A study released by IDC last week indicates a rosy outlook for the adoption of InfiniBand communications technology over the next five years, with sales of the technology leaping from $94.9 million in 2006 to $612.2 million in 2011.

Further, the IT research firm forecasts that worldwide InfiniBand host channel adaptor factory revenues will accelerate from $62.3 million in 2006 to $224.7 million in 2011. The InfiniBand Trade Association (IBTA) funded the report.

The growth will be fuelled by demand for the technology to support financial and commercial applications running on high-performance computing systems, growing virtualisation and cluster deployments, and expanding server, database and storage infrastructure workloads, according to the report.

InfiniBand supporters said the technology is spreading because of a variety of factors.

Jim Pappas, director of initiative marketing in the enterprise platforms group at chip maker Intel, said that firms like his are moving aggressively to build multicore processors that can be used to boost application distribution across clusters.

In addition, Linux distributors and Microsoft are adding out-of-box InfiniBand support to their operating systems while the promise of InfiniBand to boost the efficiency and cut the power use of existing architectures is proving attractive to users, said Pappas, who represents Intel on the IBTA board of directors.

Meanwhile, he noted that InfiniBand has been running at around 20GB/sec. for the last year and should see its throughput capability bumped up to 40GB/sec. within the next year for industry shipments.

IT vendors are jumping on the InfiniBand curve as well, the report noted, citing several acquisitions in recent years, including Cisco System's purchase of Topspin Communications in 2005 for $250 million, and QLogic's 2006 acquisitions of PathScale and SilverStorm Technologies for a combined $169 million.

Pappas said that storage is a prime area of the data centre poised to benefit from InfiniBand as the interconnect technology matures. InfiniBand currently supports two storage protocols - SCSI RMDA protocol, which helps utilise block storage devices over an InfiniBand fabric, and iSER (iSCSI RMDA) for iSCSI environments.

Both protocols can be used in IT environments that use an InfiniBand fabric to connect servers, he said. Pappas did note that IT managers need to know that InfiniBand is a complement - not a replacement - for Fibre Channel storage networking or Ethernet protocols. "People get confused. Ethernet is the standard and InfiniBand is much smaller. The intention is not to displace Ethernet," said Pappas.

"When Fibre Channel was adopted for SANs, it didn't take market share from Ethernet. In the same way, InfiniBand is not meant to displace Fibre Channel in SANs, but there are certainly performance areas when storage needs to be high performance, and we get that from moving InfiniBand to the SAN."