Disk archiving appliances market outlook

Learn about the market outlook for disk archiving appliances, alternatives to archiving appliances and how vendors are repositioning archiving appliances for growth.

The market outlook for disk archiving appliances has become decidedly muted.

Their projected five-year growth rate is low, with most customers opting for software archive products and the hardware of their choice. Growing numbers of users are also checking out cloud storage options. Some archive appliance vendors are expanding their products' capabilities to extend their marketing pitches beyond the narrow scope of archiving.

For instance, last October Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) dropped the word "Archive" from its Hitachi Content Platform (HCP), which was formerly known by the catchier acronym HCAP. Today, the company said archiving is "just one use case" for this "multi-tenant, multi-purpose" platform that "supports multiple tiers of storage."

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"We have seen more and more organizations looking to leverage existing investments in SAN storage as part of the archive store," wrote Jeff Lundberg, senior product marketing manager of file and content services at HDS, in an e-mail interview. "As such, many of our customers purchase a non-appliance package of the Hitachi Content Platform, connect it to their USP-V and avoid creating a separate 'island' or 'silo' of IT for their archiving practices."

Another case in point is Permabit Technology Corp.'s Enterprise Archive, billed a year ago as "disk-based enterprise archiving." A company spokesperson asked that the product be removed from this story on archive appliances, claiming Permabit has "a few things currently in the works."

Sheila Childs, a research director at Gartner Inc., said she normally would include Enterprise Archive in the archive appliance category, but Permabit wants to leverage the device for additional use cases. One could add NEC Corp.'s Hydrastor and Nexsan Corp.'s Assureon to that list as well, she said.

Childs also cited "rumors of and scuttlebutt about" EMC Corp. discontinuing its market-leading Centera product and Hewlett-Packard (HP) Co. doing the same with its Integrated Archive Platform (IAP). "I think it's because we just don't see the growth," she said, citing Gartner's 3% projected compound annual growth rate for archive appliances vs. the 12.2% expected for NAS during the same time frame.

Yet she said she saw no signs of HP scrapping IAP during a recent visit, when the company discussed "continued plans to enhance and move forward" with the platform. On EMC, she noted that, in addition to Centera, the company has been offering up its Data Domain deduplication storage system and Celerra NAS platform as archive targets. EMC added retention capabilities to Celerra, similar to what NetApp Inc. did with its SnapLock technology.

Steve Spataro, director of Centera marketing at EMC, declined to shed light on sales trends for Centera, other than to say the company claimed last year that it had shipped more than 370 PB since the product's inception. That was up from 240 PB the previous year.

Centera remains the dominant force in the archive appliance market, but the overall outlook may not be as rosy as it once was despite the unmitigated growth of unstructured content and the buzz about regulatory compliance and e-discovery needs.

"Gartner's not very high on this market. It just really hasn't evolved in the way, I think, that many of the vendors thought it would," Gartner's Childs said. "You can effectively get the type of solution that the customers are looking for with cheap disk and the addition of the software products." However, Rick Villars, vice president of storage systems and executive strategies at IDC, said that even though there's a fair amount of the "do-it-yourself" approach among large organizations, they're also shooting suggestions to their suppliers about what it would take for them to become interested in archive appliance products. This wish list includes additional support for content types beyond e-mail.

"The desire for more pre-packaged, holistic archive solutions is going to grow," Villars said. "It's really when you get into the people who have a longer-term vision in industries like healthcare, media, entertainment and parts of life sciences where you really see the people who are pushing the envelope on what these archival appliances are going to become."

Cloud-based archive services to exert more pressure on archive appliances

One potentially encouraging sign for the archive appliance market was the May release of Dell Inc.'s DX Object Storage system. The product uses Caringo Inc.'s CAStor archiving software, and Dell partners with archiving software vendors such as Iron Mountain Inc.'s Mimosa Systems.

Still, analysts and consultants expect cloud-based archive services, with their promise of ease of management and unlimited capacity, to exert more pressure on archive appliances.

Brian Babineau, a senior consulting analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group, predicted that IT shops will take a hybrid approach to archiving, with a mix of separate software, cloud services and an appliance.

"It will probably be a mash-up of all three, where I have my software doing the work, an appliance that just stores a small amount of data and then the cloud being my longer-term storage," Babineau said. "Right now, we see people looking at all three models for different reasons, and the good news is that three choices usually mean the economics favor the customer."

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