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Business Computing, New Straits Times (Malaysia)

June 16, 2005

Special Report: Race on to capture Asian storage market

By Chandra Devi

THE race is on to capture the lion's share of the Asia-Pacific storage market. With organisations in this region said to be investing more on information technology (IT) and much of their spending is focused on storage management solutions, storage providers are all out to exploit this burgeoning market.

International Data Corp (IDC) in its Asia-Pacific (excluding Japan) IT Solution Spending 2004-2008 Forecast report, states that among the IT solutions examined, storage saw investments close to US$4.7 billion (RM17.9 billion). Organisations in this region will spend more on infrastructure, business intelligence, enterprise business applications and security, and the growth of data generated by these implementations and demand for data will accelerate the deployment of storage solutions.

The booming storage market has prompted big and small players to either make an entry into or strengthen their existing positions in the Asia-Pacific market.

EMC, Cisco and Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) are among the established names which are gearing up new technologies and strategies to garner more market share.

Smaller players have also begun making their entries into the region with their innovations. Among them are United States-based Intransa Inc and Acronis Inc. These companies are making their foray with the promise of better, more reliable, easier-to-manage technologies at cost-effective prices, in the hope of gaining a decent market share.

They also set their sights on Malaysia, thanks to reports that indicate a strong storage market here. IT spending is expected to reach US$2.9 billion this year, and IDC projected a growth of about four per cent in the total external storage market annually. Storage spending is expected to grow from US$67 million this year to US$76 million in 2008.

The strongest growth areas are in storage area network (SAN), network attached storage (NAS), storage replication software, storage resource management software, and in Windows/Linux markets.

Alongside Malaysia, countries like Singapore, Hong Kong, New Zealand and India, have also been identified as the fastest-growing markets for storage, while China, Korea and Australia are the largest storage markets.

HDS. For HDS, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hitachi Ltd, taking market share will be its priority, and it plans to achieve this via its virtualisation technology.

Riding on its integrated storage solutions strategy, application optimised storage (AOS), HDS expects its storage business to grow 4.5 per cent year-on-year to US$2.6 billion this year.

For the fourth-quarter last year, its business was up 11 per cent sequentially, largely due to strong adoption of its TagmaStore Universal Storage Platform.

The platform powers virtualisation breakthroughs, including logical partitioning, management of externally attached heterogeneous storage, and universal storage-agnostic replication.

Bruce Symes, vice president and general manager for Asia at HDS, says virtualisation will be a critical element in delivering simplified storage management in heterogeneous storage environments, and the TagmaStore Universal Storage Platform will lead the way.

HDS, which claims to be larger than EMC in Asia in terms of market share, also has a change of gameplan. Instead of focusing on the enterprise market which has been its forte, it plans to concentrate on the small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) segment which it had not focused on, to grow its business further and become more visible in the storage market.

HDS intends to transfer its experiences and best practices in the enterprise space to the SME market.

"SMEs, just like large enterprises, are beginning to view storage as a strategic element to their businesses, and want simplified cost-effective solutions to manage and protect their growing critical data. They too need more terabytes of storage at a very cost-effective price and our challenge is to help them meet storage needs, simplify storage infrastructure, manage growth, and manage storage assets and infrastructure at an affordable price," he adds.

In Malaysia, HDS plans to double its revenues this year. Recently, HDS appointed Lau Bik Soon as its new country manager. Lau was formerly the sales director for commercial market at Cisco Systems Malaysia and with this appointment, HDS hopes to accelerate its market position.

EMC. Another established player in the storage market, EMC sees its business growing as information lifecycle management (ILM) emerges as a major IT trend in the region.

EMC Computer Systems (M) Sdn Bhd's managing director K. Raman says the company is seeing customer interest and adoption of ILM strategies continuing to increase, beginning with individual applications, such as e-mail, and moving closer to application-independent ILM infrastructures with increasing levels of automation.

While ILM won't be implemented enterprise-wide overnight, he says customers will continue to demand for tools to allow them to easily enable ILM strategies and move data to appropriate storage as its value and service level requirements change.

"The need to safely and cost-effectively archive and retrieve data requires both a way to virtualise storage resources to make them easily accessible to different applications, and a tiered approach to migrate data based on its value. ILM provides customers with a strategic approach to get the most value from their information, at the lowest total cost of ownership, at every point in the information lifecycle," elaborates Raman.

EMC, he says, has set its sights on financial services institutions and telcos, especially those that require high-performance business continuity solutions to maximise the business value of data assets, and yet remain competitive.

Just like HDS, the company has come on board with storage virtualisation and is confident that its Invista Network Storage Virtualisation Platform will gain market share compared to rivals HDS' virtualised TagmaStore system and IBM's SAN Volume Controller product.
Unlike others, Raman explains that EMC's network storage virtualisation solution deploys the industry-recommended out-of-band storage virtualisation approach while leveraging the intelligent switches of the leading network companies such as Cisco, McData and Brocade. By leveraging these switches, EMC believes it has the edge.
While the company has been an enterprise and SME market player, Raman says EMC plans to further penetrate the SME market space with focused programmes and products.

Acronis. A new player in the Asian market, US-based Acronis views the market as a significant source of growth. The company, which claims to have an extensive presence in Europe, Japan, Korea, Australia and South Africa, provides disaster recovery, backup and restore, partitioning, boot management, privacy, data migration, and other storage management products.

Its chief executive officer Max Tsypliaev believes the Asian market especially is not well explored and there are vast opportunities for business here. The market, he says, is open for new technologies and will be easy adopters of such technologies.

The plan, he adds, is to stay ahead of competition by anticipating the consequences of new trends and offering tools to meet the needs of enterprises. Acronis, he says, offers storage management solutions that are technically advanced for mission-critical applications and easy to use. "By being first and fast to market, flexible, offering simplified storage tools, complementing new markets and doing it cost-effectively, we intend to garner more market share."

Although the company's focus has been on enterprises and across the financial, educational and government sectors, it has opened up to the SME and consumer markets. The move, Tsypliaev explains, is driven by the fact that storage needs and security arrangements cuts across all levels.

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