The firm is set for its most aggressive expansion drive next year to catch up with rivals Storage Technology Corp (StorageTek) will make a big push for information lifecycle management deals in the mainland over the next year, which could spur a move to resell some of its products under a Chinese brand name. This is the Colorado-based firm's strategy as it tries to catch up with EMC, IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Hitachi Data Systems in the mainland's fast-growing market for data storage hardware, software and services. 'Information lifecycle management [ILM] is more than just words on paper,' said StorageTek chairman, president and chief executive Patrick Martin. 'We are one of only a few companies to provide a full array of storage solutions across tape, disk, storage networking, software and services in China and around the world.' ILM recognised that 'not all information is created equal', giving enterprises 'a way to balance the exponential growth of data with the right way to collect, move, share, store and protect it', he said. StorageTek regional director for North Asia Brian Knott said the company was planning its most aggressive expansion strategy in China next year. 'We also need to better educate the market about ILM.' He declined to release investment estimates, but noted that 'the challenge is to increase StorageTek's market coverage'. The company's ILM strategy will entail developing integrated products and services that allow automated data migration management as a customer's data capacity requirements change. 'Our ILM philosophy supports the migration of data to the most cost-effective storage device based on the customer's access requirements,' Mr Knott said. 'This requires us to have close, strategic relationships with specialist applications providers and independent software vendors in the mainland to co-develop appropriate solutions.' Mr Martin said discussions of a partnership with mainland computer giant Legend Group had been on and off for the past few years, prompting StorageTek to look for other potential Chinese partners. It is seeking a partnership with a leading computer vendor to resell its data storage hardware and provide customer support and a wider marketing presence in China. This would allow StorageTek to catch up with storage leader EMC, whose entry-level enterprise storage device is resold and co-branded by Dell Computer. Certain disk-based storage products from HDS are being reconfigured and resold by partners HP and Sun Microsystems. 'The major server vendors - IBM, HP and Sun - have a distinct advantage due to their extensive distribution channels in China,' Mr Knott said. 'Market coverage is key for any storage vendor in China, since most sales are made at the province and city levels.' Research firm International Data Corp forecasts the mainland market for storage hardware will reach more than US$700 million this year from US$480 million in 2001. Gartner principal analyst Matthew Boon said investment by international firms in China was a driver for storage growth last year. 'International IT vendors that moved their manufacturing and research and development facilities to China became an important source for mid-size and high-end storage system growth,' he said. StorageTek say the sale of data storage technologies to the mainland's broadcasting and health-care sectors is poised for growth, while demand from China's financial services, telecommunications and government sectors remains steady. 'Despite a challenging economic environment, we have increased our share of the market in China and across the Asia-Pacific,' Mr Martin said. He said about 15 per cent of StorageTek's overall annual revenues came from the region, and this share was likely to increase significantly over the next five years. StorageTek's worldwide revenue for the first nine months of the year was US$1.53 billion, up from US$1.45 billion over the previous comparable period. Its China sales have grown about 50 per cent a year since 1999.