The Fibre Channel SAN market is experiencing record growth and, as it does, the main players in Fibre Channel networking are fighting harder than ever for market share as converged networking gains traction.

Recently released data from the Dell’Oro Group shows that the Fibre Channel SAN market experienced a broad-based, record sequential revenue growth in the fourth quarter of 2009, with both Fibre Channel switch and host bus adapter segments posting large increases.

According to the firm’s “SAN Quarterly Report,” Brocade, Cisco, Emulex, and QLogic, had “strong sequential performances that helped propel the market to expand more than 15% quarter-over-quarter.”

Seamus Crehan, vice president of Dell’Oro Group, said “the server upgrade cycle that started in the second quarter of 2009 was…a key driver of the Fibre Channel Host Bus Adapter growth, especially 8Gbps.”

Even more interesting is the expected impact of unified fabric/converged networking technologies, specifically Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) running on converged network adapters (CNA).

The Dell’Oro Group’s “SAN 5-Year Forecast Report,” predicts that FCoE will be “a major growth contributor to both the Fibre Channel HBA market and the Ethernet network adapter market.”

In a recent discussion about the HP-Cisco divorce, Taneja Group founder and consulting analyst Arun Taneja said converged networking is creating its own set of wars in the IT industry.

“The industry has become smart enough to say that Fibre Channel is not going anywhere. It’s a sacred technology, but if you give me the same Fibre Channel that I am used to today and you want to put it on a different fabric, that’s okay with me – hence Fibre Channel over Ethernet,” he said. “Two worlds have collided in the form of one card called a converged network adapter that can act as a NIC for Ethernet traffic and support iSCSI or FCoE for Fibre Channel traffic. Broadcom, Intel, Emulex, and QLogic are all vying for that market.”

Taneja said customers are starting to take sides and that the market me be ripe for vendor consolidation.

“The winds are blowing fast and furious for Emulex and QLogic at the expense of Broadcom and Intel,” he said. “Ultimately, the one thing I can see that would bring everything back to a calm state is if Intel was to buy QLogic and Broadcomm buys Emulex.”