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Which are the top storage array makers and what are their strategies towards the cloud, containers and consumption models of procurement?
In this article, we rank the top storage suppliers according to IDC market share statistics for 2022 in terms of enterprise external storage and give a brief summary of each player, where they’re at in the market, and where they’re headed as the world of hybrid cloud gains traction and storage suppliers adapt to survive.
By clicking the link in each section you can read a longer profile on the supplier published during the latter half of 2023 by Computer Weekly. Market share data has been revised since those articles were published. Figures for the calendar year 2022 from IDC are below. IDC regards a difference of less than 1% a statistical tie.
IDC enterprise external storage makers by sales and market share 2022
- Dell – $9.51bn – 29.7%
- HPE – $3.17bn – 9.9%
- Huawei – $2.88bn – 9%
- NetApp – $2.65bn – 8.3%
- Pure Storage – $1.92bn – 6%
- Hitachi Vantara – $1.42bn – 4.4%
Dell EMC: Top dog embraces cloud operating model
Top dog among the big seven storage array makers is Dell EMC, the infrastructure solutions group of Dell Technologies and the result of Dell’s $67bn acquisition of EMC in 2016 – the biggest in tech sector history.
Dell EMC is the biggest player among storage array makers in terms of market share – 29.7%, up from 26.8% as measured by IDC in 2021.
Most of its products derive from EMC coming into the fold and cover SAN and NAS (PowerMax, PowerStore), NAS (PowerScale and Isilon), software-defined (ScaleIO) and object storage (ECS).
Dell EMC’s cloud strategy centres on its Apex consumption model, which extends the cloud operating model across customer on-site storage and cloud locations.
Dell EMC’s container storage capability comes via enhanced container storage interface (CSI) driver plug-ins, dubbed Container Storage Modules (CSM)
Dell can go to customers with the full IT stack, like most suppliers in the top seven.
HPE: Revamped storage aims for edge-to-cloud
HPE ranks joint second in the 2022 IDC rankings, with market share of 9.9% (10.9% in 2021), and is also a full stack provider and not just a storage supplier.
The company has heavily revamped its storage offer, with the introduction of Alletra MP and its Greenlake as-a-service portfolio as an enabling mechanism.
Alletra MP was launched in April, and is based on a scale-out architecture with nodes that can be controller-only or compute and storage, or even just storage capacity, and which can be provisioned to file or block access.
Alletra MP is delivered via HPE’s consumption model, Greenlake, which uses customer profiles to deploy, manage and upgrade assets throughout their lifetime.
HPE’s strategy is to be seen as an “edge-to-cloud company”, with Greenlake as a delivery mechanism on-premise and in the cloud, and container storage capabilities via CSI drivers in Alletra MP for Kubernetes and all the other major container orchestration platforms.
Greenlake offers storage and compute across the hybrid cloud, including via a single console, OpsRamp, which arrived via acquisition in 2023.
Huawei: Big value on offer but lacks cloud maturity
Huawei is also joint second and a full stack IT hardware provider too – that extends to mobile handsets and 5G infrastructure – with 9% market share (same as 2021).
Enterprise storage comes via that OceanStor Dorado (NVMe and flash) OceanStor Pacific (flash and HDD), and OceanStor (flash and HDD but not NVMe). All come in a range of workload profiles, such as performance, capacity and streaming.
The Huawei cloud offer spans object, file and block storage, as well as backup and disaster recovery services, but the company appears to lack storage consumption purchasing models for on-premise hardware.
Container storage appears to be delivered from its Dorado storage arrays via CSI drivers.
Despite the firm being known for embargoes, bans and sanctions by western states, analysts suggest Huawei kit is significantly cheaper to buy and run than equipment from US-based competitors.
NetApp: Pure-play storage with a clear cloud strategy
NetApp is one of two in the top seven that is effectively a pure-play storage supplier (along with Pure).
It ranks third with 8.3%, a little down on its 2021 IDC market share of 9.9%.
NetApp was synonymous with the NAS filer for the first decade or two of its existence. It now has a keen eye on a cloud-focused future, with containerisation and a cloud operating model across on-premise and cloud locations.
Key storage array products are AFF, with NVMe flash and file and block access. The ASA range added in 2023 brought exclusive block access and TLC media. AFF and ASA families can also offer quad-level cell (QLC) bulk flash storage options. NetApp’s E-series arrays also still exist. Object storage comes via StorageGrid.
NetApp’s storage arrays allow for connectivity to the major public clouds, while its storage is also available in Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). BlueXP, launched in 2022, is NetApp’s cloud operating model console for on-premis and cloud locations.
Container management comes via Astra features in BlueXP.
Consumption models of storage purchasing come via Keystone.
Pure Storage: Late entrant brings big advantages in drive capacity
Pure Storage is one of two suppliers here that is more-or-less just a storage supplier, like NetApp. It is unique, however, in not being around prior to 2000.
It started in 2009, and brings a certain amount of late-entrant advantage, with its own drive technology that claims much better flash density than rivals.
Market share-wise, it has moved up a place, with 6%, compared to 4.1% in 2021.
Core to Pure’s flash storage products are its proprietary DirectFlash Modules, which share flash management functionality with the array and so can get to capacities unseen among competitors. Currently, that is 75TB capacity per module, with 300TB planned for 2026.
FlashArray is aimed at structured data, with variants available that target mission-critical workloads (//X and //XL), less performance-hungry use cases (/C) and capacity (//E) with QLC flash. FlashBlade is Pure’s fast file and object storage family, which provides rapid access to large-capacity storage via a performance line (//S) and QLC-equipped capacity line (//E).
Pure Storage is firmly oriented towards a cloud operating model across the hybrid cloud and cloud-native applications. These come via Pure Cloud Block Store in the public cloud; Portworx cloud-native data management centred on containerised applications; and Fusion, a cloud-like control layer that manages storage across on-site, cloud and colo locations.
Pure Storage offers consumption models of purchasing via its Evergreen portfolio.
Hitachi Vantara: A full hardware portfolio and a cloud offer
Hitachi Vantaraa had a 4.9% market share in 2021, but has dropped a place with a 4.4% share in 2022.
The company is a full-stack IT provider, but is also part of the giant Hitachi Group.
Flagship storage is the Virtual Storage Platform (VSP) 5000 series (NVMe and SAS flash), which has mainframe as well as open systems access (Fibre Channel, etc).
Vantara’s E series lacks the mainframe access of the VSP line. Hitachi Content Platform targets unstructured data with file and object access. Hitachi Unified Compute Platform is the company’s hyper-converged infrastructure.
Hitachi’s cloud offer includes the ability to extend datacentres to Equinix locations from Hitachi VSP using Hitachi Ops Center hybrid cloud data management tools.
Hitachi Kubernetes Service (HKS) allows customers to manage container storage in on-premise datacentres and the three main public clouds. HKS uses CSI drivers to manage persistent volumes directly on Kubernetes nodes.
IBM: Big blue re-tools for cloud to offset revenue decline
IDC’s figures put IBM storage in a similar ball park to Hitachi Vantara in terms of market share (4.7%) in 2021. IDC’s 2022 figures see the company drop out of the top six altogether.
Despite that, there’s no doubt IBM is a big IT player across the board and a giant in the history of IT. But its recent history in storage has been one of declining revenues.
It has sought to offset this – with some success – with a heavy bet on the cloud, containerisation and as-a-service delivery.
Its key array products are the FlashSystem (NVMe, SSD and HDD), DS8K (with Fibre Channel and mainframe access), Storage Scale for parallel file system access (and object storage), Storage Fusion hyper-converged infrastructure, plus tape products in its TS series.
Many IBM storage products are also available as software. IBM Spectrum Virtualize is a block storage virtualisation system and the enabler of multi-supplier connectivity and cloud tiering.
IBM cloud strategy leans strategy heavily on the use of containers and cloud-native applications in cloud environments, with the use of Red Hat Ceph and OpenShift as platforms of choice. IBM also runs its own public cloud.
Containers can be managed via Red Hat OpenShift or IBM Cloud Kubernetes service.
IBM’s storage as a service works across on-premise datacentre and cloud, and is based on IBM FlashSystem and DS8K hardware.
Read more about storage suppliers
- From capex to opex – storage procurement options bloom: We look at the growing list of possibilities when it comes to paying for storage infrastructure, ranging from upfront purchases with upgrades to pure pay-as-you-go options.
- Container storage platforms – big six approach starts to align: Container storage is a complex but vital task. We survey the big six storage makers and see methods are starting to align around management platforms.