IDC storage tracker whacker: external storage holding steady vs server SAN

Server SANs are not eating into the external SAN market, judging by IDC storage tracker numbers.

It’s been predicted that server SANs, which aggregate local storage in a cluster of servers into a virtual SAN, would gradually take over the SAN market. Products such as VMware’s VSAN, and hyper-converged infrastructure appliances from Dell EMC (VxRail) and Nutanix are enjoying higher growth rates than SAN storage arrays.

What do storage market size numbers show?

IDC’s quarterly storage tracker says the storage market grew 21.3 per cent year over year to $13.2Bn in 2018’s second quarter, with 111.8 exabytes total capacity shipped. This is a 70.7 per cent jump.

IDC tabulates the top five vendors, comparing their performance for total storage and then external storage only over 12 months.

Dell is the overall storage supplier king, ruling the roost in total storage sales and now with EMC under its wing, external storage sales as well.


Have a look at IDC’s table:

There are two groups of vendors: a foursome composed of individual suppliers Dell and HPE, 1st and 2nd respectively, the Others category which lies between the two, and then the ODM Direct category with its leading $3.3Bn revenue, up 31.7 per cent on the year. That’s the effect of hyperscale web giants buying their storage from the ODMs, with ODM Direct accounting for a quarter of the quarter’s storage revenue.

Below this quartet, each with with more than $2Bn revenues, are the pack; NetApp, IBM. Hitachi, Lenovo and Huawei, all with sub-$1Bn revenues.

Dell revenues grew 26.6 per cent on the year, more than the market’s 21.3 per cent, and HPE’s flat-lined with a 1.9 per cent growth. 

Third-placed NetApp almost matched the market growth rate with its 19.8 per cent, IBM undershot at at 7.5 per cent and joint-5th Hitachi almost perfectly flat-lined at 0.9 per cent. Huawei was another market under-grower with a 14.9 per cent rise.

Lenovo’s storage sales recovered with a huge 132.8 per cent spurt to its joint-5th place. 

External Storage

The supplier positions are different  when only external storage is counted:

Dell is in a class of its own with $1.79Bn revenues, up 18.4 per cent, and no ODM Direct company. The Others category leads overall with its $1.88Bn, up 18.1 per cent on the year.

Then there are the rest;

  • NetApp – $832m, up 19.8 per cent,
  • HPE – $652m, up 4.2 per cent,
  • IBM – $579m, up 7.2 per cent,
  • Hitachi – $402m, up 0.6 per cent.

This part of the market grew at 14.4 per cent, so IBM lagged behind, HPE grew even more slowly and Hitachi almost stood still. Although NetApp grew strongly Dell’s market share is more than twice NetApp’s and its storage sales are accelerating. 

Dell is overall, king of the storage hill, and there’s no sign here that second-placed HPE, the only realistic challenger, is doing anything else than falling further behind. NetApp is doing well in external storage but, with half Dell’s share, has an awful long way to go.

External Storage vs ServerSAN

How is external storage doing on regard to server-based storage?

We looked at external storage numbers as a percentage of total storage numbers in this and previous IDC storage trackers and don’t see it happening. Here’s a chart showing this using the IDC storage tracker number;

The SAN proportion seems to be holding steady, after a fall at the end of 2016. There’s no obvious sign of any server SAN incursion into SAN turf here, yet at least. B&F