Technology vendors come and go. Remember McData and CNT? Or how about DEC and Wang? And of course, there are always mergers as well as rumors swirling around. In the time between researching and publishing this article, the Dell-EMC deal got announced. That shows you just how difficult it is to predict. So looking into the future, which companies will be around for the long haul? Let’s start with the obvious candidates.
HP dominates in fields such as servers, printers and ink, and it’s pretty big in storage too. But look for it to become much bigger in storage. Why? It owns top spot in the worldwide server market, according to IDC, accounting for a quarter of all server sales. With storage moving further away from proprietary hardware and ending up on commodity servers, HPs lead in this field means it can expect to be the home for even more storage going forward. While you hear rumors about all sorts of major players being gobbled up, HP is firmly positioned as one of the gobblers.
Big Blue is another of those select few at the top of the food chain. It has a wide range of technologies at its disposal, has a strong mainframe presence and a huge R&D budget. The only question might be whether it holds on to its storage hardware business. It sold its x86 portfolio to Lenovo and with the company focusing so much on storage software, one wonders if it may decide to jettison its storage hardware to focus on its software assets – which are proving to be particularly strong in the growing software-defined storage (SDS) market.
Another of the untouchables. Yet Microsoft is not quite as dominant as it was a decade ago. Certainly in the consumer sector, Apple has stolen much of its thunder. But Microsoft continues to build itself in the enterprise marketplace and is a major player in the cloud. It is also a force in enterprise resource planning (ERP), CRM and, of course, storage. It may well add more storage riches to its already vast wealth.
Since its entry into storage a decade or more back, Cisco has become a significant presence. Expect Cisco to get even bigger in storage, not less. Also note that Cisco is now a top five vendor in server sales. Its efforts to provide a converged storage/server/networking platform (Cisco UCS) are gaining ground as is its presence in the Internet of Things (IoT).
It bought its way into the storage market via the acquisition of Sun Microsystems about five years ago, but is already one of the big boys. The company seems focused mostly on pre-engineered systems, which provide storage, compute and software in one package for such areas as Big Data and Oracle databases.
A chipmaker on the list of storage vendors with longevity? Certainly, Intel has been beefing up its storage product offerings. But more important, the x86 chip architecture has conquered much of the storage landscape over the past five years. Most of the top storage vendors have transitioned their storage arrays to Xeon multi-core processors. Intel is leveraging this to form partnerships with all the companies covered above and will increasingly become a force in storage.
From nowhere a decade ago, Dell has carried out a series of clever – and then managed them well – to become a significant presence in storage, especially in the low end and midmarket.
“Dell, HP, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Cisco and Oracle are safe bets to be around for the long haul given their size,” said Greg Schulz, an analyst at StorageIO Group. “However, all will have to continue to grow their revenues and not simply cut costs to be profitable as well as do more acquisitions.”
Notice anything about the above list of long-haul storage vendors? It doesn’t have a single specialist storage vendor on it. Every one of them has storage as one aspect of the many products and services they offer. Could it be that offering only storage is a liability these days? Perhaps that’s why acquisition rumors have persisted for years about EMC, NetApp and Brocade.
And EMC just got gobbled up by Dell. It will be interesting to see if Dell is smart enough to leave the EMC brand intact.
“It would be a crime to lose the EMC brand name awareness,” said Schulz.
In any article like this, you have to take a risk in at least one of your predictions. So how about Lenovo? Already, it has a decent storage portfolio consisting of NAS, SAN, tape and cloud products. But its position in the server market courtesy of it inheriting IBMs entire x86 server business means it is set up to move even further into enterprise storage.
“Keep your eye on Lenovo as they have lots of interesting capabilities,” said Schulz. “They are a server vendor in a software defined storage world, not to mention the fact that they possess entry level storage products, access to IBM market via its xSeries acquisition and high visibility in Chinese markets.”
With Lenovo setting the trend of new Chinese vendors, how about Huawei as another likely to be with us for some time? It has its fingers in storage, security, call centers, servers and a whole lot more. With such a diverse portfolio and a growing presence in storage, the company is one of those dark horse vendors that could well surprise people over the next few years.