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) --


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, which reported better than expected

fourth-quarter results

after market close on Wednesday, says that it is gaining share from its storage rivals.

The storage maker, which competes with


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, brought in fourth-quarter revenue of $1.43 billion, up from $1.17 billion in the prior year's quarter, and comfortably above analysts' estimate of $1.39 billion.

"We achieved the largest market share gains in our history and closed a record number of million dollar deals," explained NetApp CEO Tom Georgens, in a statement released after market close.

Excluding items, NetApp earned 59 cents a share, compared to 50 cents a share in the year-ago quarter. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters were looking for earnings of 53 cents a share.

For fiscal 2011, NetApp racked up revenue of $5.12 billion, a significant hike on $3.93 billion in the prior year's quarter. Consensus estimates called for sales of $5 billion.

NetApp also offered up robust first-quarter guidance, forecasting revenue of $1.5 billion, plus or minus 3%. Analysts were looking for sales of $1.49 billion. Excluding items, the company expects earnings between 52 cents a share and 57 cents a share, well above Wall Street's estimate of 50 cents a share.

Investors were clearly impressed with the numbers, pushing NetApp's shares up $1.72, or 3.32%, to $53.45 in extended trading on Wednesday.

NetApp's results underline the strength of the storage market at a time when many businesses are looking to refresh their IT infrastructure. The performance also comes hot on the heels of strong storage numbers from IBM, EMC and HP.

IBM's storage revenue was up 14% year-over-year in its recent

first-quarter results

, while EMC registered record revenue and profit when it reported its own

first-quarter results

last month. HP, despite intensifying competition from NetApp and EMC, also identified storage as one of the high points of its recent

second-quarter results


-- Written by James Rogers in New York.

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