Even when you're flying high, there's no harm in keeping an eye out for the branches.

Storage leader



this morning announced earnings and revenue that exceeded estimates and it was getting a mild bounce today. In recent trading, EMC was up $1.25, or 1.6%, to $77.25.


Tom Lepri took a close look at

EMC's performance.

But EMC didn't do what other storage-related companies have done recently -- make sharp growth predictions for the coming year. In a call on earnings, EMC execs stuck within 1% of their $12 billion sales figure for next year.

With EMC and



reporting strong results in the last week, the focus on companies that help other companies store their data means eyes are turning to the upcoming reports of



and storage software maker

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. Emulex makes boards that help storage components connect to each other or to the network.

For most tech companies, keeping the forward-looking guidance steady would be enough of a win given the slowdown in PC sales and in information technology budgets, in general. But with storage companies, the outlook has been different -- and remarkably optimistic. Some people see them as recession-proof, even bulletproof. Data storage is viewed as a corporate necessity that is relatively immune to the disease that has infected corporate IT budgets.


Merrill Lynch

analyst Steve Milunovich surveyed U.S. and European IT execs recently, he found that expenditures on storage were among their top three priorities.

When Emulex announced its earnings last week, it raised its earnings outlook for both 2001 and for 2002. In trading today, Emulex was up $6.38, or 6.5%, to $104.88.


covered Emulex when it reported its

performance last week.

And when



, which makes products to link storage components, announced earnings Nov. 29, it also raised expectations for the coming fiscal year well above analysts' expectations. Brocade, which closed at $76.88 the day it reported earnings, was at $109 in recent trading, a 42% increase.

Emulex spin-off QLogic, another storage-related play, is due to give its earnings report after the close of the market today. Investors are expecting more good news: Q Logic was up $7.19, or 8.3%, to $94.25. There was a similar optimism about Veritas, which was up $3.88, or 3.8%, to $104.5 in recent trading.

Where are those branches?