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Data Storage Vendors Poised for Virtualization Gains

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The growing popularity of server virtualization means big sales for data storage vendors, and EMC (NYSE: EMC) and NetApp (NASDAQ: NTAP) are the companies best positioned to take advantage of the trend, according to a new report.

William Blair & Co. analysts Jason Ader and Dmitry Netis penned a 141-page report on the data storage sector that was released yesterday. Server virtualization, they wrote, "is the key technology development that will shape the future of the storage industry."

In the near term, that's good news for the sector. "As servers become centralized and virtualized in mainframe-like grids, storage needs to become more distributed and networked," Ader and Netis wrote. For every $1 spent on server virtualization projects, customers spend roughly $2 to $3 on storage, they said.

But in the long term, server virtualization could hurt the data storage sector, "as it will result in a siphoning of management functionality from the storage device to the server, raising the risk that storage systems will gradually become commoditized just like servers," the analysts wrote.

With data created by businesses and consumers doubling every 18 months, the $45 billion storage systems and software market should see mid-single digit growth, but vertically integrated stacks assembled by large vendors, which integrate compute, storage, and network layers, could place storage specialists at a disadvantage if the concept catches on, the report said.

While EMC and NetApp are best positioned, focused niche providers such as Compellent (NYSE: CML) and Isilon (NASDAQ: ISLN) "are also worth watching because of their innovative approaches to solving the problems of data growth and management," according to the Blair analysts.

Read the rest at Enterprise Storage Forum.

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