Researchers IDC and Gartner both came out with their quarterly data storage markets reports March 5, and they each show a slight decline in worldwide sales over the last year.
Key factors in the downturn turn out to be not only the world economic recession but, ironically, also the continuing overall improvement in the quality of new-generation storage hardware and software.
Gartner, which tracks external controller-based (ECB) disk storage market, said the industry was "profoundly impacted by the global economic downturn in 2009" and experienced an 8.6 percent year-over-year decline from $18 billion in 2008 to $16.3 billion in 2009.
IDC breaks the markets down differently. In external disk storage systems, IDC said factory revenues posted a year-over-year decline of 0.7 percent, totaling $5.3 billion, in the fourth quarter of 2009.
IDC also said that total disk storage systems market grew to $7.3 billion in revenues, representing 0.2 percent growth from the prior year's fourth quarter. Total disk storage systems capacity was excellent, with suppliers shipping a mammoth 3,304 petabytes -- a 33.4 percent growth spurt over the last calendar year.
This is the first annual decline for the market since 2002, Gartner said. All regions experienced a drop in revenue in 2009; the most acutely affected regions were Japan, Latin America, and Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Gartner said.
A large part of the sales downturn is due directly to better performance of new-generation storage arrays, which are more efficient than previous products, last longer and don't need to be replaced as quickly or as often.
"The large monolithic/frame-based disk array market declined 21.1 percent, and for the first time since Gartner has been reporting on the ECB disk storage market, this segment represented less than 30 percent of the total market," Research Vice President Roger Cox said in the report.
"This result, in part, reflects the advancements that the lower-cost modular disk array systems have made in performance and capacity scalability, as well as robust data services associated with local and remote replication."
IDC said that EMC kept its longtime lead in external disk storage systems with 23.7 percent revenue share in Q4 2009, followed by IBM, with 16.8 percent market share.
Hewlett-Packard was third with 12.1 percent market share. NetApp and Dell finished the quarter in a statistical tie for fourth position with 8.3 percent and 8.1 percent revenue share, respectively.