Intel throws Thunderbolt
USB 3.0 smackdown!
Now we know why Intel was dragging its feet with USB 3.0 support - it's got its own competing interconnect that's twice as fast in Thunderbolt (formerly known as Light Peak).
Thunderbolt is a 10Gbit/s, bi-directional, dual channel, copper link containing an Intel controller chip and supporting two protocols: DisplayPort and PCIe. Intel says a high-definition movie can be transferred across it in less than 30 seconds (neglecting to tell us the size of the file).
Thunderbolt controller chip (Intel photo).
Six peripherals can be daisy-chained onto it and, like USB, power can be supplied to connected peripherals: up to 10W.
It was designed as an optical interconnect - that's what "Light" Peak meant - but copper has proved to be more practical for now. It is basically a serial bus, a single cable with both PCIe data transfer protocol into a host's memory or PCIe-connected peripherals, and DisplayPort for displays that can have greater than 1080p resolution and up to eight audio channels.
This side of Thunderbolt is compatible with existing DisplayPort displays and adapters, so Apple will be pleased. Bob Mansfield, the Mac hardware engineering SVP, said: "With ultra-fast transfer speeds, support for high-resolution displays and compatibility with existing I/O technologies, Thunderbolt is a breakthrough for the entire industry and we think developers are going to have a blast with it."
FireWire is going to be blasted away, that's for sure. Apple is so pleased it has adopted Thunderbolt for its new MacBook Pro. We can forget eSATA as well. If it is cheap enough then we can kiss USB 3.0 goodbye too.
Thunderbolt can be, Intel's release claims, the only connector needed for ultra-thin laptops. It says Thunderbolt is "complementary to other I/O technologies that Intel continues to support," meaning, we guess, USB. Yeah, complementary like a cannibal is to a vegetarian. Does Intel take us for fools?
If Thunderbolt spreads into the Windows PC market and (whisper it) tablets, then Intel stands to make billions of the controller chips needed. The revenue implications for an Intel chip-only interconnect in that case are wonderful - for Chipzilla. It gets a stranglehold on PC and Mac interconnects like it has a stranglehold on laptop, desktop and commodity servers processors.
Is that likely? Initial Thunderbolt adoptees include Aja, Apogee, Avid, Blackmagic, LaCie, Promise and Western Digital. The last three make storage for both Macs and X86 notebooks, desktops and servers. Do you need a weatherman to see which way Intel wants the wind to be blowing? ®
Seems a little negative...
Not wanting to defend Intel's past anti-competitive behavior, but can you really begrudge the idea of Intel earning billions of dollars on cool tech like this?
I say we pay the man and enjoy our blistering new data transfer speeds!
We can forget eSATA as well.
The same was said about USB 3.0. Anything that is not SATA is going to be slower, as unless something changes and HDD's change to another interface they are always SATA. So you are only ever going to get the speed the SATA / eSATA interface can deliver. Plus you get the extra latency of the protocol conversion from SATA to USB 3, Thunderbolt etc. It may not be much, but it is still there.
You can argue about eSATA not being a very practical connection, with lack of support etc. But for speed there is nothing faster.
As far as I am aware.....
Obviously for non storage devices this will be different, but in those cases eSATA, would not be an option anyway.
Well ain't that peachy? Another interface faster than your typical external hard drive.
It's getting to the point that swapping vids with the chaps at work takes all day, and then some.
Complementary Dear Watson
Why not? In the short to medium term everyone still has stackloads of USB devices that require support. Anyone who thinks USB will go away in a day and a night is sorely mistaken. I'd bet that in 7 years time that even if Thunderbolt is ubiquitous, USB will still be mandatory to support all those keyboards, mice and "USB sticks".
Eventually of course it will take over, but why ever not? I'm not sure how much I care about the politics when the technology is that good. It's a very clever design too. Expansion cards that you can plug in over PCIe? That's very neat. In fact, I look forward to the day when my monitor, mouse, keyboard and anything else all runs off the same cable.
Wait a minute, it is a sleek, slim and nice connector right? :P
vs. other interconnects
"...data transfer protocol into a host's memory or PCIe-connected peripherals..."
I have not read the Light Peak spec. That said, if LP transfers packet oriented data with full management channel(s) in the sense that Infiniband does, then LP might be a decent alternative to IB, modulo existence of a software stack (something like OpenIB), to which an MPI stack could speak.
If these things were true, this would be very nice because LP seems t o be targetted at the mass market, thus ought to be a lot cheaper than IB hardware.