By Carol Sliwa | Feb 23, 2010
Fibre Channel (FC) switch port sales declined for the first time in 2009, and market research firms predict a temporary upswing over the next few years before a permanent decline as Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) cuts into FC use.
In its November quarterly report, Dell'Oro Group Inc. forecasted that last year's 12% drop will be offset by a healthy rebound in the range of 20% during 2010 and 2011, largely fueled by shipments of new 8 Gbps ports and purchases of next-generation servers based on Intel Corp.'s Nehalem chips.
Dell'Oro predicted increases of 12% in 2012 and 3% in 2013 before a 3% decline in 2014, as shipments of FCoE ports ramp up and command a larger part of the SAN mix.
"At this point, it would be hard to bet against FCoE," said Seamus Crehan, a Dell'Oro Group vice president. "It's got a very compelling value proposition in terms of cost and power savings, and all of the incumbent vendors have strong programs and offerings."
IDC predicts a similar pattern. The company's last market report, issued in May, anticipated a 3.7% drop this year in shipments of Fibre Channel switch ports followed by spikes of 11.7% in 2010 and 11.2% in 2011.
"By 2012, it starts to decline, and by 2013, the total market goes into decline," as users shift to FCoE in lieu of FC, said Rick Villars, a vice president at IDC.
Villars said the economy wasn't the only factor affecting FC switch port shipments in recent years. Server virtualization helped to drive the growth rate into the mid-30% range prior through 2008, and it also played a role in the declining shipments, he claimed.
Before virtualization, organizations often relied on internal or direct-attached storage (DAS) for many of their servers. As they virtualized, they often moved to storage area network (SAN)-based storage, spiking the FC switch port count. When the economy turned sour in 2008 and 2009, some IT shops used virtualization to support new growth, installing more virtual machines (VMs) on each physical server rather than buying new machines and adding new FC switch ports, Villars said.