Adoption of 4Gbps FC set for takeoff

By Dave Simpson

—If recent shipment figures for host bus adapters (HBAs) and switches are any indication, end-user adoption of 4Gbps Fibre Channel SANs may take off more rapidly than expected—whether or not users actually need the 2x performance improvement.

For example, Emulex's revenues from 4Gbps Fibre Channel HBAs more than quadrupled in the fourth quarter of last year, and port shipments rose almost fivefold—from 5,200 ports to about 25,000 ports, according to research from the Dell'Oro Group. The surge was attributable in part to key reseller deals with large vendors such as Sun.

And Brocade reported that almost three-fourths of its Fibre Channel switch shipments in the last quarter were 4Gbps devices. Brocade was the first switch vendor to ship 4Gbps devices, which are currently available from OEMs such as Hewlett-Packard. (QLogic is also shipping 4Gbps Fibre Channel switches.)

Most of the 4Gbps Fibre Channel shipments have been to the channel (resellers, integrators, and OEMs), but with prices for 4Gbps components at—or only slightly above—prices for 2Gbps components, widespread end-user adoption seems imminent.

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Although Emulex has an early lead in 4Gbps HBAs, QLogic more than doubled its shipments of ≥4Gbps ports in the fourth quarter (from about 3,000 ports to 7,600 ports), and almost tripled revenues. (QLogic's numbers include shipments of 10Gbps ports, which are used primarily as inter-switch links, or ISLs.) Other vendors shipping 4Gbps HBAs include LSI Logic and Atto Technology.

Emulex may have the lead in the market for 4Gbps HBAs (54.2% market share versus 19% for QLogic in terms of port shipments in 2005), but archrival QLogic maintained its number-one spot in the overall market for Fibre Channel HBAs last year. For example, in terms of port shipments QLogic had a 46.1% market share, compared to a 40% share for Emulex, according to the Dell'Oro Group. LSI maintained its number-three spot with a 5.7% market share, while "others" accounted for the remainder of the overall market for HBAs.

This article was originally published on March 03, 2006