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Flash Takes Over: Why 2018 Was a Tipping Point in the Professional Storage Market

Flash Takes Over: Why 2018 Was a Tipping Point in the Professional Storage Market

Flash Takes Over: Why 2018 Was a Tipping Point in the Professional Storage Market

At CONTEXT we’ve been tracking the IT channel now for over 35 years. Over that time, we’ve seen the rise and fall of many formats and categories. But industry trends are, by their very nature, long term. We can predict what might happen eventually, but not exactly when. 

A great example of this is the professional storage systems market. Most industry watchers, including us, have predicted for some time that the flash memory segment would eventually win out. Why? Because speed of access is far superior than on traditional storage systems based on hard drives (HDDs). Modern datacentres running mission-critical applications like databases, server virtualisation and analytics platforms increasingly demand this low latency.

So it was with some satisfaction that we noted the flash array format finally took the lead last year, confirming our predictions.

Marching through Europe

As much as 2014 was the year that SSD sales overtook HDD sales in the European distribution market, 2018 will be known as the year where the flash array system sales pulled ahead of the more traditional HDD-based disk arrays.

The flash array segment combines traditional storage systems sold with SSDs and all-flash arrays sold with flash memory modules. Sales via wholesalers exploded in 2018 in Western and Central Europe, recording record growth of 94% versus 2017 with a total turnover of €250 million. In comparison, the disk array HDD-based systems segment recorded a turnover of €230m, down from €280m back in 2017.

The three main European economies were the main drivers of this growth, accounting for an impressive €160m turnover last year in this segment. France led the pack with 150% growth, followed by the UK at 120% and Germany with a still impressive 95% increase.

A new player in town

As for the main vendors, the core vendors including NetApp, HPE and IBM all grew their sales in 2018. However, a new player, Western Digital made a big impression thanks to its HGST 2U24 flash storage product. It recorded impressive growth of 4500% between 2017 and 2018, reaching €12m in revenue. On the other side, it was a slightly disappointing year for Dell-EMC in terms of flash array sales. The firm is not enjoying the growth that its rivals are seeing. It will be interesting to see how Dell-EMC responds to the likes of Western Digital or HPE in 2019 in this segment.

We predict the flash array market will continue to expand strongly this year thanks to the ever-growing need for fast and reliable access to data across the globe — itself driven by greater cloud adoption. It will be interesting to follow new initiatives like Non-volatile memory express over Fabrics (NVMe-oF): a specification designed to overcome the shortcomings of legacy storage stacks. Even more crucial to the future of the market will be how vendors adapt to the new wave of software-defined storage. 
Organisations desperately need to simplify the management and provisioning of storage systems, in order to reduce the Total Cost of Ownership of their datacentre infrastructure. Those vendors able to support these growing customer demands will find themselves well placed for future success.

 By GM

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