Storage Area Network (SAN) market on the upswing- will 10GE or 40GE play a larger role?

Market research firm Infonetics Research ( last week released its fourth quarter of 2010 (4Q10) SAN Equipment market share and forecast report, which tracks storage area network (SAN) switches and adapters.  According to an Infonetics press release, the SAN EQUIPMENT MARKET highlights are:

.    The combined SAN switch and adapter market grew 15% in 2010 over the previous year, to $2.76 billion worldwide
.    For the quarter, SAN switch and adapter revenue is up 10% in 4Q10 over 3Q10, to $749 million worldwide
.    Infonetics Research forecasts the worldwide SAN equipment market to grow to $8.4 billion in 2015
.    In the adapter space, the 2 kingpins QLogic and Emulex showed solid revenue increases in 2010 over 2009 (10% and 12%, respectively)
.    Worldwide FCoE SAN switch revenue jumped more than 200% in 2010, albeit from a small base
.    SAN equipment simplifies the complexity of consolidating and increasing the size of data centers, a huge trend that continues as data center owners grapple with exploding amounts of (largely consumer-generated) video and data content

“The SAN switch and adapter market rebounded nicely in 2010 after the drop in 2009, with revenue growth driven mainly by Cisco, which posted a 60% increase in SAN switch revenue in 2010. Brocade remains the market leader in the overall SAN space of course, but it lost 6 points of market share while Cisco gained 7. Cisco is in a good position here with its strong lead in the Fiber Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) switch segment, widely seen as the future technology of the data center,” notes IEEE member Michael Howard, co-founder and principal analyst for carrier and data center networks at Infonetics Research.

AJW Comments and Opinions:

At the February 24-25 Ethernet Technology Summit, it was stated that Fibre Channel (FC), rather than Ethernet or FCoE or Infiniband,dominated SAN shipments and would continue to do so.  However, the Infonetics report states that “Worldwide FCoE SAN switch revenue jumped more than 200% in 2010, albeit from a small base.”  Furthermore, at March 16 IDC Directions, an analyst predicted explosive growth for FCoE in coming years. 

Jim Duffy of Network World writes:  “Cisco is unfazed by the realization that FibreChannel over Ethernet, the storage virtualization technology it helped define, standardize and evangelize, is essentially being given away for free. FCoE is designed to help unify a data center switching fabric by converging FibreChannel storage traffic over Ethernet, thereby saving the expense and operational complexity of running separate cables, deploying separate NICs and, eventually, SAN switches.

But FCoE, to the surprise of analysts and other industry observers, is being given away for free by leading adapter and switch vendors due to immaturity and market inertia. The virtualization technology is virtually the same price as a naked 10G Ethernet port, which undermines claims of high demand for FCoE – it’s essentially getting a free ride from 10G.”

Opinion: We do see a booming business for 10GE LAN PHY for storage and servers in the new data center (over a decade after that IEEE 802.3 standard was completed!).  While Brocade still has the largest SAN equipment market share, it does look like Cisco is gaining ground in the SAN switch market.

About the Infonetics SAN market report:

Infonetics’ SAN equipment provides worldwide and regional market size, market share, forecasts, and analysis for Fiber Channel (FC) and Fiber Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) SAN switches, and 3 segments of storage networking adapters: Fiber Channel host bus adapters (FC HBAs), iSCSI HBAs, and FCoE converged network adapters (CNAs). Switches are tracked by chassis (director) vs. fixed (fabric), and all ports are tracked by type (10G FCoE, FC 2G, FC 4G, FC 8G, FC 16G, iSCSI). The report tracks ATTO, Brocade, Chelsio, Cisco, Emulex, Intel, LSI, Mellanox/Voltaire, Myricom, Neterion, QLogic, and others.

To download the prospectuses, tables of contents, etc. for related and upcoming research (below), please log in to Infonetics’ service portal ( and go to ENTERPRISE NETWORKING or DATA CENTER NETWORKS.