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Data Storage Networking Apple

First Thunderbolt Peripherals Arrive To Market 259

Posted by timothy
from the powered-by-thor dept.
MojoKid writes "Promise Technology recently launched the first Thunderbolt-compatible devices; the company's Pegasus RAID R4 and R6 storage solutions can now be ordered from the Apple Store. There's a catch, however. In order to use either storage array, one must first purchase a cable directly from Apple. The company has priced the two-meter cable at $50. As it turns out, Thunderbolt uses what's called an active cable. Inside the cable there's a pair of Gunnum GN2033 transceivers. The GN2033 is a tiny, low power transceiver chip designed to be placed inside the connectors at either end of a Thunderbolt cable, enabling dual bidirectional 10Gb/s concurrent links over narrow-gauge copper wires. The cable's $50 price may be justified, but it's also a further reminder of why Thunderbolt may follow FireWire's path into obsolescence. Apple is the only company currently selling Thunderbolt cables."
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First Thunderbolt Peripherals Arrive To Market

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  • or maybe (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 01, 2011 @01:47AM (#36630836)

    or maybe, once production is ramped up, prices will go down. Since that's what generally happens with new technology.

    • Re:or maybe (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Serenissima (1210562) on Friday July 01, 2011 @01:52AM (#36630848)
      That's crazy talk. This is Slashdot. Where anything remotely related to Apple or Microsoft must be met with derision! There's no need to bring logic or common sense into the discussion!
      • Given Apple's recent history with the limited acceptance of the very capable Firewire interconnect technology, MojoKid raises the possibility of limited acceptance of Apple's push of the very capable Thunderbolt interconnect technology. Sounds logical and sensible to me. You would have to be in the grip of a KoolAid enema psychosis to deny it is a possibility.

    • by artor3 (1344997)

      The real question is whether the added speed is enough to justify moving away from the USB standard. Yes, it's twice as fast. But we're already at the point where a full-length high definition movie can be transferred in seconds. That is, if -- and this is a big if -- the storage media can keep up. For most people, there's simply no compelling reason to pay extra for Thunderbolt.

      The summary says it's currently being used for RAID configurations. That's a sensible use. But I doubt it will make much hea

      • Re:or maybe (Score:5, Interesting)

        by tlhIngan (30335) <slashdot@wSLACKWAREorf.net minus distro> on Friday July 01, 2011 @02:29AM (#36630994)

        The summary says it's currently being used for RAID configurations. That's a sensible use. But I doubt it will make much headway with consumers.

        How about some high-bandwidth situations? Like perhaps having a nice mobile device with Thunderbolt with long battery life, then plug it into your Thunderbolt dock and you suddenly have kickass gaming graphics and all that fun stuff?

        Hell, perhaps we'd see stuff like GigE network dongles and stuff - if you're mobile and using WiFI all day, then plug it in at home and you have gigabit connectivity.

        Right now, people use it because it's crazy fast for drives. But it's likely Intel sees it as the future of mobile devices - optimized highly for mobile use with long battery life by keeping all the power hungry stuff in a dock - high-end graphics, wired networking, etc.

        It's basically a cable-ized version of PCIe.

      • by DrXym (126579)
        I expect people who want speed could just use eSATA devices & cables. Most external hard disk enclosures have a SATA device in the middle and bridge circuitry to convert between USB / Firewire protocols and SATA. All of that incurs a performance overhead which can be eliminated by using eSATA. It probably explains why so many PCs are shipping with eSATA ports these days.
        • by drsmithy (35869)

          I expect people who want speed could just use eSATA devices & cables.

          eSATA was effectively DOA due to its inability to provide power.

          That it's essentially only capable of providing connectivity to block devices was merely another nail.

    • by scubamage (727538)
      Honestly, most cables are priced strangely. Ever buy a power cable from HP? It'll set you back 20$. For a NEMA 15 power cable. Printer cables were always notoriously expensive too. Adding in two transceivers I think actually justifies a slightly higher price in my opinion (still inflated, just not as much as a HDMI cable). Still, they're operating out where there be dragons. It'd be neat to see it take off, but I'd greatly prefer a standardized IEEE solution like firewire.
  • by crafty.munchkin (1220528) on Friday July 01, 2011 @01:56AM (#36630862)
    Just wait for Monster Cables to bring out their gold plated $800 Thunderbolt cable!
  • No thanks (Score:5, Funny)

    by Dishwasha (125561) on Friday July 01, 2011 @02:05AM (#36630890)

    I'm going to hold off on buying these because everybody knows Monster Cables are the best. Their sweet gold-plated impedance really accentuates the harmonics of my digital bits, giving my data soft warm tones and the largest acoustical threshold range that guarantees that my ones are as oney as they can be and my zeros actually stop the measurements in my voltmeter because all the electrons are at a complete standstill. I mean seriously Apple, $50? You're practically admitting that these cables are just junk.

    • by EdZ (755139)
      No no no no, people are starting to realise that digital means you can't claim that sort of nonsense about cables anymore.
      No, you have to blame everything on jitter nowadays! Yep, them cheapy cables means that certain electrons will actually travel at a different speed somehow (fat electrons [catb.org] getting stuck in the kinks?) so the clock signal and the data become desynchronised. And of course nobody has ever even heard of a phase-locked-loop.
    • by Joce640k (829181)

      I find their optical interconnects give a much warmer bass sound and more detailed mids.

      (Actually saw a reviewer say this in a HiFi magazine...)

  • by MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) on Friday July 01, 2011 @02:05AM (#36630892)

    This is the first time I've ever seen it said on Slashdot that Apple's price on something is justified.

  • by cheeks5965 (1682996) on Friday July 01, 2011 @02:05AM (#36630894)
    my team did a lot of the ground research for the light peak spec. the greatest challenge was shoving enough bits through the wire -- we couldn't find a way to do it passively. That's why it's $50.
    • yes there was... put the chips in the card at each end... or even, deity forbid... dump the electrical wire except just for power and ground and use a fibre optic link for the data... it's NOT rocket science these days...
      • by toQDuj (806112) on Friday July 01, 2011 @02:41AM (#36631024) Homepage Journal

        The chips are tuned *per cable* as far as I heard, and thus cannot be included on-board. They would've if they could've.
        regarding the fibreoptics, the cost was much higher than for copper. Not rocket science, but not exactly consumer-price either.

        • by yuhong (1378501)

          Yea, I think it is known that optical cables was considered in the development of Light Peak, and ultimately Light Peak/Thunderbolt should work with both copper and optical cabling.

        • by EdZ (755139) on Friday July 01, 2011 @04:21AM (#36631382)
          If so, then put your expensive chips at each connector, and put a single cheap memory ship in the cable. Perform whatever tuning is required, then store the coefficients on the memory. When you plug in the cable, the memory is interrogated and the coefficients sent to the fancy chips at either end.
          Of course, this assumes that actual chip cost is a factor, rather than just a massive markup because of a pair of chips costing tens of pennies each.
          • by toQDuj (806112)

            My guess the bulk of the cost are in assembly of a low volume product, packaging and sales overhead. I think they make perhaps 50-75% profit on each cable. That said, why is everyone focusing on the cost of the cable? it is not the first high-end cable to sell for 50 dollars..

            • by scubamage (727538)
              Parallel printer cables still sell for 30$ at best buy last time I checked. (Just checked, yup, they still do [bestbuy.com])
              • by drinkypoo (153816)

                Difference is that a $1 printer cable works just as well (over short distances!) as a $30 printer cable. For a 6' cable it is literally irrelevant. This already becomes untrue when you get to USB, where many of the cheapest cables won't work for USB2 (especially the retractable ones) or won't work reliably.

                • by scubamage (727538)
                  I agree wholeheartedly, and as someone involved with technology you know that. However, remember that the majority of the market out there doesn't even know that you can get a 1$ cable off of pricewatch that works just as well :) Until they do, I think the prices will remain artificially high.
      • by shmlco (594907)

        Even a different LENGTH of cable would have different performance characteristics. This allows different lengths and even materials to be used. With the right chips on board, you could, potentially, plug a fibre Thunderbolt cable into a wire-based computer or peripheral.

    • by scubamage (727538)

      my team did a lot of the ground research for the light peak spec. the greatest challenge was shoving enough bits through the wire -- we couldn't find a way to do it passively. That's why it's $50.

      You're one of the engineers behind it? You and your team did some good work, its a cool idea. Kudos.

  • by antifoidulus (807088) on Friday July 01, 2011 @02:08AM (#36630906) Homepage Journal
    well, at least part of it anyway. With the departure of the XServe from Apple's lineup and their promotion of the mac mini server, it's obvious Apple is really trying to go for the small-medium business market with their server offerings. As part of that, Apple has been trying to convince owners/IT people who work at said businesses that you can essentially create the same "infrastructure"(hardware/software/workflows etc) as the big enterprises do without having to spring for enterprise level hardware. Even with the cable, this RAID is still cheaper than a fiber channel card, and of course actually allows people to connect real storage to the mini-server(provided they throw a thunderbolt port in the next mini, which they would have be insane not too).

    While I certainly don't see anything that requires a $50 cable to totally usurp USB anytime soon, that doesn't mean it won't be successful or fit in well with the type of product lineup Apple is trying to build.
    • Ugh, the spelling nazi in me won't let me go on with life if I don't self-flagellate, it's "insane not to", not "insane not too"...
    • by DarkOx (621550)

      I don't buy it. You can still buy a Proliant server in a tower case for example. With that you can get an array of SAS disks, which will perform as well as anything you might strap to the thunderbolt cable, redundant power and no problems adding any other peripherals you might need, including a thunderbolt card down the road. Most of all its tidy in one box, that you can get for under $2k.

      Or,

      You could do with a Mini server and external storage. Sure it might perform as well for a little while but you ha

  • by sr180 (700526) on Friday July 01, 2011 @02:20AM (#36630964) Journal

    The Sony Viao Z-series laptops have just been announced and include a light-peak connected dock. Its only a couple of weeks away - so Apple wont be the only one with Thunderbolt.

    • by arth1 (260657)

      But it's non-standard, and requires a Sony proprietary cable, which only comes with their Sony proprietary dock, and can't be used for anything else.
      Which is why Sony calls it "Light Peak based".

      • Sounds like how Sony knobbled firewire with their wretched iLink. They insisted on a 4 pin connector with no power. Almost all laptops with firefire came with the 4 pin connector which while cheaper was less robust and made devices either use external power or a USB plug. Shame that 6 pin firewire never really caught on in laptops since it's rated up to 30W.

        • by dafing (753481)
          I'll forever curse Sony for that damn thing, I remember my first iPod, Firewire only, as a Windows user I was a second class citizen on my laptop, an iLink port on the front, I needed to use the provided 4 to 6 Pin *Firewire* adapter to connect the iPod :-)

          All in an attempt to save a buck or two on the Windows PC end...its shameful. Damn them to hell for frigging up such a wonderful standard...
      • Which is why I don't buy Sony products.

    • is that they are using it in a way which I hope to see spread across the board.

      I want my laptop to be light, relatively fast, and have long battery life. Yet at the same time I want some real storage, a dvd/blu burner, and really strong graphics abilities so if I want to game I don't feel as if I need a separate machine. The Sony docking station has its own graphics chipset which is much more powerful than the laptop's built in system. Not only does it provide the ability to game because of the external chi

  • by tftp (111690) on Friday July 01, 2011 @02:29AM (#36630996) Homepage

    The cable's $50 price may be justified, but it's also a further reminder of why Thunderbolt may follow FireWire's path into obsolescence.

    Firewire went to silicon heaven because USB was cheaper, smaller (connector-wise and cable-diameter-wise) and fully embraced by Intel. Will you make a FireWire mouse? Probably not; you can hoist a cow on a standard FireWire cable. But once you have a USB mouse, why to get Firewire? Note that speedy peripherals were uncommon back then, except video cameras. And USB 3.x attacked that market; I have one USB 3.0 device here, an HDD, and it is backward compatible to USB 2.x.

    However 2 x 10 Gbps is some good increase in speed. You don't need it for 99% of peripherals on the market; but when you need it you need it - like that RAID thingy which can generate and consume that much data. Your choices there are simple - either this Thunderbolt, which is more or less fixed, or a variety of 10 Gbps connections, copper or fiber, SFP+ or XFP or whatever. They all are very much different, locking you into some specific hardware, and they all run hot - bad news in a notebook.

    10GBASE-T is one of competitors; it runs on slower clock and requires more pairs. But as long as it works, who cares? The twisted pair cable, even category 6A, is cheap, and the distance up to 100m is what you want in any reasonable setup that includes more than two boxes on top of each other. 10G Ethernet is also switchable and routable. Considering that Thunderbolt is a point to point transport for DisplayPort and PciE [wikipedia.org], it's use is probably limited to expansion ports; but it's probably pretty good in that role - even if majority of computers can't even handle the bandwidth, let alone have a need for such a thing.

    • but when you need it you need it

      But do you really need it? 10Gb/s is pretty great and all, but... so's SATA3. 6Gb/s is 750MB/s, Seagate's 2TB SATA3 drives do ~130MB/s sustained in the benchmarks I found, so the R4 array in the article can only max it out for the first second or so while it's still reading from the drive caches. The R6 would be bottlenecked by SATA3, but *barely* (780 vs. 750) Cheaper cables too :P ... sure you could put SSDs in it and get a benefit, but that's a pretty niche market.

      I think

      • by tftp (111690) on Friday July 01, 2011 @03:35AM (#36631252) Homepage

        But do you really need it?

        It beats SATA because it is not locked into ATA command set. Thunderbolt routes PCIe I/O, which means you can build any PCI peripheral and it will work as if you plugged it into the main board. You can have access to the RAM, use interrupts, DMA and whatever. There are many I/O devices out there that generate lots of data, and they are not disks. Medical sensors, scientific equipment, software-defined radios, high resolution / high frame rate cameras (for security and for machine vision,) external video cards and GPU... I can think of many examples.

        Another item of interest is the DisplayPort channel. SATA doesn't support it, Thunderbolt does. Sure, you can always have a second cable... but why to use two when one works fine? The need for remote display devices is quite obvious, and one Thunderbolt jack can replace DP and SATA ports - something that a small device will appreciate.

        • by hitmark (640295)

          Sounds like a security nightmare...

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          It beats SATA because it is not locked into ATA command set. Thunderbolt routes PCIe I/O, which means you can build any PCI peripheral and it will work as if you plugged it into the main board. You can have access to the RAM, use interrupts, DMA and whatever.

          Is there actually any reason you couldn't do PCIE over SATA? Last I checked storage devices did DMA too.

          Sure, you can always have a second cable... but why to use two when one works fine?

          To save money. Cables without fancy chips in them can be had very cheaply these days if you order them.

      • by squizzar (1031726)

        4kx2kx20bppx60Hz video is around 10GB/s, which normally means a plugin PCIE card for most systems. There are systems out there that do that now - we make cards that do quad 1080p60 uncompressed over PCIE. If you have a suitable external interface like Thunderbolt you have a lot more options (especially with the PCIE transport - there are plenty of existing designs that could be put in a box at the end of a cable rather than a card in the PC).

        There's more than just consumer electronics and hard disk drives

    • by Kjella (173770)

      Firewire went to silicon heaven because USB was cheaper, smaller (connector-wise and cable-diameter-wise) and fully embraced by Intel.

      Firewire had one thing going for it, the stability requirement for capturing DV tapes. Even with that I had to shut down most everything else to avoid framedrops. As soon as memory/HDD based cameras took over, I have no problem transfering 1080p full hd video over USB 2.0 - simply because now the USB controller can say "hey, sorry I dozed for a moment, could you send that again" unlike tape where you'd have to stop, rewind and replay to do that.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Firewire had one thing going for it, the stability requirement for capturing DV tapes.

        It had two things going for it, because it also involves dramatically less CPU overhead. Two things, HA HA HA! In fact, it had three things going for it, because the connectors are both better than any USB but Micro-USB which is only now catching on. That's three things better than USB, HA HA HA! USB is poop.

  • $50 is nothing :-)

    I buddy of mine was happy to get a discount on a $199 HDMI cable and pay only $99 :-)

    The fact that I bought mine at $2 is not relevant me thinks :-)
  • The cable's $50 price may be justified, but it's also a further reminder of why Thunderbolt may follow FireWire's path into obsolescence.

    Preach on brother... you tell 'em. I also heard that Thunderbolt has no wireless and less space than a Nomad. No doubt that makes it doubly lame and triply doomed to obsolescence.

  • "We have to let go of this notion that for Apple to win, Microsoft has to lose. We have to embrace the notion that for Apple to win, Apple has to do a really good job."

    Replace Apple with any given entity and Microsoft with any entity that leads in it's field.

    WebOS probably won't ever beat android, iOS or even windows phone 7. Does it have to? No.

    Same is true for thunderbolt. Does it have to beat USB, FireWire, etc? No. Thunderbolt devices just have to hit the market.

    Thunderbolt can support USB 3 hosts. I just can't wait for thunderbolt to completely replace all of the other cables except power that connect to my laptop.

    • by Tumbleweed (3706) *

      I just can't wait for thunderbolt to completely replace all of the other cables except power that connect to my laptop.

      I think it'll be more likely that a wireless connection will do that for most people before Thunderbolt will, just as DVD will be replaced by streaming video rather than Blu-Ray.

      • Difference is that a thunderbolt to USB hub is likely now.

        I run a very recent MBPro with thunderbolt. I hope this day comes soon.

  • by callmebill (1917294) on Friday July 01, 2011 @03:08AM (#36631114)
    Standards are like toothbrushes: everyone agrees you should have one, but no one wants to use yours.
  • by hile (110782) on Friday July 01, 2011 @04:42AM (#36631440) Homepage

    What I would like to have with thunderbolt is fancy magic breaker box, which would for example include:
    - 4 firewire 800 ports
    - 8 USB2 / USB3 ports
    - 2 ESATA ports for disks
    - maybe connector for external display as well

    Connecting such box to your laptop might sound silly for most users, but my use would be to hook this to my music hardware rack, having all of the audio hardware connected to your gig laptop with one cable. Like, all various MIDI controllers (usually USB), audio recording interfaces (usually firewire), instruments (my line6 guitar amp has USB) and external disks for recording.

    Usually you only use one or two of these devices at a time, but the cables can be really a PITA: having one magic box bolted to your audio rack, connecting everything there permanently makes things so much simpler. Of course, I would like the magic box to come in 1U form factor, or with rack mounting kit.

    If such box is made available, I seriously might be tempted to get a new MBP, just to be able to use it.

    This is not going to make thunderbolt a must for all users, but it's wonderful technology to replace firewire (which is certainly not dead yet in pro audio market!). Everything doesn't have to be The Big Thing for everyone. I'm not sure about USB3, but I though it still has latency issues like USB2 for multichannel audio (like 32 channels, not your average gaming rig...), which are not solved by higher transfer rates. Might be wrong of course regarding USB3...

    • I'm guessing Apple's next display will also be large hub/breaker-box -- a much better version of their current display designed for laptops.

    • by blueg3 (192743)

      You need to think more Apple. How about a large monitor that contains a high-performance video card and all of those ports -- perhaps at the base, so you don't have a rat's nest of wires coming from the monitor. Add a bluetooth mouse and keyboard and call it iDock.

      Another alternative is to take the Time Capsule / wireless base station and add that brick of ports and a Thunderbolt connector.

  • It's still better (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dugeen (1224138)
    Being ripped off by Steve Jobs is still better than being ripped off by Bill Gates because - er - I can't recall the exact reason but I'm sure the Applefan zombies will be along to explain it soon.

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