Storage Station

A bird's eye view of the data storage industry.

Dell Claims No. 1 in Storage Shipped, But There’s a Catch

Ostensibly, a tipping point of sorts may have been reached, because EMC has been the undisputed heavyweight champion in storage for years.


Storage Station received an email from Dell on Sept. 23 citing a recent IDC storage industry report that said "Dell Storage has surpassed EMC as the No. 1 leading vendor in storage capacity shipped for the first half of 2014."

IDC, which charts both internal (server-housed) and external (non-server-housed) storage hardware and software market numbers each quarter, reported the following in its Worldwide Quarterly Disk Storage Systems Tracker (2014 Q2, published this month):

Storage Terabytes Shipped, 1H 2014:
Dell: 4,311,728
EMC: 4,076,546
HP: 3,428,016
Others: 3,003,154
NetApp: 2,725,513
IBM: 1,641,182

“This [total storage capacity] is an increasingly important designation as we continue to see the lines blur between servers and storage due to the emergence of converged infrastructure and software-defined storage,” Alan Atkinson, vice president and general manager of Dell Storage, wrote in a corporate blog.

Coming from such a respected research source as IDC, those numbers are a pretty important statement; ostensibly, a tipping point of sorts may have been reached. This is because EMC has been the undisputed heavyweight champion in basically all data storage sales for about the last 15 years, and all the other companies noted on the above list have had to settle into their places behind the leader.

Has a Tipping Point Been Reached?

We’re not so sure. I remind you of what the great American philosopher, Mark Twain, thought of statistics: "Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are pliable." As is true with many things in life, it depends upon what perspective you choose to take.

Let’s look closer at the origin of the numbers. It’s true that when one looks at the total amount of storage capacity shipped, that Dell comes out ahead, because it is in both the internal and external storage businesses. EMC does not make storage for internal use in servers; everything it provides is for the external storage sector.

Here’s a response about the Dell claim from Kevin Kempskie, a top EMC spokesman. “We'll let these numbers speak for themselves,” Kempskie told The Station. “According to the same IDC report: First half 2014 year-over-year growth:
“Internal (Server) Capacity
--Dell: +10%
--EMC: not applicable [because it doesn’t play in this market]"

“External Capacity (the market where EMC competes)
--Dell: -1%
--EMC: +42%”
“For external storage systems during the same period, EMC had over 1.5x the capacity share of Dell and over 4.3x the revenue share,” Kempskie said.

So there you go. Looks like Dell and EMC are both right in the numbers they choose to cite.

Dell’s Atkinson is correct in asserting that the trend is toward IT managers moving to more converged systems -- data center devices and racks that contain additional functionality, including computing, storage and networking together in smaller boxes. Thus, he has a point about capacity; the sharp edges between internal and external storage are getting smoother and less-defined all the time.

Depends Upon One's Perspective

However, at this point, storage market share leadership still depends upon which statistics you use and/or find most relevant. For some odd reason, companies and people always tend to favor those numbers which are beneficial to them.

Nothing wrong with that; but, as always, it’s up to the reader or customer to seek out all the important impartial metrics when making a buying decision or recommendation. That’s what excellent resources like IDC, Gartner, Forrester, 451 Group, Constellation Research -- and yes, eWEEK -- bring to the table.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 15 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...