Get Ready for Exabytes

A quarterly report on the state of the worldwide disk storage systems market shows we're about to cross another psychological threshold.

Storage vendors shipped 197 petabytes of capacity in the third quarter of 2003 alone, according to researchers at IDC. That's petabytes (peta- is the prefix for two to the fiftieth power). Such a mind-bogglingly huge amount of storage capacity in a quarter means that with any growth at all, we'll be measuring total disk storage system capacity shipped next year in exabytes.

IDC's historical data for the year certainly points toward continued capacity growth. Vendors shipped 175.6 petabytes in the first quarter, 181.6 petabytes in the second quarter, 197 petabytes now in the third quarter and presumably somewhere north of 200 petabytes in the fourth quarter of 2003. While year-over-year growth slowed from 49 percent in the first quarter to 36 percent now, that declining growth rate is still fast enough to get the market over an exabyte in 2004.

All this storage capacity isn't actually doing the storage vendors that much good due to rapid declines in prices for disk storage systems. Worldwide disk storage system factory revenues fell by 0.3 percent in the third quarter of 2003 compared to the year-ago quarter. IDC defines disk subsystems as a set of storage elements including controllers, cables and host bus adapters associated with three or more disk drives.

Those revenues amounted to $4.8 billion. The worldwide server system market by contrast amounted to about $10.8 billion in the quarter, according to IDC.

Storage vendors have tried to fend off the price declines of the sector, however. "Rather than waging price wars, suppliers are increasingly turning to higher-value software services and application integration to gain competitive advantage," IDC analyst John McArthur said in a statement. Price declines have remained below 30 percent year-over-year for the last two quarters, McArthur said.

Among individual storage vendors, HP leads with 26 percent of the overall market, followed by IBM with 21 percent, EMC with 13 percent, Dell with 6.7 percent, Hitachi with 5.8 percent and Sun Microsystems with 5.2 percent.

By the way, now that exabyte will be an everyday term, the next two prefixes to know are zetta- and yotta-.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.