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By Hank Russell
Storage is beginning to play a more central role in electronic imaging, and that role is helping to turn around an industry that had been slumping.
IDC (Framingham, MA), a market research firm, found that the storage-system industry was in its second straight year of growth last year after a two-year slump. Estimated revenue for 2004 was $22.6 billion — a 4.4 percent increase. This year's revenues are projected at $23.4 billion and are expected to increase to $26.3 billion in 2009. In addition, last year's sales of low-cost, capacity-oriented drives beat IDC's estimates, accounting for 7.5% of global storage revenue. Sales are projected to climb up to 38 percent of the total in the next four years, according to IDC.
Laura Shepard, marketing manager for Silicon Graphics Inc. (SGI, Mountain View, CA), says cost plays a factor but technology capabilties are also fueling growth. "It's about the underlying capability to have a high bandwidth, a high streaming capability out of a storage system that we optimize for, and that is one of the fundamental things you need to be successful in high-performance imaging," she says. "As the cost of capacity comes down, the capacity itself and the speed at which it is growing indicate the overall direction of that market."
Some of the storage protocols IDC believes will be main drivers to lower the cost of tiered storage architectures include SAS (serial attached small computer serial interface [SCSI]) and SATA (serial advanced technology attachment), but Shepard sees it differently. "There's still a predominance of requirements for Fibre Channel because of the speed and a predominance of a requirement for a system that can handle high-bandwidth streaming, especially for media and image files, so that is what we continue to see in these markets."
Another Growing Technology In Storage
Magnetic and optical storage materials are also growing. The market research firm, Business Communications Co. Inc. (BCC, Norwalk, CT) estimates the global market for magnetic and optical storage materials will be $19.8 billion this year and is expected to grow to $39.9 billion in 2010, with an average annual growth rate (AAGR) of 15.1%. According to BCC, the optical storage market is expected to grow at an AAGR of 19.8% over the next five years, as opposed to 4.8% for magnetic storage. At these growth rates, optical storage media are expected to increase their share of the data-storage market from 58% in 2004 to 77% in 2010.