Cisco has revised its SFS 7000D InfiniBand switches, doubling their speed to 20Gbit/s and adding a management interface compatible with its IOS-based Ethernet and Fibre Channel switches.

The company claimed that this means that anyone familiar with one of the three network types can manage the other two as well.

The change recognises that "data centre fabrics" will inevitably incorporate more than just Ethernet, said Dante Malegrino, Cisco's senior marketing manager for data centre solutions.

"The main application for InfiniBand is high-performance computing, and clustering is driving a lot of data centre computing," he said. "It's a matter of capabilities and needs, for example high-performance computing needs five to ten microsecond latency, and Fibre Channel and Ethernet can't offer that."

He added that Cisco is also trying to sell InfiniBand to its existing customers by making it look familiar: "We are trying to make the barrier to adoption as low as possible. The most important point is how you manage things, and that's what we want to make consistent."

That's a big change from the days when we were told - by Cisco and others - that Ethernet would triumph over every other network technology. Malagrino said that it's partly because Fibre Channel is now too heavily embedded to be dislodged, but added that there's now a realisation that one size does not fit all.

"It's not Ethernet killing off the competition," he said. "Today there are very clear requirements for all these technologies to exist because they address different needs - the roles of each are clearly defined.

"Even if Ethernet were to take over the world, it wouldn't be Ethernet as we know it - it would need to evolve to take on Fibre Channel or InfiniBand characteristics."

The move to 20Gbit/s InfiniBand means that Cisco has caught up with rivals such as Mellanox, SilverStorm and Voltaire. Other InfiniBand developers are already working on 40Gbit/s quad data rate, however.