Last summer, the storage sector was on pins and needles over a bidding war between storage giant EMC (NYSE: EMC) and cheeky upstart NetApp (Nasdaq: NTAP). Adding the data-management expertise of Data Domain would surely transform NetApp into a serious challenger for large contracts, so EMC was forced to bid up until it could secure the deal for itself.

Fast-forward 12 months from the end of that affair, and it looks like NetApp is doing just fine without Data Domain. The underdog is kicking EMC's behind with aplomb and finesse by reporting a 36% year-over-year revenue increase -- EMC's sales improved by only 24% including contributions from Data Domain.

Pouring salt in EMC's wounds, NetApp credits its own data deduplication solutions with driving margin expansion and top-line strength. You'll recall that deduplication was the single most interesting thing about Data Domain. That margin expansion drove GAAP earnings from $0.15 per share a year ago to $0.38 per share in the first quarter of fiscal year 2011.

NetApp is a rising star, but is not afraid to ask for some help. A longstanding partnership with Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) in the area of cloud computing drives plenty of storage sales to NetApp. The company is also part of a cross-industry virtual computing consortium together with networking specialist Cisco Systems (Nasdaq: CSCO) and -- ironically -- EMC subsidiary VMware (NYSE: VMW). You'd think that VMware would automatically team up with semi-parent EMC for whatever storage needs its virtual servers would raise, but there's clearly unique value in the NetApp solution to the same problem.

So NetApp is growing up fast, right before our eyes. The growth story also plays out in shareholder returns, where this stock has absolutely annihilated the market with a 75% return on a year-old investment.

Does NetApp have more room to run or is the pony getting tired from the last year's rampant racing? Voice your opinion on NetApp -- or any other stock, for that matter -- in our CAPS community.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. Microsoft is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. VMware is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.