the spreadsheets, and try to find a few summarized nuggets that others might find interesting.
As before -- there are a handful of interesting takeaways from the latest batch of data. And I promise I will make every effort to keep chest-thumping to an absolute minimum ...
In a futile effort to minimize the predictable flaming responses, let me state the obvious:
1. The categories aren't perfect.
2. The methodologies aren't perfect.
3. The exact numbers aren't perfect.
4. The world isn't perfect, either.
Even though we don't disclose actual numbers to IDC, they usually come reasonably close to our own. Results around larger vendors and categories tend to be more precise; precision is inevitably lost as the buckets get smaller.
A caveat: this being a highly competitive market segment, you will often see creative marketing types trying to spin or modify IDC's findings in some favorable way -- like inventing a new "category" or similar. Not only does IDC frown on these antics, they tend to distort and mask what's really going on in the marketplace, which I guess was the original motivation.
One special case of this is promoting capacity numbers vs. revenue numbers. While raw capacity numbers make for impressive bragging numbers, any business person will realize -- at the end of the day -- it's revenue and market share that really matter.
Understanding The Categories
Category definitions matter here, so please pay attention.
The broadest relevant category is "external storage" -- anything that stores data and isn't embedded in a server, typically sold to and consumed by an IT organiztion. Tape is excluded, for example, as are non-persistent data caches. Revenue is measured by the name on the box -- even though the product might be OEM'd, revenue is counted by brand, not original manufacturer. Storage software that is sold separately is counted separately.
If the external device has some sort of controller in it (vs. just a bunch of dumb disks), it's referred to as "External RAID Storage", even if -- technically speaking -- it's not using one of the official RAID schemes.
If that controller supports some flavor of an open storage network (FC, FCOE, IB, Switched SAS, iSCSI, NAS et. al.) it's referred to as "Networked Storage". Vendor-specific protocols (such as z/OS) are counted separately.
If the storage network is using a flavor of block protocol, it's counted as "Open SAN", even though it might not technically be a SAN. No, I don't know how they'd count pNFS :)
From there, iSCSI is broken out, as is NAS -- followed by breakouts around operating systems (UNIX, Windows, etc. but curiously not by hypervisor), and there are another set of breakouts by geography, e.g. Japan.
The Storage Market Grew in 2011, EMC Did Very Well
The largest segment of interest to me is the network storage category, which excludes the simpler (and often less interesting) forms of storage. IDC says the market grew to $20B with an impressive 14% growth rate. Keep in mind, this was in the context of both rapidly declining component costs as well as an uncertain economic picture.
Not to state the obvious, but EMC retained its #1 position in both this category as well as the far broader "external storage" category. This is the 15th year that's been true -- quite a run in a notoriously competitive market segment.
For 2011, IDC says that EMC had about 33% of the network market. The next three competitors (HP, IBM and NetApp) are about 37%. IDC says that EMC gained 2.7% market share vs. alternatives in this category.
No one else came close in market share gains.
iSCSI Keeps On Trucking
There was a time not so long ago where I was extremely unpopular with the iSCSI passionistas. They saw iSCSI quickly supplanting more established block protocols, like FC. My position was more subdued -- expect a long, gradual adoption curve in parts of the market that needed block protocols but weren't well-served by FC approaches.
I think they've come around to my point of view over time ...
During 2011, iSCSI continued to experience notable growth (about 20% according to IDC) but is only $3B of the $20B networked storage number -- about 15% of the broader total. If one backs out the NAS number, iSCSI is now around 20% of the overall block-style market.
Dell is the leader here (31% of the market) but lost about 3 points during 2011. EMC comes in at a respectable 20%, gaining 5 points during 2011. Can't wait to see what happens during 2012 ...
NAS, NAS, NAS
NAS (in all its forms) is now a $5.6 billion market, growing a respectable 9% in 2011: approaching 30% of the overall networked storage market, and a little less than twice as large as the iSCSI market.
In 2011, the market is basically down to two players: EMC (46% market share), and NetApp (30%).
But there's evidence of momentum: IDC says that EMC gained 3.1% of market share in Q/Q in Q4 of 2011, NetApp lost 2.4%.
I can only hope this continues ...
The market share picture shifts somehat as you consider different parts of the world.
For example, in the United States, EMC is quickly approaching 40% of the very broad external RAID storage market. The next three (IBM, HP, NetApp) are responsible for about 29% collectively. And IDC says we picked up 6% market share during 2011.
As we move to Western Europe, a more muted picture emerges. EMC has 23% market share of the broad external RAID category (still enough to earn #1), but the other three (HP, IBM, NetApp) are responsible for 45% of the market. Clearly, we have our work cut out for us here, but I'm encouraged by the progress.
A different picture emerges in Asia Pacific -- excluding Japan. Here, IBM has 23% of the broad external RAID storage market, and EMC is a close #2 with 20%. More work to do here as well. Just to put the market size in perspective, this region is about 12% of the global total, but growing quickly in importance.
Japan appears to be its own microcosm, storage-wise. Responsible for 10% of the global external RAID total, Hitachi is the clear leader with 30%, followed by Fujitsu, IBM and EMC -- although we were able to pick up 1.5% of market share during 2011 ...
Where Does That Leave Us?
Wherever you look, the storage marketplace continues to grow and grow in terms of total revenue.
Globally speaking, EMC has been the established market share leader for many years, and shows clear evidence of improving its position over time. Our competition is the next bunch of smaller storage players (IBM, HP and NetApp) who -- collectively -- are about in the same league (share-wise) as us.
No real surprises on the technology front, either. I can't spot any marked shift from one category of storage to another -- plenty of room in the market for FC, iSCSI, NAS, etc.
That being said, I find myself wishing (once again) for better insight on a handful of storage categories that I (and my customers) find interesting.
For example, I'd love to better know what adoption patterns look like in virtualized environments, and how they compare and contrast to traditional physical ones. In an era of converged functionality (e.g. unified storage platforms that do lots of different things and span these categories), it'd be great to get some clarity on how these devices are actually used vs. sold by the vendor. Flash adoption -- in all its forms -- is a hot topic. I think the market for scale-out storage (independent of protocol) will become far more interesting before long, and it'd be interesting to chart those numbers as well.
But I digress -- we've got plenty here from IDC to go contemplate.