IDC is predicting a $6 billion big-data storage market by 2016, part of an overall big data market worth nearly $24 billion.

Big data isn’t just about Hadoop distributions and analytics software — you also need servers to process it and disks on which to store it. On Tuesday, research firm IDC quantified the market for the latter aspect, predicting that the business of selling storage into big data deployments will be worth nearly $6 billion in 2016, up from just $379.9 million in 2011.

However, as a press release explaining the new report highlighted, defining “storage” for the purposes of big data is an exercise in subjectivity. There are systems for archiving data, and systems for storing post-processed data and systems — like the Hadoop Distributed File System — that put storage on the same servers that process data. There also are storage systems designed for operational data and those designed for transactional data, and very likely something in between.

Presumably, these numbers don’t account for the amount of storage baked into analytic database appliances like those from Teradata and Netezza. And, although the report doesn’t appear to address it, there also will be a market for storing data in the cloud — both provider-side and user-side. Even here, there are a variety of options from Hadoop services to data warehouse services to software-as-a-service applications.

The storage research is just IDC’s latest attempt at quantifying a big data movement that spans a wide section of individual markets. On Monday, for example, the firm predicted the market for analytics services would reach $70.8 billion by 2016. In January, it said big-data-specific servers, storage, networking, software and services will create a $23.8 billion market by 2016.

As we’ve said time and time again, though, trying to put a dollar value on the big data market is in many cases akin to herding cats (that we might also shear for fur and that might provide a valuable service killing off crop-damaging varmints). There are so many disparate facets and delivery models that touch so many different business uses and revenue sources that it’s difficult to capture big data, or any of its individual components, into a single market. But however IDC and other research firms define it, the only thing that matters in the end is probably the ever-rising revenue arrow.

Feature image courtesy of Shutterstock user Mmaxer.

Comments have been disabled for this post