Top Data Storage Companies for 2021 | eWEEK – eWeek

Whether on premises in hardware or in a cloud, next-generation enterprise data storage solutions are all about systems providing the correct data protection for users, while maintaining data privacy for stakeholders at all levels. These requirements are the same for any size enterprise. In this article, eWEEK looks at the world’s top suppliers of data storage hardware.
According to the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Enterprise Storage Systems Tracker, released Dec. 8, global market revenue for enterprise external OEM storage systems declined 1.4% year over year to nearly $6.8 billion during the third quarter of 2020 (3Q20). The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic is largely to blame for the numbers decline, analysts agree. Yet total external OEM storage capacity shipped was up 9.6% year over year to 18.9 exabytes during the quarter. Go figure.
Dell Technologies was the largest external enterprise data storage systems supplier during the quarter, accounting for 28.8% of worldwide revenue. HPE/New H3C group finished second with a 10.8% share. NetApp and Huawei tied for third place in the market with shares of 9.4% and 9.4%, respectively. Hitachi and IBM finished fifth and sixth with market shares of 5.6% and 4.6%, respectively.
Other in the worldwide top 10, according to analysts that include Gartner Research, included Veritas, Pure Storage, Hitachi Vantara and Infinidat. Kioxia (formerly Toshiba) and Equinix, the fast-growing data center company, are among those on the bubble of the top 10.
Data storage, along with computing and networking, is one of the three fundamental components of IT: You can’t stay in business without it, whether you’re storing data in machines on your campus or in the cloud. All of these companies offer both of these options, but we’re focusing on physical on-premises solutions in this article.
A Vendor’s reputation is huge in this sector; most companies tend to buy replacements from the original vendor they choose, usually because of efficiency reasons. All of the data storage companies below have improved their security performance over the years, thanks largely to the introduction of artificial intelligence (AI), automation and multi-level security schemes that are now in favor in the markets.
The companies on this list own in aggregate about 90 percent of the enterprise data storage hardware market. They also all have connected their cloud storage options to their hardware.
Here are eWEEK’s top data storage companies for 2021, based on revenue, number and quality of products, reputation and innovation track record.
Dell EMC logoValue proposition for potential buyers: EMC had been the world data storage market-share leader for 12 straight years until Dell acquired it in October 2015 for $67 billion, the largest IT acquisition deal up to that time. So it’s no surprise that the combined Dell EMC remains the market leader with 29 percent of the world data storage hardware sales in 2020, which turned out to be $1.9 billion in Q3 2020. If your product is selling, and you have nearly 30 percent of the world data storage monetary pie (which is estimated to be about $28 billion in 2020), then you can legitimately celebrate being No. 1. Dell EMC, largely because it is always evolving its technology, will be very tough for anybody to unseat at No. 1 for the next few years at least.
The merged company has continued to maintain its storage hardware leadership legacy by remaining No. 1 in the external enterprise storage systems market, essentially the arrays that make up a storage area network and/or network-attached storage network. Product lines of note include PowerVault ME4 and SC Series Primary Storage, EMC Unity hybrid-flash storage arrays for block and file storage and Isilon NAS storage.
Key values/differentiators:
To take under advisement: Dell EMC is the largest storage company in the world, thus new customers will have to endure various layers of administration before they determine which people they actually need to deal with. This is par for the course in any large enterprise IT sector, so don’t take it personally.
Who uses it: A wide variety of SMBs, mid-range companies, large enterprises, government agencies, the military and scientific organizations; used by storage admins, CTOs, CIOs, chief data officers
How it works: subscription cloud services, physical on-premises arrays
HPE logoValue proposition for potential buyers: HPE Storage is now partnering with Chinese networker H3C, which is the exclusive provider of HPE servers, storage and associated technical services in China. This has widened HPE’s sales opportunities greatly in the world’s most populous country.
H3C offers a full portfolio of digital infrastructure products, spanning across compute, storage, networking, security and related domains, and providing a comprehensive one-stop digital platform that includes cloud computing, big data, interconnectivity, information security, new safety, internet of things (IoT), edge computing, artificial intelligence (AI) and 5G, as well as end-to-end technical services.
HPE Storage, the umbrella portfolio of HPE storage products, aims to be a one-stop shop for all things storage, competing directly with Dell EMC, NetApp, IBM and Huawei. The list includes the full gamut of data storage products: arrays, high-end enterprise online storage, near-online (nearline) storage, storage networking, archiving, deduplication and storage software. H3C has added networking expertise, design and manufacturing.
HPE has developed many industry-first storage technologies to simplify network storage. The company is a proponent of converged storage, which is storage architecture that combines storage and compute into a single entity.
Key values/differentiators:
To take under advisement: HPE may not have quite the number of product options companies such as Dell EMC and IBM have, but it’s working on providing them, and H3C is helping greatly in the China market.
Who uses it: Midrange to large enterprises are the sweet spots for the company; used by storage admins, IT managers, CTOs
How it works: subscription cloud services, physical on-prem arrays and servers
NetApp logoValue proposition for potential buyers: NetApp, long ago considered simply a “good little file-server company,” is now a full-service data management platform for cloud and on-premises systems. It is the largest pure-play independent storage company on the planet. NetApp long ago left its reputation as a storage provider for small and midrange companies to become an international-level storage player and is listed in the top four of storage revenue leaders with 9.4 percent of the world market, tied with Huawei. The company has more than 100 kinds of storage hardware devices for data centers in its product list; they are all connected by a common operating system and are designed to plug in and work together on demand.
Key values/differentiators:
Who uses it: SMBs, midrange to large enterprises; used by infosec personnel, storage admins, CTOs, CIOs
How it works: subscription cloud services, physical on-prem arrays
Huawei LogoValue proposition for potential buyers: Huawei told journalists back in 2015 that it would be breaking into the U.S. data storage market top three vendors by 2018. Well, that didn’t happen, but here in 2020, it has squeezed into the top five, which still is pretty impressive, considering all the sharks in the water around it.
Huawei is not primarily a storage provider; it is a Chinese multinational networking and telecommunications equipment and services company headquartered in Shenzhen, Guangdong. Like its counterparts Verizon, AT&T, Orange and others, Huawei built its own data centers years ago, and, with the advent of data center converged servers, networking and storage, found out that it now has lots of data center real estate it could put to work. It has used much of that capacity for storage and has been producing massive amounts of storage hardware and software for enterprises. Their biggest advantage? You guessed it: Pricing, for both hardware and software.
Huawei has been in hot water with the United States since at least 2018, when it was accused of intellectual property theft and espionage. That concern led to a ban blocking U.S. companies from using its networking equipment on 5G wireless networks.
While the ban had nothing to do with its storage or other lines of business, Huawei is widely believed to have been hurt, both in terms of sales and reputation. Nonetheless, it forged ahead and concentrated on its storage hardware business, and it has been very competitive as a result.
While all of the market leaders — EMC, HPE and NetApp — now provide plenty of solid-state storage options for their customers, they also have a lot of older, established customers that have used spinning-disk storage for years and haven’t moved as fast to new-gen storage as newer companies have. Huawei hopes to swoop in and entice some of those legacy customers to upgrade their systems in 2021 with new-gen–and cheaper–equipment from their menus. We’ll see what happens.
Key values/differentiators:
New 2020 products in Huawei’s OceanStor Storage series include:
Who uses it: Midrange to large multinational enterprises; used mostly by countries in the Far East.
How it works: subscription cloud services, physical on-prem arrays, flash media.
IBM logoValue proposition for potential buyers: Three years ago, IBM announced a major initiative into NVMe-based (non-volatile memory-based) storage in a bid to keep moving the enterprise storage performance forward. Now, with the engineering might and full force of the global organization behind it, IBM has gone full-force into flash storage along with containers and microservices development and is equipping all its data centers around the world with this super-fast data-moving storage tech.
When IBM makes a move like this, businesses — and competitors — notice. And when Big Blue does decide to make a move into a particular market like this, you know it will do it with the full force and ability of its international brand.
Key values/differentiators:
To take under advisement: IBM wants to let everyone know that it can handle any size of business, and it can. But for a smaller local company, it probably would be overkill to invest in an IBM storage hardware solution. Also, because IBM has so many other businesses and does not concentrate on storage only, it may be a little difficult to navigate through to the right company representative—at least at first.
Who uses it: Midrange to large enterprises only; used by storage admins, IT managers, CTOs
How it works: subscription cloud services, physical on-premises services
pure storage logoValue proposition for potential buyers: Six years ago, Pure Storage was one of the first startups to bet its future on NAND flash storage exclusively, which put it in the driver’s seat for what turned out to be the true future of storage. The company is now a leader in Gartner’s highly respected Magic Quadrant.
Pure Storage competes with its NVMe-based products, FlashArray//X and the lower-cost, lower-performance FlashArray//C. Pure Storage is completely channel-driven and operates mostly in North America, with about one-third of its business international. The vendor caters mainly to the enterprise market and across all verticals, offering its modern data experience predicated on simplicity, flexibility and AIOps capabilities. In the last 12 months, Pure Storage introduced FlashArray//C, targeted for application consolidation and long-term data retention use cases. It also announced Cloud Block Store, which offers a cloud-native storage solution for workloads deployed in AWS.
“Pure has had a revolutionary impact on the business, completely changing our mindset and how the cloud storage team functions. The storage experience freed us up to be more creative. It was a magical transformation,” said Keith Martin, Senior Director, Cloud Capacity Engineering at ServiceNow.
Key values/differentiators:
Who uses it: Midrange to large enterprises
How it works: physical on-prem arrays; storage cloud services
VERITAS logoValue proposition for potential buyers: Veritas has a lot of loyal customers around the world. This is a long-established, highly trusted data storage provider with a long list of clients, including the U.S. government, the military, scientific installations and health care providers. The company went private in 2015 and separated from Symantec following a rocky 10-year relationship with the data security provider, and it’s turned out to be a good thing. Founded in 1983 by Eli Alon and Dale Shipley (both from Intel) and Stanford professor and entrepreneur Mark Leslie as Tolerant Systems, Veritas was one of the first providers of data backup and recovery, now a required feature in all storage. It has a global clientele of about 55,000 customers.
Key values/differentiators:
To take under advisement: Veritas has long been the kind of company that relies more on word-of-mouth than on heavy duty marketing and advertising. Thus, it doesn’t have the overall visibility that many of the companies on this list have. But that doesn’t negate the quality of the products and services it offers.
Who uses it: Midrange to large enterprises; used by storage admins, IT managers
How it works: physical on-prem arrays, subscription cloud services
Hitachi logoValue proposition for potential buyers: Hitachi Vantara, which began in September 2017 as a wholly owned subsidiary of the global Hitachi Ltd., is finding its footing and exhibiting its own storage-business personality. The corporate move hooked up Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) with Pentaho and the Hitachi Insights Group to create a subsidiary focused on data integration, internet of things (IoT), big data analytics and enterprise storage. This is now a formidable competitor to the top four companies in this list.
Key values/differentiators:
To take under advisement: Hitachi has a global reputation for good quality hardware; not so much for software and services. It has never been up to the quality/performance levels of the three or four leaders in this segment, but it is trying to remake its legacy with Vantara, and it is indeed making strides toward the top of this list.
Who uses it: SMB,midrange to large enterprises; used by storage admins, IT managers
How it works: physical on-prem arrays, subscription cloud devices and arrays
Infinidat LogoValue proposition for potential buyers: Infinidat is among the leaders in the Gartner Magic Quadrant. Its primary storage portfolio consists of InfiniBox, which is characterized by its high-capacity and performance capabilities and resilient storage architecture. The vendor made three major operating system updates to its platform during the evaluation period; notable enhancements include the introduction of active-active replication, concurrent three-site replication, a new Kubernetes CSI drive, and security enhancements. Infinidat’s operations are focused in North America, Europe, South Africa and Japan, and its clients tend to be very large enterprises and service providers.
Key values/differentiators:
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