* NetApp tied with IBM for No. 2 in external storage market
* Overall market grows 17 pct to $5 bln in 1st quarter
BOSTON, June 4 (Reuters) - NetApp Inc (NTAP.O) surged past three rivals to move into second place in the market for external data storage equipment, whose overall sales grew 17 percent to $5 billion in the first quarter, according to market researcher IDC.
IDC said on Friday that NetApp was in a statistical tie with IBM (IBM.N) and behind industry giant EMC Corp (EMC.N) during the quarter ended March 31.
NetApp's sales climbed 47 percent from a year earlier to $550 million. While that was behind the $579 million posted by IBM, IDC said it considers the two tied because their total market share is within less than a percentage point of each other.
IBM owned 11.7 percent of the market during the first quarter, up from 11.2 percent a year earlier, while NetApp's share climbed to 11.1 percent from 8.8 percent.
"That's a very big increase in market share," said IDC analyst Steve Scully.
EMC's revenue climbed 38 percent from a year earlier to $1.2 billion. Its market share rose from 21 percent to 24.6 percent, according to IDC. Its sales were buoyed by revenue from Data Domain, a company it acquired in July.
Scully said that NetApp's market share has been growing so rapidly because it has a broad range of products that appeal to small, mid-sized and large companies. They all run on the same operating system, which makes it easy to upgrade as a company grows, he added.
A year ago, NetApp ranked sixth-place in IDC's rankings behind EMC, Hewlett-Packard Co (HPQ.N), IBM, Dell Inc DELL.O and Hitachi Ltd (6501.T).
NetApp's shares have doubled over the past year. Shares in its competitors have climbed between 10 percent and 45 percent. (Reporting by Jim Finkle, editing by Bernard Orr)