10 Gb iSCSI and FCoE Will Not Strongly Challenge Fibre Channel for Years

EUGENE, Ore. – September 26, 2011 – LightCounting has released a report titled "Network Storage: Several Years Before FCoE/10 Gb iSCSI Threaten Fibre Channel” This report examines the various topologies of network storage, and the long-term viability of Fibre Channel given the potential of two competing block-level network storage technologies: Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) and 10Gb iSCSI.  The report also examines, in detail, the overall 10Gb Ethernet market and provides forecasts of both server and switch port counts and manufacturer revenue for 10GbE, Fibre Channel, 10Gb iSCSI, and FCoE.  These forecasts leverage LightCounting’s transceiver research as a basis as well as our expanded research into copper-based technologies such as 10GBASE-T, 10GBASE-KR, direct access Twinax cables (i.e., DA cables), and copper-based Fibre Channel cards.

“After ten years of frustration, 10Gb Ethernet is finally taking off,” commented Kimball Brown, Vice President and Senior Datacom Analyst at LightCounting. “The next questions are whether and how soon network storage will move to Ethernet?  We expect that even in 2015, FCoE and 10 Gb iSCSI port counts combined will not catch up to Fibre Channel.”

Fibre Channel (FC) is the incumbent in block network storage ports and revenues.  FC is a high-value, high-cost platform with excellent support in the marketplace as all the players (HBA suppliers, switch makers, target makers, and server OEMs) are consistently profitable and have a vested interest in continuing to sell and support it.  iSCSI has been a simmering, potential challenger for over ten years, but it has never quite hit the hockey stick curve in growth and acceptance.  The investment has never been made in iSCSI to drive acceptance.  By 2014, LightCounting expects 10Gb iSCSI to make strong advances as 10GBASE-T becomes much more ubiquitous. 

FCoE does have OEM sponsorship (via Cisco, EMC, and VMware) that iSCSI lacks.  Cisco is betting hugely on FCoE, and our forecast for switch revenues shows why.  However, Cisco is currently a very small player in the server market, and the company needs to grow its server brand and broaden its portfolio of products before its investment can pay off.  If our forecast proves conservative, Cisco will ride a strong wave of new revenues and profitability. 

However, neither 10Gb iSCSI nor FCoE will strongly challenge Fibre Channel for years to come.  In fact, we believe that Fibre Channel will be a strong force through the decade with 16 Gb this year and 32 Gb versions on the horizon. 

By 2014, LightCounting projects that 10GbE will finally surpass 1GbE in total ports counts.  By then, 10GBASE-T will finally allow the upgrade of CAT5/6/6A and RJ45 connections in volume.  In the meantime, 10GBASE-KR infrastructures in Blade servers will continue to grow, and optics-based SFP+ infrastructures will thrive as the emergence of DA cables allows low-cost, short-reach connections, and the continued drop in 10GbE transceivers allow further, broad-based acceptance of 10GbE.

Leading vendors shared confidential sales data with LightCounting that enable an analysis of the industry’s dynamics.  More information on the report is available at

About LightCounting
LightCounting is a market research company focused on in-depth study of the optical communications market. Our research covers the whole supply chain including components, modules, systems, and their applications. Most of our analysis is based on confidential sales data provided exclusively to LightCounting by leading component and module suppliers.

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