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Thunderbolt

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Nigel ThompsonThunderbolt
by on May 5, 2011 at 5:24:45 pm

OK:
So im waiting for the new Thunderbolt drives to be released and wondering who the heck will be selling Thunderbolt switches (if needed) so i can make this thing into a Tbolt SAN.

Is the technology at a stage yet where this can be done or do we have to wait a while for the fibre versions to be released to get that kind of connectivity ?

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Matt GeierRe: Thunderbolt
by on May 5, 2011 at 6:25:37 pm

Hi Nigel,

Here at Small Tree we get this question a fair amount.
We've talked to Intel and Apple about it at various levels. Here's our take;

I've heard from (name of company and source removed) that Thunderbolt is primarily a good replacement (for the time being) for Direct Attached eSATA and Firewire or USB devices.

Thunderbolt is very much like firewire. It's going to be a local storage bus. It will also be more since it can support peripherals like a PCIE bus.

The key in this is to know that Thunderbolt will not replace networking. You will just see networking peripherals develop.

Ethernet is still going to be around for ages to come! There are two things we say here; In terms of networking, It's either using Ethernet or it's using an EtherNOT, and Thunderbolt is an "EtherNOT"

I hope this helps you a little.

Regards,

Matt Geier
Small Tree


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Nigel ThompsonRe: Thunderbolt
by on May 5, 2011 at 6:54:04 pm

Hi Matt:
I understand the technology. and its MUCH better to have that king of connectivity at those speeds......IMHO

But im really hoping some nut cases (maybe Small tree LOL) develops a switch which blows everything wide open. building a render farm will be easy squeezy at that point.
Was about to drop a pile of cash last year for a fibre SAN but held off because Pro avio was changing models and the new ones werent readily available at the time. (didnt want to buy the old stuff)

Then heard about thunderbolt and held off completely because we were making out "ok".....
But ill need it by august so hoping something happens by then

Nigel

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Alex GeroulaitisRe: Thunderbolt
by on May 5, 2011 at 7:53:15 pm

I am with Matt on this: it will never happen outside of nutcases, like it will never happen with HDMI-based shared storage. It's just a different type of a connection and transmission protocol - a marriage of HDMI (well, DisplayPort) and PCIe, that is NOT designed for networking.

What you might see if a TB-to-10GigE adapter, or TB-to-8Gbit-Fiber, or TB-to-PCIe expansion chassis where you can stick multiple HBAs and other PCIe cards.

Alex (DV411)


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Nigel ThompsonRe: Thunderbolt
by on May 5, 2011 at 8:33:47 pm

Well the fibre thing is my question exactly...

Will the fibre implementation of tbolt ad more capablities like networking......
This is just so interesting its amazing.

Cuz since there is a video layer as well as data, you can stick this connection into a camera and get uncompressed 444 straight to a drive and view it footage at the same time, something like a convergent Gemini.

its just a wild piece of tech that may have quite a few possibilities in the future

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Alex GeroulaitisRe: Thunderbolt
by on May 5, 2011 at 8:43:55 pm

[Nigel Thompson] "its just a wild piece of tech that may have quite a few possibilities in the future"

True, that. :)

That said, I have yet to hear of a working add-on TB PCIe adapter - to me, that is even a bigger roadblock to its acceptance than availability of TB-based storage boxes. What's the point of having all this wonderful technology when you can't connect it to a current Mac Pro?

I did see one such prototype adapter at G-Tech booth at NAB. Matrox' release of a PCIe-to-Tbolt adapters is also reassuring. Expensive though!

Alex (DV411)


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Nigel ThompsonRe: Thunderbolt
by on May 5, 2011 at 8:48:49 pm

Really !? WHat are the prices like ?

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Matt GeierRe: Thunderbolt
by on May 5, 2011 at 9:53:49 pm

Guys,

In terms of TB Transfer Rates, I think the key here is that it's offering 10Gbit to the device it's connecting to, over a PCI-E bus.

This really is no different then having local attached storage now, other then price really. (This is an opinion of myself.....)

There's an analogy that I like to use here. Just because you have a wire that's able to go 280MB/sec (10Gb Link under AFP), doesn't mean because you are doing a video stream, or two video streams that it will actually be moving that fast....

It's just like our cars and trucks...they are all able to go over 100 miles per hour because the speedometer tells us they can, but do we ever drive them that fast on the highway? No. There are always special circumstances however that can move at "line rate performance" like a race track for example.

Remember that Ethernet TODAY is offering FCoE, (Yes....you read right...) Fibre Channel over Ethernet.....your TB connection will not move 800MB/sec .... but you may see it go a couple of hundred MB/sec or whatever is going to be allowed by O/S, and devices it's working with. (Remember, it's a 10Gb link yes, but you're always at the mercy of the lowest common denominator on transfer speeds.....for example the drive in your Mac pro will not go as fast as 4 drives RAIDED on a direct attache storage box...)


Thunderbolt is wonderful technology replacement or upgrade from E-SATA, Firewire etc....but it's not going to be any kind of match for the Shared Networking you'll be needing for 2-3-4-5+ editors to share a single storage location over a network in real time .....

It may develop into that some day, but it's not today, and it's not six months from now, and probably not 1 year from now either.

If you want to edit video in shared environment, and you want to do it from more then 1 Mac at a time, together, on the same network, on the same storage, over the same switch, etc....Thunderbolt is not that answer.


Just my 0.02 of course, but I'm sure there's plenty of info, people, and data to back it up.


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Bob ZelinRe: Thunderbolt
by on May 6, 2011 at 2:27:51 am

Hi Nigel,
I know exactly what you want. You want to be able to have a system so simple, that you can have a Thunderbolt switch, and without having to configure anything, you can just plug in your big Thunderbolt drive array into the switch, along with 10 computer, and instantly everyone is networked together, and all sharing the same drive array, and no one had to do anything other than plug in your Thunderbolt cable to this Thunderbolt switch.

Keep dreaming. The entire business market (mostly run by intel) is based on an ethernet infrastructure. Intel likes it this way. Intel is the leader in 10Gig ethernet development. They know that insurance companies, phone companies, and other big corporations have HUGE networks, and these networks are installed by Telecom industry technicians that understand copper ethernet networks. This is why there is such a huge push towards 10Gig ethernet on motherboards for PC's. Our little industry is very unimportant in the big picture. The generic PC that HP and Dell make will ultimately have 10Gig copper ethernet ports on them, so that existing offices can readily upgrade to a standard infrastructure that is already in place. It would be a LONG TIME before entire office buildings would be retooled for a Thunderbolt infrastructure. (Do you see entire buildings, or cable companies besides verizon running Fibre everywhere ? ).

Thunderbolt is SCSI for 2011. And even if I am 100% wrong about everything, do you even question that in 3 - 4 years, the current Thunderbolt will be completely outdated, and a new standard will be in place, that is faster, cooler, and easier ?

For the single user, with an iMAC, and does not want to deal with anything other than running his apps for his small business, Thunderbolt is a fantastic solution. But this is not a facility solution.

Bob Zelin



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Neil SadwelkarRe: Thunderbolt
by on May 6, 2011 at 9:24:52 am

Looking at it another way, Thunderbolt will eventually allow you to connect very fast storage devices to a single system - MBP, iMac (now) and MacPro in the future (hopefully).

I think for facilities with multiple systems, a combined approach (some shared, somemlocal) is more productive rather than placing everything In one large shared box.

One of the reasons for sharing storage amongst multiple users is that fast storage is expensive so you share it to share costs. TBolt makes fast storage which will eventually be economical enough for you to get many of them, even one per system. And then use a simpler GigE or 10GigE network to share only the stuff that needs to be shared.

At a TV facility with 25 FCPs I recently did an analysis of what is needed by everyone and what is needed only by some. So all thr systems were provided with internal storage as well. This made the network and the shared drive faster than with everything in one place.

The editors even intelligently managed to switch the render files between local and shared storage from project to project and the main shared storage is all the happier for it.

-----------------------------------
Neil Sadwelkar
neilsadwelkar.blogspot.com
twitter: fcpguru
FCP Editor, Edit systems consultant
Mumbai India


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Sebastien BertrandRe: Thunderbolt
by on May 6, 2011 at 4:40:01 pm

There is already on the market some PCIe switches (like Accusys exasan) that are usable in a SAN infrastructure. As far as I know, those never really took off on the market so far, but they allow you to build a high speed SAN without fibre channel. You save a little bit on the fibre channel adapters and switches, but you still need all the components needed in a shared SAN (metadata servers, shared filesystem)

It would not be surprised to see the PCIe switches manufacturers coming up with a thunderbold switch using similar technologies, but it doesn't mean the market will be there to back it. It will probably take a long time before those switches give you the flexibility and reliability of fibre channel switches.

If you want to build a SAN in August 2011, go fibre channel. And if your bandwidth requirements to your storage are so high, just use 2 8Gb fibre channel links from each hosts. You will need a lot of spindles to fill those links though.

BTW, Brocade just launched their 16Gb/s fibre channel switches, and the Qlogic ones are already announced.

Sebastien Bertrand
Ordigraphe Inc.
Toronto, Canada
http://www.ordigraphe.com


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Andrew RichardsRe: Thunderbolt
by on May 7, 2011 at 1:17:43 am

Neil,

There are far more considerations than sharing the cost of high performance storage when sharing. With shared storage, ingest can be separated without requiring a copy before work can be gin on that footage. Also, any maintenance that must go on with a local system that might displace an editor with local storage would mean much more work to get that editor up and cutting on another system than with shared storage.

Shared storage is more about workflow flexibility than cost savings in my book. DAS has always been cheaper than SAN or NAS.

Best,
Andy


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Andrew RichardsRe: Thunderbolt
by on May 7, 2011 at 1:28:50 am

Bob,

I have to disagree with your contention that the broader business IT market doesn't use fiber. Copper has limited range. Fiber is used exclusively in the long run applications by telcos and facilities alike. It doesn't matter what signal is, fiber is the rule once you get beyond the reach of a few hundred meters.

Comcast runs fiber to every neighborhood it is in, it just switches to copper for the last mile. FiOS is novel in that it takes the glass to the demarc, but then again any business with a commercial Internet connection has had a fiber demarc for years.

There are some apt parallels to SCSI, but TB is a lot more capable. TB is basically a way to get PCIe capabilities outside the box, and that means where you used to get an HBA card, now you'll get an HBA dongle. Where you used to get a Kona card, now you'll get a box.

I think the only time we'll see a TB "switch" is for those times we don't want to daisy chain. I don't think we'll be treating TB as a switched networking protocol. Why would we when we already have so many established protocols that we can just hang off of the TB bus?

Best,
Andy


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Andrew RichardsRe: Thunderbolt
by on May 7, 2011 at 1:09:40 am

"That said, I have yet to hear of a working add-on TB PCIe adapter - to me, that is even a bigger roadblock to its acceptance than availability of TB-based storage boxes. What's the point of having all this wonderful technology when you can't connect it to a current Mac Pro?"

Do you mean a TB card? Intel has stated they can't exist. TB controller must live on the motherboard. Do you mean something different?

Best,
Andy


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Alex GeroulaitisRe: Thunderbolt
by on May 7, 2011 at 1:24:16 am

[Andrew Richards] "Do you mean a TB card? Intel has stated they can't exist. TB controller must live on the motherboard. Do you mean something different?"

That's what I mean - an add-on TB card. I did see an add-on TB card in Hitachi / G-Tech booth at NAB, and even took a picture of it - but now can't find it. It looked like a PCIe card plugged into a backplane with lots of PCIe slots, and it had several DP connectors as well as TB ones.

Alex (DV411)


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Andrew RichardsRe: Thunderbolt
by on May 7, 2011 at 1:42:05 am

Hmm. That doesn't jive with reports of Intel's launch-day statements, but since we don't yet have a published spec on TB, we don't know definitively. Here is where I read there would not and could not be TB cards:

http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/11/02/24/intel_details_thunderbolt_as_...

What you might see though is a breakout adapter that is a PCIe card and DisplayPort cable that would essentially get you the same result. Or perhaps cards could exist that are like TB without the DisplayPort stream. But I doubt it.

Best,
Andy


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Alex GeroulaitisRe: Thunderbolt
by on May 7, 2011 at 2:13:56 am

Nigel pointed out there is a G-Tech video where Pete Schlatter talks about the card - it's an Intel reference board (probably a mini-motherboard with a TB chip on it) - which is probably only given to Intel / Apple partners for development purposes.

So the card exists, you just can't buy it until 2012. :)

(rant)
(I am sure it'd be very easy to make a data-only TB PCIe adapter - but that's not what Apple wanted - they wanted it all to themselves. How did they dupe Intel into it - beats me. I don't get it. It's Intel technology and there are plenty of other copper connector types with the necessary specs - take full-size DP! - why on Earth did they have go exclusive with Apple on it?)
(/rant)

Alex (DV411)


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Nigel ThompsonRe: Thunderbolt
by on May 7, 2011 at 1:50:15 am

The TB card that doesn't exist can be seen here with an intel emblem on it







Bob how are you? your thoughts are inciteful and helpful as always.
im thinking this tech could have a nice run much like firewire since there is another implementation to come out later (fiber version) but of course at the rate we are going there may be something next week.

My main reason for getting a SAN is workflow but the workflow must have the throughput i need. Just to wait and see how it goes

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Nigel ThompsonRe: Thunderbolt
by on May 7, 2011 at 1:57:10 am

And in some more read it and weep news:







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Nigel ThompsonRe: Thunderbolt
by on May 7, 2011 at 2:19:34 am

http://www.promise.com/storage/raid_series.aspx?region=en-US&m=1054&sub_m=s...


OK !!!!!!

So i think this means i can buy me a Fc switch and a couple TB raids and plug them into the switch via this thingy, plug my new mac mini which has a thunderbolt port, to the switch via another thingy and use that for management, and eat cake when my edit is done ?

Hmm sounds too easy but lets investigate.... it may well be true

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Bob ZelinRe: Thunderbolt
by on May 7, 2011 at 4:04:43 pm

Nigel -
like I have said many times, everyone just wants a plug-n-play SAN system. We ain't there yet.

And as for the Acusys system Sebastian, this is resold as Cal Digit SuperShare, which is in Infiniband distribution system. It is very nice.

Bob Zelin



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Matt GeierRe: Thunderbolt
by on May 9, 2011 at 3:14:11 pm

Nigel,

Why spend money on Fiber Channel? You'll still need all the same things you would with a non TB system......software, management, required redundancy, meta data, etc......

I still think Ethernet prevails in this regard and we all will continue to see the Ethernet market continue to grow when it comes to 10Gb and "SANS" that are simply really good Ethernet networks with really good fast hardware to support their sharing and real time needs.....

:)


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Thomas DuvraiRe: Thunderbolt
by on Jul 21, 2011 at 2:07:06 am

[Matt Geier] "Thunderbolt is very much like firewire. It's going to be a local storage bus. It will also be more since it can support peripherals like a PCIE bus. "

Hi Matt, you are right: Thunderbolt is very much like FireWire... and FireWire is very much like Ethernet. All three are all true peer to peer networks without hosts or slaves (unlike usb). That's why using FW for networking is almost as easy as using Ethernet, just daisy-chain your macs together, like you would do with FW drives, or use a FW hub:

In fact Ethernet over Firewire has been possible in Mac OS since I don't know when, and Microsoft added it as a feature in an XP service pack. It was a hot topic and a well known secret back in the time when people had macs with 400Mbps firewire, and only 100Mbps Ethernet ports.

A picture says a thousand words:


So, in my opinon we could be very close to TB networking, in theory ... Oh wait, Apple just released their new TB display with an ethernet port on it's back :-)


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Steve ModicaRe: Thunderbolt
by on Jul 21, 2011 at 1:06:20 pm

[Thomas Duvrai] "and FireWire is very much like Ethernet."

There's Ethernet and EtherNOT. EtherNOT never wins..
That's a true statement and has been for a long time.

Fibre Channel was supposed to be a "better" network. it was supposed to be a converged network. It supported IP. Cray and SGI both had drivers. However it went nowhere because ethernet is ubiquitous. You can't make chips that cheaply. Switch and infrastructure (routers, bridges etc), just aren't available.

I think the chance for a non-ethernet network protocol is in wireless. That space is still "the wild west" and it's possible something could happen that creates a happy plateau that forces Ethernet on to the next level.

Steve Modica
CTO, Small Tree Communications


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Steve ModicaRe: Thunderbolt
by on Jun 4, 2011 at 12:36:57 am

My .02:
There won't be Thunderbolt switches. switching asics are expensive and the only switched technology that is cheap enough to make a switch you'll pay for is ethernet (etherNOT never wins).

So, Tbolt will be a PCIE/firewire replacement and probably lead to smaller systems (ala imac) that can have 10Gb and Aja cards without the extra space and cost of a full PCIE card cage.

We're working on 10Gb on Tbolt now. Lucky for us, the driver work is done. We just have to do the hardware.
Current Tbolt hardware is glitchy and involves many chips. Late summer will bring a smaller chipset that is easier to manage and is more widely available. I don't think you'll see wide adoption til we get those.

Steve Modica
CTO, Small Tree Communications


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Bill DawsonRe: Thunderbolt
by on Jun 27, 2011 at 4:45:24 am

There is one company doing PCIe networking.

http://www.onestopsystems.com/pcie_superswitch.php

If he can do it with PCIE...I would think you should be able
to do it with Thunderbolt.

Bill


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Steve ModicaRe: Thunderbolt
by on Jun 27, 2011 at 1:19:03 pm

[Bill Dawson] "
If he can do it with PCIE...I would think you should be able
to do it with Thunderbolt."


Note the requirement for drivers. All this stuff is easy except for those :) PCIE is switchable and routable except that hosts don't expect to see multiple initiators on their busses. It's just like saying "there are infiniband switches out there, so if someone can do it, it should be doable". Sure it is. You just need all the drivers written. Apple makes things like this particularly difficult since one can never be sure what they are doing to do next (like ditch the Xserve or make Xsan free). It's a serious gamble to put $1mil in development time into something like that.

Steve

Steve Modica
CTO, Small Tree Communications


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Bill DawsonRe: Thunderbolt
by on Jun 27, 2011 at 1:23:40 pm

>Apple makes things like this particularly difficult since one can never be sure what they are doing to do >next

Good point...OK, great point!

Bill


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Michael KammesRe: Thunderbolt
by on Jul 1, 2011 at 1:36:27 am

To rehash this, I was listening to the Digital Production Buzz, and Promise was being interviewed and is in development (and close) to releasing a "SAN link", which turns Thunderolt into a fibre connection, geared for SAN connectivity.

Food for thought.

~Michael



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Rahasiaja KitasmuaRe: Thunderbolt
by on Jun 30, 2012 at 2:52:38 am

SANLink is out for $799

some other products are out there i suppose, or will be soon (ATTO, Small Tree, Sonnet, ...).

i'd love to hear the experiences anybody using Thunderbolt to 10GbE/FC/SAS/eSATA since i'm thinking about using a Mac Mini Server for serving shared storage or serving LTO backups. At least until a new Mac Pro with Thunderbolt support comes out.


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Steve ModicaRe: Thunderbolt
by on Jun 30, 2012 at 10:33:32 am

I can comment on our testing:

Since Thunderbolt is 4X and our 10Gb cards are 8X, we have noticed a slight reduction in performance. We don't get Line rate on tests, we get about 80% of that.

Hotplug and unplug are pretty amazing. Once we get it right, you can unplug the thing when stuff is going on. The activity will hang (and eventually timeout), but if you reconnect it recovers. The machine doesn't panic.

Steve Modica
CTO, Small Tree Communications


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