Post Magazine

JULY 2011

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By working together, Intel and Apple were able to bring to market Thunderbolt, a new, high-speed I/O technology that offers bi-directional, dual-channel, 10Gb per second performance using a single cable. It is a dual-protocol technology, working with PCI Express and DisplayPort devices. Thunderbolt products require a controller chip, supplied by Intel (, and a small connector. Apple has already included Thunderbolt in its MacBook Pro and iMac products, and Intel is working with component manufacturers to deliver connectors and cables that will be compatible with PC products. This month, Post spoke with a number of manufacturers working in the storage realm that have already committed to delivering Thunder- bolt-enabled products.And while they were still in development at press time, you can expect to see some of them later this summer. G-TECHNOLOGY “We absolutely have plans for Thunderbolt,” says Pete Schlatter director of business development, professional products for G-Tech- nology, based in Culver City, CA.“G-Tech — being a Mac-focused, content creation-focused company — we certainly see the advan- more limited.” He points to Thunderbolt’s two channels of band- width. “There’s actually four channels, because it’s bi-directional 10 Gigabit, so it’s two channels of 10 Gigabit up and down. Basically, [there are] 40 Gigabits of bandwidth available in a Thunderbolt port. It’s just incredible!” G-Tech’s products, says Schlatter, will evolve to support Thunder- bolt, initially with their RAID products taking advantage of it, and then its single disk products.“The G-RAID will have a Thunderbolt port on it,” he predicts, pointing to Q4 and later to 2012.“I would see a product that also has FireWire, so it’s an evolution of that product. Moving forward to next year, you might see more RAID products from G-Tech. Something with a little more power.” And the inclusion of a Thunderbolt port will increase the pricing on products as they come to market.“My understanding is that it is not an inexpensive interface,” he says of Thunderbolt.“It is significantly more than a FireWire port, and especially USB, which is a very, very inexpensive interface. It’s going to add some cost.Again, on the RAID products, it really makes sense because of what you can do out in the field with Thunderbolt on a laptop.You would need a desktop com- puter with cards in it to get the performance they are talking about.” Thunderbo tages of having that nice fat pipe from storage to the system, espe- cially on a laptop and for the portable market.” G-Tech previewed its Thunderbolt product concept back at NAB, with what Schlatter described as “a science experiment.”The company had an ATTO RAID controller and a PCI bridge board connected to its G-Speed eS Pro — a four-bay, desktop unit.“We were getting over 500MBs a second [performance], so that is basi- cally the potential of the interface. It’s just a matter of us productiz- ing that science experiment and getting it out there.The easier task will be putting the port on our existing platforms like the G-RAID.” The majority of G-Tech’s users fall on the Mac side of the busi- ness, so the company sees lots of potential in Thunderbolt.“I would say better than 90 percent of our customers are Mac focused, and our products are designed for Macs and formatted for Macs.They work on a Mac right out of the box,” he explains.“It’s an easy refor- mat to get them to work on the PC, and we have plenty of PC users, especially in the content creation market, because they like the reliability and style that we bring to the table.” Adoption for Thunderbolt by the PC community could take some time, Schlatter notes.“My personal opinion is that you will see some things on the PC. Some of the PC manufacturers are pushing USB 3, as if it’s the best thing since sliced bread, and that seems to be the PC play right now. But as this technology evolves and be- comes a bit more ubiquitous and available, I think the advantage will become apparent over USB 3, and we’ll start seeing adapters and things for the PC side.” Schlatter doesn’t really consider USB 3.0 a serious competitor to Thunderbolt because “it’s built around a completely different technology. Basically, [Thunderbolt is a] PCIe connection, so you get extreme speed, very, very low latency, and the ability to do video and storage in the same pipe, whereas USB 3.0, I think, is a little bit 24 Post • July 2011 SONNET TECHNOLOGIES At NAB back in April, Sonnet Technologies (www. sonnet- previewed a number of Thunderbolt-enabled products, with the intention of shipping them this summer. According to VP of sales and marketing, Greg Laporte, the company is on track to deliver as anticipated. “There is perfor- mance,” says Laporte of Thunderbolt’s benefits. “From a single port per- spective, it’s 10 Gigabits per second transfer rate. You get two channels of that. FireWire is 800 Megabits per second, so it’s substantially faster.” Sonnet is expanding its Fusion line of storage products with Thunder- bolt products that include a portable two-drive SSD system, an economical four-drive RAID-5 unit, and a professional eight- drive video edition RAID storage system. The company’s Echo Express PCIe 2.0 expan- sion chassis with Thunderbolt ports allows users to plug in high-performance PCIe 2.0 adapters, such as video capture cards, Fibre Channel cards, Sonnet

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