Note: The Skinny blog is written by Rick Smith, editor and co-founder of Local Tech Wire and business editor of WRAL.com.

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – Competition is fierce in the booming data storage market, and two of the industry leaders with major operations in RTP are under the collective microscopes of Wall Street analysts.

One – (Nasdaq: NTAP) – received mostly good news Tuesday. Its shares closed up 2 percent at $33.09.

The other – (NYSE: EMC) – did not.

At JPMorgan, EMC’s stock was downgraded with an analyst reporting that the increasingly bitter fight for business could hurt earnings. EMC shares ended the day down 21 cents at $17.85.

NetApp reports earnings today after the markets close, and profits are expected by analysts to be sharply higher than a year ago. The Street expects a profit of 44 cents per share, up from 31 cents, according to Thomson Reuters.

However, there are some reservations about NetApp

Jocelyn Drake at Schaeffer’s Investment Research noted Tuesday that there is “heavy skepticism” about NetApp. That could be good news for some stockholders, though. Drake says the skepticism “indicates that there is ample sideline money available to fuel a sharp rally higher in the security, should the company announce stronger-than-expected earnings.”

JPMorgan, meanwhile, boosted NetApp to “overweight” from :neutral,” The Associated Press reported. He also lifted his target price for NetApp shares to $41 from $36.50.

NetApp could boost revenues 20 percent or more this year, and the JPMorgan analyst projected a 46-cent per share profit.

NetApp’s growth is “expected to be exceeded only by Apple Inc. among the companies he covers, which also includes EMC Corp., Xerox Corp., Dell Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM Corp. and Lexmark International Inc.,” The AP noted.

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