Network Computing is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

The Hidden Value Of iSCSI Networks: Over $500 Million And Growing

Born in 1685, George Berkeley was an Irish philosopher who created and promoted a theory he called "immaterialism." He talked of objects ceasing to exist once there was nobody around to perceive them, and was famously quoted as asking, "If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, did it really fall?"

A possible example of immaterialism is iSCSI networking. While the storage industry loudly acknowledges the presence of iSCSI interface storage, it is eerily silent about how many Ethernet "host" ports and Ethernet "switch" ports are being used to connect servers to iSCSI storage. The industry does count the ports, but they are counted as "generic Ethernet" ports because we have no way of knowing if a data center administrator uses an Ethernet port for data networking (e-mail and management), storage networking (NAS and ISCSI) or server networking (clusters).

So, if Ethernet/iSCSI networking ports get installed in the data center and no one knows it, did they really get installed? Based on the storage industry's focus on Fibre Channel and FcoE, the answer is that if no one was around to perceive the use of Ethernet ports for iSCSI,  they ceased to exist.

If the revenue opportunity was small, it wouldn't have been worth researching George Berkeley quotes, but IT Brand Pulse estimates the hidden value of rapidly growing Ethernet / iSCSI storage networking to be well over $500 million in 2009.

IT Brand Pulse gives credit for the rapid growth of iSCSI to Microsoft, who started shipping an iSCSI software driver with Windows in 2003. Six years later, in 2009 the SAN array population is approximately 80% Fibre Channel and 20% iSCSI. About 3 million Fibre Channel adapter ports and 6 million Fibre Channel switch ports will also ship in 2009 to connect those Fibre Channel arrays to servers. If you assume the same number of iSCSI host ports per iSCSI array, there will be 750,000 Ethernet host ports and 1.2 million Ethernet switch ports configured for iSCSI in 2009.  An average sales price of $300 per port puts the value of the 1.95 million Ethernet iSCSI host and switch ports at $585 million.

If you're wondering who is getting that new iSCSI networking business, IT Brand Pulse estimates in 2009 about 50,000 of those host ports will be iSCSI HBAs from QLogic and about 700,000 of those iSCSI host ports will be embedded Ethernet chips or add-on adapter cards from Broadcom and Intel. IT Brand Pulse believes the 1.2 million Ethernet / iSCSI switch ports are going to switch vendors that have storage and Ethernet portfolios and that points to Cisco and Brocade.

The current generation of iSCSI storage systems use 1 gigabit Ethernet technology. Next generation iSCSI storage systems incorporate among other things, 10 gigabit Ethernet connections to a storage network. Look for adapter vendors like Emulex to capitalize on this inflection point with a new class of 10 gigabit converged network adapters that support data networking and storage networking including iSCSI. And look for Cisco and Brocade to dominate the market for 10 gigabit storage area networks carrying iSCSI traffic.

How big will this iSCSI networking tree get before someone notices?