Fibre Channel decline predicted for 2014

Rick Merritt SAN JOSE, Calif. – Fibre Channel, by far the leading server storage interconnect, will decline starting in 2014 as versions of 10 Gbit/s Ethernet come on strong, according to a new report. That same year 10G Ethernet will…

Rick Merritt

SAN JOSE, Calif. – Fibre Channel, by far the leading server storage interconnect, will decline starting in 2014 as versions of 10 Gbit/s Ethernet come on strong, according to a new report. That same year 10G Ethernet will surpass Gbit Ethernet in unit shipments, it predicts.

Fibre Channel shipments will peak at slightly more than four million ports in 2013, the report said. “Fibre Channel will clearly continue to be the leader for block-based network storage for years to come, but after 2015 the race is on,” said Kimball Brown, a senior analyst at Lightcounting LLC and author of the report.

Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) will be by far the strongest runner in that race, but 10Gbit versions of iSCSI will also gain traction, the report predicts. FCoE will appeal to users of Fibre Channel who are already comfortable with fiber-based networks, while iSCSI is predominantly used by small- and medium-sized companies using Category 5/6A copper cabling, the report said.

Dell is among the few strong backers for iSCSI. Cisco currently is the only vendor with an end-to-end offering of FCoE products, and it is fairly new to the server business, Brown said.

One challenge for FCoE vendors is the technology’s lack of a standard for multi-hop switches. Cisco offers its own version of FCoE forwarding today, and a standard that would help other vendors catch up is still in the works, Brown said.

Adoption of storage interconnects based on the 10GBase-T standard for copper cables will be relatively slow, Brown predicts. Their bit error rate is relatively high compared to the alternatives, but it should improve in future generations of products, he said.

Meanwhile, 10G Ethernet is starting to gain traction and could exceed 15 million units in 2015, surpassing GbE.

The road map for Ethernet forks to some extent with the 10G generation. With its Romley-class servers, Intel will provide options for several flavors of Ethernet including GbE, Infiniband or versions of 10GE using 10GBase-T copper of SFP+ optical links. Some of the 10GE chips will support FCoE, and others will support iSCSI.