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Top 4 Tech Trends for 2011

Stocks in this article: AAPL SNDK MSFT IBM HPQ

Storage Gets Sexy?

Dull but desperately important in the data center, storage had a banner year, marked by a frenzy of big-name M&A and growing interest in solid-state drive (SSD), which is set to trend big next year.

SSD is a data storage device that uses memory chips and contains fewer moving parts that traditional hard disk drives. More importantly, SSDs offer faster data access speeds than traditional hard disk drives at a time when most companies are drowning in data.

Companies like EMC, IBM and Sun/ Oracle (ORCL), have all recently deployed the technology. In October, Apple even added SSD storage to the new MacBook Air, prompting speculation that the storage will be introduced across the entire MacBook line.

Flash memory giant SanDisk (SNDK) has also been talking up solid state, noting that it makes up the company's second-largest market after mobile handsets and devices.

Not everyone, however, is so bullish on the technology's prospects. "It's expensive -- the cost has to come down for SSD to really take off," said Vanessa Alvarez, an analyst at Forrester. " But it might take off in some niche verticals like oil and energy and media and entertainment, which have very intensive data use."

Storage investors will also be watching to see if the sector has another banner M&A run like it did this year, which saw deals like HP's acquisition of 3PAR (3PAR), Dell's (DELL) purchase of Compellent (CML) and EMC 's buy of Isilon (ISLN).

Forrester's Alvarez is not holding her breath. "I think that the big guys are done consolidating, I think that they have made their acquisitions," she said. "Cisco needs to do something in that space, but I don't think that they are ready."

--Written by James Rogers in New York.

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