Host Adapters: Market Leaders, Broad & Niche

Here's my take on the prospects of the leading NIC and HBA vendors

Frank Berry

April 28, 2009

3 Min Read
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Technology companies know one benchmark for survival is being No. 1 or No. 2 in a market segment. The reasons for that is that those leadership positions reflect a vendor's ability to develop leading technology, get products to market first, and to effectively market and sell the products -- all necessary ingredients for consistent top-line and bottom-line growth. If a vendor cannot execute well in all of those areas across a broad market and become No. 1 or No. 2, that company needs to implement a different strategy -- define a niche where it can focus on doing all those things on a smaller scale and become a niche market Leader.

Broadcom's proposed acquisition of Emulex reflects the strategy of many controller/adapter vendors to become broad market leaders. But there's room for only No. 1 and No. 2. The other vendors must be happy to succeed as niche market leaders. Here's my take on the prospects of the leading NIC and HBA vendors:

Broadulex -- Broad CNA Adapter Market Leader

A technology leader for Ethernet NICs and Fibre Channel HBAs. The combination of Broadcom and Emulex is also a brand leader in both segments. According to the April 2009 IT Brand Pulse Leader surveys, Broadcom is perceived by IT professionals as No. 2 market leader for 10-Gbit/s and Emulex is perceived as No. 2 market leader for 8-Gbit/s Fibre Channel HBAs. Broadulex is the only adapter company well positioned today to be a broad CNA market leader.

Brocade -- End-to-End Niche Adapter Market LeaderThe only vendor seriously building end-to-end networking technology that ties together adapters and switches, I see Brocade with the potential to deliver innovative solutions that customers prefer over components from separate adapter and switch vendors. If Brocade can deliver 10-Gig Ethernet controllers for LAN-on-Motherboard (LOM) applications, the company can move beyond end-to-end niche market leader to a broad CNA market leader.

Intel -- Ethernet NIC Niche Adapter Leader

A technology leader and brand leader for Ethernet NICs. According to the April 2009 IT Brand Pulse Leader surveys, Intel is perceived by IT professionals as No. 1 market leader for 10-Gbit/s Ethernet adapters. If Intel can find a way to get traction with a Fibre Channel stack or acquire QLogic, the company can move beyond Ethernet NIC niche market leader to a broad CNA market leader.

QLogic -- Fibre Channel Niche Adapter Leader

A technology leader and brand leader for Fibre Channel HBAs. According to the April 2009 IT Brand Pulse Leader surveys, QLogic is perceived by IT professionals as No. 1 market leader for 8-Gbit/s Fibre Channel adapters. If QLogic can find a way to get traction with its FCoE adapter used as a NIC and deliver 10-Gbit/s Ethernet controllers for LOM applications, the company can move beyond Fibre Channel niche market leader to a broad CNA market leader.If you see things differently, let me know.

Frank Berry is CEO of IT Brand Pulse, a company that surveys enterprise IT managers about their perceptions of vendors and their products. Berry is a 30 year veteran of the IT industry, including senior executive positions with QLogic and Quantum.

InformationWeek Analytics has published an independent analysis of the challenges around enterprise storage. Download the report here (registration required).

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