Finisar CEO: FC Rising With 10G

Jerry Rawls says demand for 10-Gbit/s Ethernet won't reduce Fibre Channel sales

June 23, 2007

4 Min Read
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Finisar CEO Jerry Rawls loves Fibre Channel. Making optical components for use in Fibre Channel equipment helps keep over 3,000 Finisar employees busy all day, and Fibre Channel accounted for a hefty portion of his firm's $419 million revenues last year. (See Finisar Updates Expectations.)

"Fibre Channel demand overall will be strong for the next number of years," Rawls declared in an interview with Byte and Switch yesterday.

He dismisses speculation that iSCSI will cut into Fibre Channel sales. He's simply not concerned about iSCSI from a business standpoint. "In some sense, maybe I don't care," Rawls says. "There is a huge infrastructure around Fibre Channel SANs, a huge installed base of 2- and 4-Gbit/s Fibre Channel switches... I just got back from visiting a site with more than 100 switches in one SAN."

No names are provided, but Rawls says the site was part of a telecom company.

Rawls, who's been CEO of Finisar since 1989, says Fibre Channel use is expanding, not shrinking, as the need for storage increases. "Growth in storage is all around us. Big SAN operators are growing at extraordinary rates," he says. Drivers include the use of video, online access for customers of financial firms and other suppliers of services, and the need to retain records in compliance with regulations -- and get access to them instantly.Three quarters ago, Rawls says, Finisar reached the crossover point, shipping more 4-Gbit/s Fibre Channel components than 2-Gbit/s. And faster gear is on the horizon, as Finisar customers, which include Cisco and other major suppliers, start planning new FC wares.

"In the last quarter, we have supplied several thousand 8-Gbit/s optics [components] for Fibre Channel suppliers, as well as analyzers to manufacturers." By mid-2008, he expects 8-Gbit/s FC products to roll out.

Finisar's background in Fibre Channel, which started with its provision of FC protocol analyzers in the 1990s, is also driving the shipment of NetWisdom Enterprise, a monitoring tool that incorporates monitors capable of tracking and analyzing storage traffic at data rates to 4 Gbit/s. (See Finisar Intros Enterprise Monitor.) Adopted by a number of customers, including Scotland's Halifax Bank, NetWisdom has become a pet project of Rawls.

"Storage can't fail, but there's been no monitoring available," he says. "It's fabric blindness -- no view into bottlenecks or latency."

NetWisdom sales account for a small portion (5 percent or less) of Finisar's current revenues, but Rawls hopes that increases. He says Finisar's close to closing resale agreements for NetWisdom with IBM and EMC, and discussions are in the works with HDS. "We have participated in some discussions with customers of EMC, and we have major parts of an agreement in place with IBM to go to market together."Could NetWisdom turn into a spinoff? "Anything's possible," Rawls says. But for now, he's more interested in pushing the product. "It's growing fast. We started with three-quarters of a million [in sales] then moved to $1.4 million, and now it's up to 5 percent [of revenues]... We are spinning our investment in Fibre Channel software to benefit Fibre Channel vendors. We have a product for which customers are very enthusiastic."

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But Finisar's most aggressive growth is in 10-Gbit/s Ethernet optics, according to Rawls. According to the company's preliminary fourth-quarter 2007 financials released June 12, optical components, including transceivers, designed for data rates of 10-Gbit/s and up, accounted for roughly 15 percent of sales -- $14.9 million out of a total $97.3 million in revenues for the quarter ended April 30, 2007.

That $14.9 million was up 28.5 percent sequentially and 172 percent year-on-year.

"Ten-gig is the fastest-growing part of our business... We see growth doubling every year. We see it doubling next year, and the year after that," Rawls says.Cisco, which is a key customer of Finisar's, is also, according to Rawls, the supplier of 70 to 80 percent of all 10-Gbit/s Ethernet ports worldwide.

How will those ports be deployed? "Ten-gig ports are really for aggregation, to link one switch to another... It's all about HPC and clustered computing."

Suppliers are proving that FC and Ethernet aren't mutually exclusive, he says. "In the past, most of the companies that bought Fibre Channel did not buy Ethernet connections, with the exception of a couple -- Cisco and HP, for instance... Most companies were in one camp or the other. One thing we hear is that companies with Fibre Channel gear have expressed interest in having Ethernet ports as well."

As a supplier of transceivers, Finisar is ever ready to expand its roster of interfaces. Analyzers now support SAS and SATA as well as Fibre Channel, for instance, because Fibre Channel suppliers are offering boxes with FC front ends and SAS or SATA storage on the back end, Rawls says.

Rawls seems determined to keep pace. "The world of Fibre Channel and Ethernet being separate may go away," he says, replaced by the concept of having one port that plugs into one giant switch that in turn is capable of handling a range of interfaces on demand.If Jerry Rawls can manage it, Finisar will be there.

Figure 1: Jerry Rawls, CEO and chairman, Finisar

Mary Jander, Site Editor, Byte and Switch

  • Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • Finisar Corp. (Nasdaq: FNSR)

  • Hitachi Data Systems (HDS)

  • Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ)

  • IBM Corp.

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