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Fibre-Channel SAN History - the First Decade - by Zsolt Kerekes editor September 2004

This narrative article gives a retrospective view of the Fibre-Channel SAN market as covered by my publications in the period from the end of 1994 to 2004. You can also get snapshots of what was happening in the market overlapping the first decade and upto the present time by clicking on the links here which archived our main SAN page in the years:- 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007
Storage History
SSD Market History
InfiniBand Market History
SAN Applications - (1999 classic article)
History of Enterprise Disk to Disk Backup
A Storage Architecture Guide - (2000 classic article)
the SAN Book - State of the SAN Market in 2001 - (pdf)
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Storage History
Storage History
... Megabyte's ancestor, Sir Squeaks-a-Bit
had come over to England in 1066 with
William the Conquerer's ship in a barrel
of Normandy cheese.
We first published a directory of Fibre-channel adapters way back in 1994, when these products first appeared in the Sun market. They were listed in our SPARC Product Directory. The first Fibre-channel connected storage product we listed was the SPARCstorageArray from Sun Microsystems.

Although proprietary fiber cable extension products had been available for SCSI before that time from companies like Apcon, the new Fibre-channel provided an industry standard, and faster throughput. Due to the laws of physics, fiber optic technology enabled higher signalling rates over longer distances than copper cables and electrical signals.

Fibre-channel also provided greater reliability, because of the reduced amount of internal cabling within the servers and storage systems, because Fibre-channel was a serial interface, compared to SCSI which was a parallel interface and which had a very high cable core and connector count. Also Fibre-channel included fault tolerant mechanisms for rerouting around failed cable loops - although it was many years before these were properly supported by transparent failover software.

When it was first introduced, Fibre-channel enabled the campus wide consolidation of high throughput storage. In fact network attached storage using ethernet had existed for many years before the introduction of Fibre-channel, but its low throughput (based on the 10Mbps rates at the time) made it unsuitable for many applications compared to directly attached storage which was about 20x faster.

In the mid 1990s Fibre-channel initially gained popularity in the pre-press industry in which large image files were moved around from workstations to other types of specialized printing equipment.

The Fibre-channel directory moved over from our Sun directory, over to STORAGEsearch in 1998, and at one time we had 5 concurrent advertisers promoting FC host bus adapters until the market consolidated.

There was a lot of consolidation in the FC HBA market in the early 2000s so many of the companies from the 1990s no longer exist as independent companies. As this is a retrospective article - I've included some historic legacy banner ads from some past FC advertisers.
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The term "Storage Area Network" didn't start to come into popular vogue till 1999, when we added a special SAN page to STORAGEsearch.

Nowadays, the original advantages of Fibre-channel have been blurred as other technologies have adopted similar attributes. We are used to the concept of networking data at high speed over large distances using many different types of technologies. At the building or campus network level, IP technology in the form of iSCSI offers identical performance for most common tasks like backup. Also the term SAN, which originally referred just to a Fibre-channel connected network has become defocused by common usage. So we get IP-SAN which usually refers to iSCSI, and which uses Ethernet (not Fibre-channel) as the underlying transport in a local area network.

In Q2 2004, the main installed base for Fibre-channel runs at 2Gbps. But already several manufacturers have started to demonstrate host bus adapters, disks and switches which operate at 4Gbps. Some start up companies are also planning to interoperate with the standard when it reaches 10Gbps. After the first decade of commercial use Fibre-channel and SAN storage have become one of the central foundations of storage infrastructure and are here to stay.

See also:- SSD news, the Survivor's Guide to Enterprise SSDs
How Big is the Fibre-Channel SAN Market?

n 2004 Fibre-Channel SAN market revenue (which includes host bus adapters, switches and FC connected SAN disk and tape storage) was worth about $7 billion, which is approximately 10% of the total storage market.

Sources:- Dell'Oro Group, IDC and Peripheral Research.

See also:- Market research
SAN image i
SAN on
Megabyte had recently seen the movie City Slickers and was experimenting with a new data round-up technique.
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Agilent ships 4 millionth Fibre Channel IC

PALO ALTO, Calif. - November 17, 2004 - Agilent Technologies Inc. today announced it has shipped more than 4 million Tachyon Fibre Channel controller ICs since production began in 1995.

"The Tachyon brand has become an industry standard with more than 5.3 million ports in operation and more than 50% market share among disk array manufacturers," said Erik Ottem, marketing director of the Input/Output Solutions Division in Agilent's Semiconductor Products Group.
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