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1/18/2008
04:56 PM
Terry Sweeney
Terry Sweeney
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Storage Insulation

Oil prices hit new highs daily. Federal aid to boost the economy. Whispers of inflation at every turn. It's economic doldrums, except here in Storageville, one of the few sectors of the economy (and IT) that appears relatively insulated from it all.

Oil prices hit new highs daily. Federal aid to boost the economy. Whispers of inflation at every turn. It's economic doldrums, except here in Storageville, one of the few sectors of the economy (and IT) that appears relatively insulated from it all.The major storage vendors can scarcely contain themselves, after 4Q07 exceeded most expectations, and 1Q08 looks to be more of the same. IBM, EMC (buoyed in large part by overachiever VMware), and Seagate are blowing it out with their latest quarterly results. Spending slowdown? Shaky consumer confidence? Apparently not in storage.

Barely two months ago, analysts were warning about a spending downturn that would hit bellwether tech stocks like Cisco, IBM and Symantec in particular, with a cascade effect on to the storage sector.

But after getting an investment note this morning from Pacific Growth Equities LLC, with the subject "Network Appliance: We See January Quarter Tracking Very Well," I pinged its author and asked why the storage sector had so far managed to stay above any flattening or downturn.

"A large part of storage spending is driven by regulatory requirements, which means that type of spending is non-discretionary," said Kaushik Roy, research analyst for datacenter technologies for Pacific Growth. Something like PC replacement, on the other hand, remains much more elective, while the growth in the amount of stored data continues unabated. "So businesses will need to buy storage," Kaushik wrote back. "Storage will take a hit in a downturn, but it seems it might be less impacted than other areas of IT."

A trusted source (and former translator for the National Security Administration) often used to say to me, "I'll know we're in a recession when I see the first Starbucks get shuttered." Last time I looked, all those allegedly fearful consumers weren't letting a little uncertainty get in the way of lining up for lattes. That is discretionary spending.

Likewise, I'll know storage has hit the skids when I see the first VMware reseller file for bankruptcy protection. That day looks to be at least a few quarters away yet.

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