HP has launched the HP StorageWorks 9100 Extreme Data Storage System (ExDS9100), a file system and management console squeezed into a single rack. The company has designed the product in response to demand for increased storage from Web 2.0 companies such as photo-sharing and social-networking sites.

According to David Roberson, senior vice-president and general manager of the StorageWorks division, demand for storage is doubling every 18 to 24 months. Within five years, Roberson expects to see a "yottabyte year" when the industry as a whole ships one yottabyte of storage capacity.

HP is investing heavily in this area because it sees it as a big opportunity. "Enterprises will be putting much of their focus and spending there in the next two years. Currently, 45 percent of all hard drives in the world, from PCs to data centres, are sold by HP," he said.

Mark Peters, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group, observed that managing many terabytes of storage is very different from taking care of a few hundred gigabytes on a PC.

"You reach a point where the sheer scale of what you're managing becomes the problem," Peters said.

He claimed that many vendors are moving toward this kind of platform, including IBM, with its recent acquisition of Israeli startup XIV, and EMC. And he argued that the ExDS9100 promises to be a good solution because of the care HP is putting into it.

"There's nothing huge, bulk, cheap and easy to use that's already on the market," Peters said.