Fibre Channel picks up steam; EMC joins ranks
Momentum behind Fibre Channel is building steadily, and investment houses are taking notice. One financial institution that`s particularly bullish on Fibre Channel is Morgan Keegan & Company Inc., an investment bank in Memphis.
Robert Montague, senior technology analyst at Morgan Keegan, says that Fibre Channel has a number of advantages over Gigabit Ethernet, as well as SCSI. For one, Fibre Channel combines storage I/O and networking. In addition, it offers speeds up to 100MBps per loop, theoretically up to 16 million connected nodes, a serial (vs. parallel) connection, copper or fiber media, and connection of nodes at up to six miles.
And revenue is starting to pick up. In a discounted cash-flow analysis, based on shipment figures from emf Associates, a consulting firm in Half Moon Bay, CA, Morgan Keegan estimates the market for Fibre Channel adapters at $5.9 billion; switches, $1.1 billion; and hubs, $0.3 billion.
Fibre Channel fervor hasn`t escaped the vendor community. In addition to strong support from server vendors such as Compaq, Hewlett-Packard, and Sun, more than 150 companies are developing Fibre Channel products, according to Morgan Keegan`s research. Although Seagate is still the only Fibre Channel drive manufacturer, a number of drive suppliers are expected to enter the market in the first half of this year, including Fujitsu, Hitachi, IBM, and Quantum. And Seagate`s pricing for Fibre Channel drives is approaching that of equivalent-capacity SCSI drives.
Although more optimistic than some other research firms, emf Associates predicts a 60% compounded annual growth rate for the Fibre Channel market over the next three years.
Last month, the Fibre Channel community received a boost when EMC--the leading independent supplier of storage systems--officially announced its entry into the market. EMC announced Fiber Channel support for connection of its Symmetrix Enterprise Storage systems to Sun Solaris platforms. EMC`s Symmetrix boxes were already compatible with Fibre Channel-equipped HP-UX servers because of EMC`s OEM relationship with Hewlett-Packard, which resells Symmetrix systems. Users can now attach from a single Symmetrix subsystem to HP-UX and Solaris hosts via Fibre Channel or SCSI and via ESCON channels to MVS mainframes.
EMC`s Symmetrix-resident Fibre Channel adapter, with two ports, is priced at $35,000. The adapter will be bundled with new Symmetrix subsystems at no premium. EMC has not announced support for Fibre Channel disk drives.
EMC`s Fibre Channel solution is not compatible with Sun`s Fibre Channel host adapter, but it is compatible with host adapters from Jaycor Networks. Other adapters are in the qualification phase.
For more information about Fibre Channel, see the Special Report in the October 1997 issue of InfoStor.)--DS