back to article Intel doubles Thunderbolt speed to 20Gbps

Intel's speedy but seldom-used networking standard Thunderbolt will double in speed to 20Gbps by year's end. Revealed at the NAB show, an event for broadcasting and content creation types, Intel said the next generation “Falcon Ridge” Thunderbolt controller will run at 20Gbps and “Supports 4K video file transfer and display …


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  1. Fuzz

    long cables

    I'm kind of struggling to come up with a use for 100m cables. If I wanted to connect to a NAS why wouldn't I use 10Gb Ethernet? If Intel could make the standard operate over cat6 cable then I could see uses for remote displays in offices.

    1. Fill

      Re: long cables

      In the demo (see Engadget for a convenient video clip), they are getting about 9.6Gbps (1200MBps)... actual throughput. You'll never get that with 10Gb ethernet with all the collisions and overhead. You'll maybe get 400MBps on 10Gbps Ethernet in real world usage. (Note, I'm trying to be good here about b = bits and B = bytes. :')

      1. Lusty

        Re: long cables @fill

        If you're running at half duplex maybe or using cheap switches with poor backplanes and insufficient buffers. You'll also be wanting to test with cached data to avoid your storage being the bottleneck, as well as making sure you have the extra 2GB memory per 10GbE port required just to run them. I've found 10GbE quite able to run at 10Gb speed consistently when the other systems can keep up.

        1. Fill

          Re: long cables @fill

          "I've found 10GbE quite able to run at 10Gb speed consistently when the other systems can keep up."

          It's literally impossible to run 10Gb of useful data through 10Gb Ethernet. For one, the packet headers take out a significant chunk (e.g. IP and TCP encapsulation) Secondly, packets don't train together perfectly w/o gaps on the wire. Lastly, you might be lucky to not have any TCP transmissions, but they do happen. What ever magic you've stumbled upon, please figure it out and publish it (or patent it!) I've love to use it.

          1. Lusty

            Re: long cables @fill

            You're massively overstating the amount of overhead though. Headers etc. take almost nothing from the overall bandwidth. The usual reason people make the mistake you're thinking of is the 8 to ten change going from b to B.

      2. Christian Berger

        @Fill Re: long cables

        The last Ethernet generation that had hubs and therefore collisions was 100Mbit Ethernet. 10Gig doesn't have hubs and therefore no collisions.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: long cables

      Would be perfect for my office at the bottom of the garden. Less chance of stuff being stolen if I can leave most of the hardware in the house.

    3. P. Lee

      Re: long cables

      Long video cables are useful. Most video extenders are very limited in resolution. You could run one cable to your TV from your PC in another room and have a virtual "PC under the TV". It's silent with no-compromise on performance. The cable might be expensive, but not as much as a separate media server.

      It makes sort-of-remote terminals with proper graphics possible. One PC can service a whole workgroup or house with full-speed video. Multi-seat PC's become a reasonable proposition, especially as multi-core CPU's become the norm, lowering latency problems. Again, you don't have to consider compromises, which makes the idea saleable.

      The tech might also make it possible to expand clusters. Where two servers of the same sort are talking to each other, linking them directly rather than buying four 10Gb/s for the servers and four 10Gb/s ports on a switch might be rather attractive. The obvious application I would see is state-sync for clusters where speed is preferred over general connectivity options.

      As has been mentioned, SAN is a nice option too. With these speeds, booting off a network SSD could be available to consumers and provide a boost without having to resort to a 20-disk RAID 5 system.

      Proper external graphics cards might come into play. I don't think the current ones have particularly good performance (IIRC).

  2. Daniel B.

    SAN, not NAS

    For something using Thunderbolt, I would think of a SAN instead of a NAS. Or simply attaching one of those big-ass 20TB 5-disk arrays with RAID5 support. Though these days I'd also think of using ZFS on the array; that way I can set up the array as a JBOD *and* have a very reliable FS on the attached stuff.

    The other use? A plug-in acceleration card for your x-treme gaming needs.

  3. Sensi

    Universal Serial Bus vs Thunderbolt, aka industry standard vs proprietary connector, with the first announced to be updated to 10 Gbit/s by mid 2013 the latter may never gain traction...

    1. Fill

      USB isn't even close

      Is it only 'proprietary' until mass adoption? You can run through the history of connectivity technology that Apple has used through the years being relatively 'first' that later became mainstream. My favorite is WiFi where Steve Jobs does this sort of corny "Let me unplug this laptop and carry it over to the other side of the stage while loading this web page" schtick during a keynote (you can Google for it and watch it). Blows the crowd away.

      Thunderbolt is basically PCIe. I own several Thunderbolt accessories. They are getting pretty cheap these days, for example, you can buy a Thunderbolt to HDMI cable for under $5 (USD) on Amazon. There simply is no such thing for USB. My next external drive will definitely be a Thunderbolt drive.

      1. GotThumbs

        Re: USB isn't even close

        Beta vs VHS. Beta was better, but VHS survived....til LD, DVD, BD.

        While no one will deny TB's speed and flexibility.....General consumers do not want to buy all new (expensive too) equipment...especially when most are only checking FB or their emails. Computers need less and less power/speed to meet the needs of the general population. Only Apple forces its users to comply, so they have no choice. Non-Apple users will buy TB if their needs require it.

        This technology will only benefit specialized markets IMO.

      2. Sensi

        Re: USB isn't even close

        Zz, Thunderbolt is a fusion of several proprietary/licensed connectors including Apple's Mini DisplayPort, for which Apple "reserves the right to void the license should the licensee "commence an action for patent infringement against Apple"."

        I don't know how much "proprietary" this could get... Five people and counting were stupid enough to vote down the facts...

        1. Mad Hacker

          Re: USB isn't even close

          While your legalese quote may be correct I find it hard to believe that appears on the VESA standard/license. Perhaps it's from when Apple was licensing the tech directly prior to VESA standard adoption.


    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Thunderbolt is not proprietary - it's a standard anyone can buy / use.

  4. A Non e-mouse Silver badge


    I think a big problem with Thunderbolt is the cables. There are few companies making them, and those that are available are quite expensive.

    1. Fill

      Re: Cables

      They are quite comparable to PCIe cards, which is basically what they are. They are 'active' cables with chips in them to perform the function. Longer data-only cables are actually fiber optic with the optical drivers in the cable ends. It's pretty cool tech and the prices are going down. Right now you are going to be paying at least a few thousand just for a computer and, say, external drive and you are complaining that a good 2 meter Thunderbolt cord is going to cost $40 USD?

  5. Jim Willsher THAT would be impressive

    "Firewire's 400Mbps and 800Gbps"

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    For me its the lack of available peripherals which is why I don't use it or buy into the tech. Also at the current cost it cant get widespread adoption as few people are going to pay the several hundred more for an TB equipped laptop.

    The availability of cost effective innovative uses that cant already be done acceptably by a slower technology like e-sata or USB3 are limited. I'd quite like to plug it into an external GPU while I am at home or have TB connected storage at work for VMs to be stored on. At the momnet having a TB - USB / Sata adaptor is not that helpful and I rarely need more than 2 displays as would most users!

    1. Fill

      Available Peripherals?

      Lack of peripherals? Google "thunderbolt expansion chassis" to start with and then down to external SSDs, dongles (VGA, DVI, Ethernet, etc.), cables (copper or fiber optic), etc. And tell me where I can get a USB3 to HDMI cable... for under $5 on Amazon like I can with a Thunderbolt to HDMI?

  7. Christian Berger

    It's not a networking standard

    It's an extension of an internal bus. Therefore it has full access to the hardware. You can even reach into the RAM from there, that's what it was designed for.

    So please never ever think of Thunderbolt as a networking standard, if you do you'll immediately get a myriad of "remote" exploits.

  8. Ian Ringrose

    I see thunderbolt as being a very useful way to connect a “docking station” with a single cable that contains monitor(s), backup devices, network links, usb ports etc. E.g. plug a tablet into a thunderbolt cable to turn it into a “real pc”. Shame you can’t do charging over the same cable…

  9. foxyshadis

    Needs laptop support

    Call me when an ultrabook gets Thunderbolt. Every interesting laptop I've come across in the last year that was going to include it eventually stripped it before mass production. When the U2442 dropped it, the laptop was no longer even close to worth the price tag to me. HDMI ports just can't handle external resolution higher than 1920x1200 no matter what the specs say.

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