By Tom Coughlin
Thunderbolt 2.0 has emerged not just as a direct connect interface with many products on display at the 2014 NAB show, but also as a possible networking technology.
Thunderbolt 2 raised the data rate of this active interconnect technology from 10Gbps to 20Gbps of raw data rate. Thunderbolt 2, developed by Intel, was introduced in September 2013. Earlier in this year there was talk of networking capability for Thunderbolt 2, but at the 2014 NAB show Intel clarified their intentions — Thunderbolt as a network architecture.
In addition to supporting 20Gbps connections for peripheral devices such as storage systems and displays, Thunderbolt 2 will support Ethernet traffic up to 10Gbps. This Ethernet functionality is achieved using an emulated environment that acts as a 10GbE port for data transfers between devices.
Drivers enabling this functionality were released for Apple OS X and high-end Mac Pro and MacBook Pro models offering a Thunderbolt 2.0 interface. A driver for Windows is in development. Ethernet functionality in Thunderbolt 2 could be used for applications, including transferring files between OS X and Windows-based systems using a Thunderbolt cable without additional networking hardware or software.
Introduced at NAB
Thunderbolt 2.0 provides an interface with growing popularity for video post due to data rates that can support 4K graphics. At the 2014 NAB show there were a number of companies offering single and multi-drive storage systems with Thunderbolt 1.0 and 2.0 interfaces. These included ATTO, HGST (a division of Western Digital), ExaSAN, LaCie, OWC, Promise Technology, and several other companies.
ATTO announced a portable adapter (the ThunderLink Desklink) that provides Thunderbolt 2 connectivity to 16Gb/s Fibre Channel storage, including SANS. The company’s Advanced Data Streaming technology provides predictable data transfers for high performance applications or mobile platform users.
ExaSAN, offering PCIe 3.0 storage solutions was showing its C1M PCIe to Thunderbolt 2 DAS/SAN converter that allows Mac computer users to connect their MACs to ExaSAN DAS and SAN external PCIe 3.0 solutions using the Thunderbolt 2 port. This product provides up to 1,2 GB/s data rates. A second C1M converter enables a MacBook Prod to access an ExaSAN network.
G-Tech announced their new G-Speed Studio and G-RAID Studio products, sleek black external storage systems offering Thunderbolt 2 connections with removable enterprise class 7,200 RPM drives, 20 Gb/s interfaces and 6 TB HDDs. Also on display were the Evolution series Thunderbolt 1 products with removable drives.
LaCie, now a division of Seagate Technology, introduced a number of products with Thunderbolt 2 interfaces. These products also included the recently introduced 6TB HDDs from Seagate Technology. The company said that the combination of speed and capacity make these products a good fit for 4K video workflows.
The LaCie 8big Rack is the company’s first rack mounted Thunderbolt storage system with up to 8-6TB HDDs for 48TB in a 2U rack with data rates up to 1,22GB/s. The 5big offers data rates up to 1.05GB/s and up to 30TB using 5-6TB drives. The new 2big product offers speeds up to 420 MB/s with up to 12 TB of capacity using two 6TB drives.
Other World Computing (OWC) was showing its OWC Mercury Elite Pro Dual with Thunderbolt interface and storage capacities for the two drive unit up to 8TB. The device default setting is RAID-0 mode where data is striped across both drives for the highest data rates up to 389MB/s.
Promise Technology also introduced three new Thunderbolt 2 and shared storage systems at the 2014 NAB show. These included the company’s new 2.5-inch HDD/SSD Thunderbolt 2 Pegasus2 M4, extension of the Pagasus2 Thunderbolt 2 RAID storage solution.
The SANLink2 10G is a Thunderbolt 2 10GBase-T bridge adapter that connects a Mac Pro or other Thunderbolt 2 enabled Mac to a 10Gb Ethernet network. The adapter provides a cost effective infrastructure for direct Ethernet access from Thunderbolt 2.
High resolution, high frame rate and higher dynamic range video require higher storage capacities and higher data rates. High-speed interfaces like the 20GB/s Thunderbolt 2 enable these data transfers and Ethernet connectivity through Thunderbolt 2 will extend the usefulness of this interface for some networking applications.
Tom Coughlin, founder of Coughlin Associates, is a storage analyst and consultant with over 30 years in the data storage industry. Coughlin Associates provides market and technology analysis as well as data storage technical consulting services. In addition to publishing the Digital Storage Technology Newsletter and the Media and Entertainment Storage Report, Coughlin is founder and organizer of the annual Storage Visions Conference, a partner to the International CES, as well as the Creative Storage Conference.