Fibre Channel components on fast growth path

By Dave Simpson

As evidence that Fibre Channel-based storage area networks (SANs) are gaining momentum at IT organizations, shipments of Fibre Channel devices continued on a torrid pace last year, a trend that is expected to continue this year. According to a recent report from Dataquest (www.dataquest.com), Fibre Channel component revenues have been growing at a 200% annual rate.

Of course, that rate can't continue in the future, but it will be some time before Fibre Channel component shipments settle down to the growth rate of mainstream external storage subsystems such as disk arrays. "The market growth for external storage is about 15% per year, and Fibre Channel component shipments are tied to that, but it may be four to five years before those two markets are growing at the same rate," says James Opfer, senior analyst at Dataquest and co-author of the Fibre Channel Components for SAN Infrastructure report.

From 1997 to mid-1999, OEM revenues from 10 Fibre Channel component vendors grew at a CAGR of about 200%.
Click here to enlarge image

The report tracks unit shipments and OEM revenues of Ancor, Brocade, Crossroads, Emulex, Gadzoox, Interphase, JNI, McData, Qlogic, and Vixel, representing product categories such as Fibre Channel hubs, switches, directors, routers (or bridges) and host bus adapters (HBAs). Due to a preponderance of internal (e.g., non-OEM) shipments, some HBA vendors were not included in the report, including Compaq, Hewlett-Packard, and Sun.

According to Dataquest's report, shipments of entry-level (e.g., non-managed) hubs went from 149,000 units in all of 1998 to 96,000 units in only the first half of 1999 (the period covered by the report). Vixel leads the entry-level hub market, followed by Gadzoox and Emulex. Entry-level hub shipments are growing at a slower rate than the other product segments.

Gadzoox leads the market for managed hubs, followed by Vixel and Emulex. For all of 1998 and the first half of 1999, unit shipments of managed hubs were 57,500 and 60,200, respectively.

Brocade continues to hold the lion's share of the Fibre Channel switch market (8- and 16-port devices only), followed by Ancor, McData, Vixel, and Gadzoox (as of mid-1999). Switch port shipments were 31,500 in 1998 and 44,200 in the first half of 1999. In the third quarter, shipments of Fibre Channel switches overtook shipments of managed hubs.

As do some vendors, Dataquest puts directors in a separate category from switches. The differences in the two product segments lie primarily in port counts and fault-tolerant features. The most popular Fibre Channel director, from McData, is a 32-port device with features such as full component redundancy and automatic failover. McData shipped 2,700 ports in 1998, and 5,100 ports in the first half of 1999.

Dataquest also tracked the Fibre Channel-to-SCSI router (or bridge) market, which is led by Crossroads. Other router vendors (in alphabetical order) include Atto Technology, Chaparral Network Storage, and Pathlight. As with the other Fibre Channel component categories, the market for routers is growing rapidly. For example, Crossroads shipped 1,940 routers in 1998, and 3,500 units in the first half of 1999.

The Fibre Channel HBA market also exhibited rapid growth over the period. For example, unit shipments went from 65,300 in all of 1998 to 79,000 in only the first of 1999. Qlogic leads the HBA market in terms of unit shipments, while Emulex is #1 in revenues.

Other HBA vendors include (in alphabetical order), Agilent Technologies, Atto, Interphase, JNI, LSI Logic, and Prisa Networks.


This article was originally published on January 01, 2000