Brisk growth for storage in China; and a who’s who of Chinese data storage companies

It’s interesting to take a look at IDC’s recently-released market tracker figures for external disk storage systems for China.

Interesting in two senses: To see who the key players are, and that largely they’re a different set of storage vendors to those we’re used to, and; to see how the market is progressing there in terms of growth.

The headline facts are that in Q2 of 2016 the China external disk storage systems market was worth $527 million and that was up 7.2% year-on-year (although most growth was in the mid-market, with low- and high-end segments seeing declines).

The top five storage vendors were Huawei (21%), followed by EMC (10%), then Hikvision (8%), Inspur (6%) and IBM (6%), while “others” accounted for 49% of the market.

Inspur was a new entrant, according to the report, thanks to its work with government. Other notable growing storage companies mentioned included Sugon, Macrosan and Tongyou, where government and education were cited as drivers.

For comparison IDC’s worldwide external enterprise storage systems saw Q2 2016 revenue of $5.66 billion and this registered no growth year-on-year.

Top five vendors worldwide were EMC (28%), tied at two HPE and NetApp (10.5%), then IBM (9.5%), and tied at five Dell and Hitachi (7.5%), with “others” accounting for 27%.

China’s storage growth is largely in line with GDP growth of around 6% to 7%, which is seen as possibly unsustainably high. IDC’s identification of government and education as drivers falls in line with Chinese government policy of spending and lending.

A stark fact also is that most of the China storage market appears to be wrapped up by local vendors, with the US-based big six mostly struggling to register market share.

So, who are the key Chinese storage vendors?

Huawei – Probably the best-known of the Chinese hardware vendors, it’s a giant company with turnover in the several billions of dollars range and a presence globally. It made it’s name in telecoms equipment and networking, but its Oceanstor storage products include storage switches and storage arrays that go from entry-level/mid-range unified (iSCSI and Fibre Channel) to enterprise storage in the tens of petabytes range. Huawei and software-defined storage maker Datacore inked a deal last year to bring hyper-converged appliances to market.

Hikvision – Mostly a vendor centred on video camera (CCTV, surveillance etc) technology but with a couple of unified storage (iSCSI and NAS) boxes in its product range. It’s quite remarkable that it gets into a storage top five on such a limited storage product family.

Inspur – This company has majored on servers and has seen Microsoft investment and agreements with VMware. On the storage front it appears to focus on Fibre Channel enterprise-class hardware with a three-model range with features including synchronous replication and with capacities that scale to petabytes.

Sugon – Another company with VMware connections (some investment flowing to the Chinese company last year) and a background in HPC/super-computers, it also majors in servers but has a storage product range that stretches to (under the Dawning brand) a single storage server (so probably NAS) that scales to petabytes.

Macrosan – The only storage specialist among this crop. Its products range from entry-level NAS and surveillance-oriented boxes to high-end, fully-featured arrays that can be equipped with flash. Although called MacroSAN none of the product specs on the website mention blocks storage iSCSI or Fibre Channel as protocols supported, thought I guess this may be an oversight given the scale the products seem to go to.

Tongyou – Appears to be a brand name of Toyou Feiji. There appears to be no company website to showcase products, but Bloomberg says it, “researches, develops and applies data storage and protection, disaster recovery and related technologies. The Company’s main products include disk storage systems, storage management softwares, data storage solutions, and technical services.”