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Radar Picks Up CNA Growth In Q3

On November 11, Emulex and QLogic issued press releases announcing their respective Fibre Channel HBA market share gains in Q3CY09. Emulex highlighted a 4 percent gain in the standalone 8Gb HBA segment while QLogic emphasized their strength in blade server mezzanine cards that led to a overall 1.9 percent gain in market share. As the two giants in the Fibre Channel HBA market slug it out for a percentage or two each quarter, the new market for CNAs is quickly appearing on the radar.

During calendar 2009, Brocade, Emulex and QLogic announced a variety of design wins with Dell, IBM and HP for CNAs in PCI-E form-factors or CNAs in blade server mezzanine card form-factors. Other announcements this year covered the virtualization-optimized Palo CNA from Cisco and ConnectX EN from Mellanox. Each of these products includes support for Data Center Ethernet (DCE), the foundation of all CNAs.

According to an IT Brand Pulse Industry Brief, Manufacturer CNA port volume increased 133 percent quarter-over-quarter to a total of 9,800 ports, and revenue increased 148 percent quarter-over-quarter to $4.0 million. The rapid growth of CNA volume and revenue was led by Emulex with 163 percent quarter-over-quarter growth to $2.5 million and 170 percent quarter-over-quarter growth to 7,300 ports shipped. This growth positioned Emulex at the end of Q3CY09 with 2.1 x the revenue and 3.6 x the ports of their nearest competitor, QLogic.

Through Q3CY09, CNA volume was driven by Emulex and QLogic partnerships with Cisco. During Q4CY09 and Q1CY10, the assault on the legacy markets for Fibre Channel HBAs and Ethernet NICs will begin in earnest as activities at Dell, HP and IBM transition from CNA technical and sales training to CNA deployments.

Emulex enters CY10 with a product rich in NIC functionality and partnerships with OEMs to satisfy 10Gb NIC demand with Emulex CNAs. Support for iSCSI and FCoE offload will be added with pay-as-you-go upgrades in Q4CY09 or Q1CY10.

QLogic enters CY10 with a product rich in FCoE functionality and partnerships with OEMs to satisfy Fibre Channel HBA demand with QLogic CNAs. More robust NIC capabilities will emerge during CY10.

NIC industry leaders Broadcom and Intel will enter the CNA market in the first half of CY10. We could see could a quantum increase in CNA industry volume very quickly if Broadcom and Intel position their 10Gb CNAs to displace some or all of the 10Gb NICs they have been shipping for years and that are now ramping at over 50% per quarter.

My predictions are that
Emulex is clearly out of the blocks first in the CNA race, and during CY10, CNA deployments will align with the past. CNAs with solid NIC functionality will deploy in NIC applications, CNAs with great storage functionality will deploy in SAN applications and CNAs with low-latency will deploy in HPC clusters. Based on the fact the data center NIC market is four times bigger than the Fibre Channel HBA market, I like the NIC market focus of Broadcom, Emulex and Intel.