With every generation of Ethernet there is always a new crop of agile startups who race to silicon and deliver a variety of new ASICs for network adapters and switches. As the market matures competition thins the herd and after several years only the best products remain. This Darwinian process is what the market does best, and the process was in full swing in January of 2009 when I authored a post "Thinning the 10GbE Herd." In this article I mentioned NetXen, Neterion, Tehuti, ServerEngines, NetEffect, & Teak Technologies all of which are gone three years later.
Today three startups who have remained focused on high performance 10GbE network interface card (NIC) silicon & software for the past six years still remain. These companies are: Chelsio, Myricom & Solarflare. Don't get me wrong, large public companies like Intel, Broadcom, Emulex & Qlogic ship far more 10GbE ports, but these are all well established public companies focused on the larger 10GbE market, and with significant silicon production capabilities. To be complete there is also a cache of very niche players like: Napatech, Endace and HotLava but these firms leverage FPGAs or in HotLava's case Intel silicon.
As someone who's been selling 10GbE for the past seven years full time, it finally appears that 2012 will be the year of convergence. Chelsio & Solarflare are both venture capital backed and by most estimates are reaching the end of their funding. Myricom is privately held, and has been running on revenue for 18 years, also last week they announced a partnership with Emulex.
In the recent past Intel gobbled up NetEffect & Folcrum so their appetite for 10GbE appears pretty well satiated. Early on Broadcom acquired Siliquent, and they appear content. So the game of musical chairs has started. Emulex & Qlogic have made various plays, but they both still appear hungry, which leaves only two seats. We have three remaining players (Chelsio, Myricom & Solarflare). Later this year the music will stop, none may remain, and the convergence will be complete. Two may win, and likely one will lose, the question is which?
Then in 2013 we get to start it all over again with 40GbE!