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VAR survey: Storage relatively strong among weak IT spending

The fourth-quarter was weaker than usual for IT spending although storage held up well, according to resellers surveyed by Wall Street firm Robert W. Baird.

Storage sales were relatively high while overall IT spending was far lower than usual last quarter, according to VARs surveyed by financial adviser firm Robert W. Baird & Co.

Fourth-quarter IT sales were "well-below normal" seasonality, according to a report by Baird analyst Jayson Noland. The results came from 40 VARs representing about $6 billion in annual IT spending mostly in North America and Western Europe. The VARs were asked to characterize their quarter as above plan, below plan or at plan for the quarter.

Thirty VARs characterized storage as above plan and five said it was below plan – by far the most positive results of any product category. Noland wrote that Network Appliance, Brocade, Data Domain and CommVault received positive scores "relative to overall trends" for the fourth quarter, which is historically the biggest for IT spending.

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Find out how the rest of the IT market fared in the Baird survey
Noland added that customers are looking for technology that can save them money rather than high-end storage systems. "We expect IT managers to reduce storage spending by finding better bargains and cost savings technology," he wrote. "Four of the five negative responses for storage specified 'high-end' or 'large' storage, implying a shift to lower-cost storage which we view as somewhat of a headwind to EMC."

VARs ranked VMware, Data Domain, NetApp and Hewlett-Packard as vendors that save customers the most money.

"We expect Network Appliance to benefit from a shift to lower-cost storage spending due to budget constraints," Noland wrote. "VMware's technology continues to be disruptive to the industry and save customers from buying additional server hardware and components, and Data Domain's deduplication engine is taking significant cost out of the backup market."

Other signs ominous for storage

Despite the Baird survey results, there are indications that storage sales were disappointing last quarter. HBA vendor Emulex Corp. and systems vendor LSI have lowered their revenue estimates for the quarter in recent weeks. Emulex now expects to report revenue in the range of $107 million to 108 million, down from its October forecast of $111 million to 116 million. LSI reduced its outlook to $570 million to $610 million, from its October outlook of $670 million to $710 million.

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