Fibre Channel in More Trouble

By Henry Newman

We have all heard about the problems that QLogic is having and fibre channel’s decline. I even posted something on this back in May.

Now the latest is that Emulex is looking for a buyer. This is not good for those of us that have large fibre channel installations.

Let’s say Emulex gets sold to someone, and the likely competitor is Brocade. That means we are down to two vendors in the fibre channel market place. And if QLogic tries to buy Emulex, we will be down to a single HBA vendor.

Having just a few vendors in a market is not good for the long term, especially in the communications market. Whether it was FDDI, HIPPI, name your interconnect, they all failed to gain enough market share over Ethernet to survive. Fibre channel was the performance leader over Ethernet from about the time it came out until about last year (yes, 10 Gbit/sec Ethernet was out while FC was only 8 Gbit/sec but that is just a small difference). Now 40 Gbit/sec Ethernet cards are hitting the market. FC is still at 16 Gbit/sec, and the cost per Gbit/sec is not looking good for fibre channel

Here's a quick look on the internet for some basic pricing for fibre channel HBA vs. and Ethernet NIC:


Performance in Gbit/sec


Cost per Gbit/sec

Dual Port Emulex




Mellanox 40 Gb Ethernet






Because of volume, Ethernet prices are going to come down a fair amount more than will fibre channel prices. Of course, you have the cost of fibre channel switch ports, which are less than Ethernet today but just like what has happened with 10 GbE switch ports over the last eighteen months, the same will happen for 40 GbE.

It is all about volume. And with storage appliances moving to 40 GbE and RDMA stacks for Ethernet available, fibre channel has no significant advantages. It will not be able to compete given the pricing.

My opinion of course.

This article was originally published on August 09, 2013