On Wednesday, EMC (NYSE: EMC) announced knockout numbers, but stayed cautiously optimistic about the year ahead.

The company reported non-GAAP EPS of $0.31, up 19% year over year, and in line with the consensus. GAAP EPS of $0.21 grew 24% year-over-year. Revenue grew 18% year-over-year. Gross margin reached 58.6%, versus 57% a year ago. Operating margin was 15.2% versus 13.4% over the same time period.   

Areas of strength included international operations, high-end storage, and virtualization. Revenue increased 21% in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, and an impressive 43% in the Asia-Pacific segment. High-end Symmetrix storage product revenue rose 25% year over year, while majority-owned VMware's (NYSE: VMW) revenue grew 33%. Mid-tier storage offerings, in the midst of a product transition, grew 20%. Revenue from Isilon, which EMC acquired late last year, exceeded expectations, though EMC didn't disclose the specific amount. Customer traction and the pipeline both improved for the Virtual Computing Environment Company that EMC formed with Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO). In a rare gloomy spot, RSA revenue grew a disappointing 8% year over year on the heels of a security breach.

EMC's CFO David Goulden seemed more than pleased: "For the fifth consecutive quarter EMC achieved our financial 'triple play' -- gaining market share, investing aggressively to take advantage of the rapidly emerging opportunities offered by cloud computing and Big Data, and improving profitability.... Given the strong growth we saw in the quarter and the opportunity we see throughout 2011, we are now even more confident that we can meet and potentially exceed our 2011 consolidated revenue, non-GAAP EPS and free cash flow goals while continuing to achieve our 'triple play' over the long term."

Goulden went on to note that EMC expects no meaningful impact to its business this quarter from the tragedy in Japan, and it's working with suppliers to secure components for the second half of 2011.

His enthusiasm didn't cause EMC to raise expectations, though. According to the CEO, "While we are pretty confident that IT spending will be solid, I would like to note that there are some potential event risks such as the impacts of disasters in Japan, public sector deficits and rising commodity prices, especially oil, that can cause a sense of uncertainty."

EMC's concern about public sector weakness is in keeping with challenges at Cisco, Computer Sciences, and Dell (Nasdaq: DELL).

As for EMC's market share gains, earlier this week IBM (NYSE: IBM) announced that its own disk storage revenue grew 13%. Competitors NetApp (Nasdaq: NTAP), Dell, and Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ) report earnings in May.

Foolish takeaway
EMC's strong quarter makes its GAAP P/E of 32 palatable, presuming that it continues gaining share and can overcome the potential event risks it cited.

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