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Ethernet, Fibre Channel sales boom in Q4

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Networking and telecom market watcher Dell'Oro Group says that shipments of 10 Gigabit Ethernet and 8 Gb/sec Fibre Channel adapters are booming. And, somewhat surprisingly, they're not eating into each other, despite the convergence of server and storage fabrics with Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) support on mny 10 Gigabit Ethernet switches.

Dell'Oro makes its living selling data about the networking markets, so it didn't provide a lot of detail about what went on in the fourth quarter of 2010. But the company does put out some teaser information every once in a while, and the most recent figures show that sales of 10 Gigabit Ethernet controllers and adapters rose 57 per cent in the final quarter of last year, to just under $100m.

"What really took us by surprise was the strength in network adapters rather than LAN on Motherboard, or LOM," explained Tam Dell'Oro, president of the company, in a statement. "Intel and Solarflare just about doubled their adapter shipments quarter-over-quarter, while Emulex's were up over 60 per cent, and all this is on the older generation servers that support 50 Gb/sec of in/out throughput. What do you suppose will happen when the next generation servers with over 100 Gbps of throughput start shipping?"

Dell'Oro tracks the top nine makers of 10 Gigabit Ethernet controllers and adapters, and in this latest report one big shift that effected the numbers is Hewlett-Packard using silicon from Emulex instead of from Broadcom for its BladeSystem blade servers.

The advent of FcoE was supposed to nuke Fibre Channel adapter sales, at least according to those like Cisco Systems and HP that are pitching converged networks very hard. But it looks like FC port shipments are continuing to grow.

In its latest quarterly SAN connectivity report, Dell'Oro says that over 900,000 FC ports shipped in the fourth quarter of 2010, a record high level of shipments for any speed of Fibre Channel adapters in the history of the SAN market and representing a 15 per cent boost in port count compared to Q4 2009.

"The Fibre Channel market appears to have returned to end-of-year strength which is the typical seasonal pattern in a healthy economy," said Dell'Oro. "Many server manufacturers have announced very strong quarters, and Fibre Channel adapter sales generally pattern those of servers. What really took us by surprise was the magnitude of Fibre Channel strength. We expected more users to shift to Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE), particularly in blade server chassis, but it didn't happen."

What happened instead is that a lot of customers decided to move to 8 Gb/sec Fibre Channel adapters and keep separate things separate on their networks. Without FCoE having been an option for the part two years, it is logical to assume that FC port counts might have been even higher in Q4 2010. Dell'Oro did not divulge how many FCoE ports shipped in the quarter, but that would be an interesting number to see. ®

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