The storage software market recorded its fifth successive quarter of year-on-year growth at the end of 2010 with all five of the top ranked players increasing sales during the quarter, according to estimates published on Monday.

The storage software market was worth $3.4 billion in the fourth quarter of 2010, a jump of 10.6 percent from the same period in 2009, IDC said.

The largest single vendor was EMC, which notched up storage software revenue of $866 million (£530 million), up 18 percent from a year earlier. Symantec ranked second but achieved just 0.1 percent growth, at $543 million (£332m).

Symantec's inability to increase its sales enabled IBM to close the gap on its rival, but the two companies remain separated by a wide margin. IBM came in third at $443 million (£271m). NetApp followed in fourth place at $312 million (£191m) and Hitachi was ranked fifth at $148 million (£90m). Hitachi achieved the strongest growth of the top five companies, managing to increase sales 47 percent in the quarter, said IDC.

The storage software market has been growing since late 2009. For the full year of 2010, the market expanded by 10.3 percent to $12.7 billion (£7.8 billion) and reversed a 3.2 percent contraction in 2009, said IDC.

"The storage software market is in the midst of a sustained recovery, which is partly driven by new product innovations, and partly by a strong desire to address inefficiencies related to storing, protecting, and managing corporate data," said Eric Sheppard, research director with IDC's Storage Software programme.

Within the segment, storage infrastructure software recorded the strongest growth at 23.6 percent last year. The data protection and recovery market remains the largest single sector. It was worth $4.4 billion (£2.7bn) last year, accounting for more than a third of the entire software storage industry, said IDC.

"A considerable increase in storage software designed to enable automated storage tiering, coupled with a continued market trend of addressing ageing, inefficient storage deployments were two important drivers of market growth during the quarter," said Sheppard.