It might be time for the Fibre Channel naysayers to stand up and eat a little crow. A fair number of industry luminaries went out on a limb over 3 years ago announcing the imminent demise of Fibre Channel. Many individuals around our industry jumped on that prediction and assumed it was a fait accompli, but it now appears that one group that was not deceived was the customers who were designing and implementing data centers. Brocade has seen record shipments of Fibre Channel in the first half of our fiscal year and the overall market is at record highs as well. There are several elements of this story which are not going to be obvious to casual observers, so if you would like to have a more credible perspective of what the next five years is going to be like, read on.
This is not a blip, legacy design build-out, or inventory bubble. This is the start of another full generation purchasing cycle for this time-tested, rock solid and perfectly tuned technology. Plenty of analysts are poring over the numbers looking for the “trick” but it is merely not there. The facts are that inventories are at record low levels, the storage applications which demand Fibre Channel networks continue to grow, and most importantly the fastest growing portion of the Fibre Channel market is the state-of-the-art, next generation chassis (Brocade DCX 8550) which we released last year. I highlight this fact because Brocade is experiencing one of our fastest conversions to a next generation platform from its predecessor. With this buying behavior customers are sending a clear message, “we intend to utilized Fiber Channel for the most advanced, demanding and scale-out storage solutions, for at least the next 5 years.” This unique new chassis product provides the ultimate in diagnostic capabilities, large scale efficiency, and uptime, and our customers are selecting this NEXT GENERATION solution for nearly 50% of their purchases.
Brocade is in the enviable position of being a leader in networking for all types of data center solutions. Our networking solutions for virtualization, convergence, Fibre Channel, iSCSI, NAS and even FCoE are often the most complete in the industry, so we get to see where each of these technologies is optimized and where they are being deployed. What we see is that this battle is not a “winner takes all” scenario. Instead, each technology is finding its own niche for storage applications where each excels.
The most salient adoption trend continues to be the hunger for information storage, analysis and retrieval. The demand is driving scale-up of existing models, diversifying into alternative models, and growing into brand new applications. What one should infer from this is that this strength in the market is not merely driven by the record demand for Fibre Channel, but in fact, most storage architectures are seeing increased demand. NAS, iSCSI and Solid State Discs (SSD) are all being deployed in larger numbers. Ironically FCoE continues to struggle to find widespread deployment in any role other than server to top-of-rack.
There is no question that there is an evolution happening in the area of information storage. There continues to be a tremendous amount of capacity build-out and with that suppliers like Brocade are driving continuous innovation. While it seems even more difficult to predict what the data center networking landscape will be in 5 to 10 years, it is looking much more certain that Fibre Channel will continue to maintain the premiere role for high reliability scale-out data center architectures.