Editor's note: In the previous version of this article, we indicated that Veeco's atomic force microscopes (AFM) compete with the Titan line of microscopes from FEI (NASDAQ:FEIC). In fact, the Titan line does not compete with Veeco's AFMs, as the Titan microscopes are scanning/transmission electron microscopes. We regret the error.

Veeco Instruments (NASDAQ:VECO) released a flurry of press releases on Monday, one of which contained information about its second-quarter earnings. Although I hope my investment in the stock eventually pays off, it's hard to guess how any individual quarter will go, thanks to Veeco's involvement in several cyclical markets.

For the latest quarter, the data-storage and high-brightness-LED segments performed strongly, but the semiconductor and scientific-research segments were weaker. Combining all the results, though, resulted in revenue of $111.6 million, which beat analyst expectations of $108 million and represented an 8% increase from a year ago. Earnings came in at $3 million, or $0.10 per share.

The immediate future looks promising. Orders rose 21% higher from a year ago and 13% higher from the previous quarter. Data-storage orders also rose and are being driven by the trend toward perpendicular recording among its hard-drive customers. Perpendicular recording technologies allow companies like Seagate (NYSE:STX) and Toshiba to raise storage capacities in their race to stay ahead of the NAND flash manufacturers. One common issue in advancing technology is low yields -- meaning that a lot of the parts produced don't work. Veeco benefits doubly because it sells equipment that's used in the manufacture of hard drives and also sells equipment that can help increase those yields.

Orders from high-brightness-LED manufacturers more than doubled from the previous year to reach $27.4 million, and Veeco believes that the rising use of those brighter LEDs in LCD notebook-computer monitors and TV screens will continue to drive investments from these customers.

While the semiconductor segment was somewhat weak this quarter, it may be picking up. Orders reached $20 million, a 98% uptick from the previous quarter and a 6% rise from the previous year. Management also just announced a large order of atomic force microscopes (AFMs) from semiconductor and data-storage companies -- a development that appears to show that Veeco's AFM technology is well accepted.

Overall, it was a good quarter for Veeco, but the quarter also revealed the problem with being involved in several unrelated cyclical market segments -- namely, while one or two segments may do well over a given time period, another one always seems to be holding back the results. Nevertheless, with Veeco's end markets growing strongly, an investor with a long time horizon should have some reason for optimism here.

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Fool contributor Dan Bloom owns shares of Veeco and Seagate. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.