IDC’s storage tracker numbers released today shows an 0.5% year-over-year decline in worldwide external storage sales in the fourth quarter of 2008.
This was the first time external disk sales declined in more than five years, yet it’s hardly a surprise. Everybody knows spending dropped due to the economy late last year, and IDC already told us that PCs and servers revenues fell 1.9% in the fourth quarter. But the dynamics behind the storage decline are interesting.
NAS and iSCSI revenues continued to grow. NAS increased 8.6% over the previous year, and iSCSI was up 62%. However, Fibre Channel revenue declined 3.2%.
With smaller installed bases, NAS and iSCSI have been growing faster than FC, but FC had been growing as well. The decline of FC will likely continue in the short term, as current market conditions favor NAS and iSCSI over more expensive FC SANs.
“End users are looking for more economical ways to meet their growing storage needs as many IT budgets shrink due to the current economic conditions,” IDC research analyst for disk storage Liz Connor said in IDC’s press release. “FC SAN systems fulfill many high-end storage needs, but usually at a higher average price. However, iSCSI and NAS storage solution alternatives offer increased enterprise-level features at lower costs, and compel vendors to consider these technologies. Continued end user education, growing confidence in IP-based storage, increasing product sophistication, as well as a typically lower price point, result in increased adoption of iSCSI and NAS by many budget conscious end users.”
The trends Connor talks about are almost certain to continue for the rest of this year because spending isn’t likely to pick up before late 2008 at the earliest. But there’s no guarantee that FC sales will rise when storage spending does improve. A year from now, enhanced Ethernet will be here to power not only Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) but improve NAS and iSCSI as well. Emerging storage markets such Web 2.0, film/broadcast, video surveillance, and health care are dominated by organizations that deal with more files than Oracle databases. They can do just fine with NAS or IP SANs. The largest FC vertical, financial services, has been crippled by the economy.
So even when storage revenues start going up again, FC may not follow.