In 2003 we saw the emergence of the 10GbE server adapter market with only several players, we’ll call this the first wave. Early products by Neterion and Intel carried extremely high price tags, often approaching $10K. This lead to a flood of companies jumping into the market in an effort to secure an early mover advantage. High-Performance Computing (HPC) companies like Myricom with it’s Myrinet 2G, and Mellanox with Infiniband SDR 10G was viewed by some as possibly having a competitive advantage as they’d already developed silicon in this area. In August of 2005, I joined Myricom to help them transition from HPC to the wider Ethernet market. By March of 2006, we launched a single port 10GbE product with a $595 price point, three years accompanied by a 10X drop in market price. That year the 10GbE market had grown to 18 different companies all offering 10GbE server adapters, we’ll consider this the second wave. In my 2013 article “Crash & Boom: Inside the 10GbE Adapter Market” I explored what had happened up to that point to take the market from 18 players down to 10, you guessed it the third wave. Today only six companies remain who are actually advancing the Ethernet Controller market forward, and this is perhaps the fourth wave.
Intel is the dominant 10GbE adapter market player. They are viewed by many as the commodity option who checks the majority of the feature boxes while delivering reasonable performance. Both Mellanox and QLogic are the exascale players as their silicon carries Infiniband specific features which they’ve convinced this market are important. In storage Chelsio rules as they’ve focused considerable silicon towards offloading the computational requirements of iSCSI. For the low latency and performance over BSD compliant TCP and UDP sockets sought by the financial traders of the world, Solarflare is king. This leaves one remaining actor, Broadcom, and in fact, they were acquired by Avago who also picked up Emulex. The word is they’ve dramatically cut their Ethernet controller development staff right after having completed their 25GbE controller ASIC, which may be why we’ve not seen it reach the market.
So as the 10GbE market sees feature & performance gains as the silicon is migrated over the next several years to 25GbE and 50GbE expect to continue seeing these four players dominate in their respective niches: Intel, Mellanox, Qlogic, Solarflare & Chelsio. I view this final phase as the fifth wave.