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Thunderbolt On Windows: Hardware and Performance Explored

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the not-so-shocking dept.

Intel 177

MojoKid writes "Intel's Light Peak technology eventually matured into what now is known in the market as Thunderbolt, which debuted initially as an Apple I/O exclusive last year. Light Peak was being developed by Intel in collaboration with Apple. It wasn't a huge surprise that Apple got an early exclusivity agreement, but there were actually a number of other partners on board as well, including Aja, Apogee, Avid, Blackmagic, LaCie, Promise and Western Digital. On the Windows front, Thunderbolt is still in its infancy and though there are still a few bugs to work out of systems and solutions, Thunderbolt capable motherboards and devices for Windows are starting to come to market. Performance-wise in Windows, the Promise RAID DAS system tested here offers near 1GB/s of peak read throughput and 500MB/s for writes, which certainly does leave even USB 3.0 SuperSpeed throughput in the dust."

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Thunderbolt? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40300253)

But, sounds are waves, not bolts.

Re:Thunderbolt? (4, Funny)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | more than 2 years ago | (#40301545)

Should I even get you started on FireWire? :P

Thunderbolt is going to be a standard? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40300261)

Surely an exclusive on something that is intended to be a *standard* defeats the purpose? That looks like a year of nearly dead time for non-Macs.

Re:Thunderbolt is going to be a standard? (2)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300321)

Certainly. Once they've spent a year making thunderbolt look like a proprietary Apple exclusive, Intel will have their work cut out for them. Intel's approach to supporting TB on PCs doesn't seem any better really.

Re:Thunderbolt is going to be a standard? (4, Insightful)

anyaristow (1448609) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300475)

OEMs are more pragmatic than that. If it's a salable tech that is already developed and offered by a major player like Intel, they'll use it, whether it smells of Apple seconds or not.

Re:Thunderbolt is going to be a standard? (4, Insightful)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300577)

No it's been a year of geeks like you claiming that Thunderbolt was somehow an Apple technology when it was not. It is an always has been Intel technology; Apple helped Intel develop it. Apple did not get an exclusionary deal for their efforts; they simply got a year head start on all the other computer manufacturers. In that year others have implemented it. OEMs have been slower no doubt because some have wondered if I was worth implementing.

Re:Thunderbolt is going to be a standard? (0)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300783)

Then where's my expansion card then?

Even if USB3 weren't already on 2 of my recent motherboards, I would still be able to add it to any system I want. The same goes for eSATA and the really exotic options.

Re:Thunderbolt is going to be a standard? (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | more than 2 years ago | (#40301741)

Did you even try googling for "thunderbolt expansion card"?

There's several already on the market.

MOD DOWN!!! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40301491)

How can we complain about Apple if you are giving us all these actual facts?

Re:Thunderbolt is going to be a standard? (2)

toriver (11308) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300581)

Give it time: There was a point where USB looked like an "Apple exclusive" port as well. Windows got support as late as Win95 release 2.1 and Win98 wasn't it? Even with Microsoft on the spec team?

Re:Thunderbolt is going to be a standard? (2)

jimicus (737525) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300711)

IME, USB on 95 2.1 was a waste of energy. Windows 98, OTOH, was ok.

Dammit, I thought I'd killed off all those brain cells.

Re:Thunderbolt is going to be a standard? (2)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300731)

Win95 OSR2.1, correct - but it wasn't a complete implimentation, just a bare-bones. It supported USB printers, but not much else. It wasn't until Windows 98 that 'real' USB support became available.

Re:Thunderbolt is going to be a standard? (2)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300747)

> Give it time: There was a point where USB looked like an "Apple exclusive" port as well.

Not really. USB was being bundled with practically every PC motherboard in those days, especially the Intel ones.

Re:Thunderbolt is going to be a standard? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40301331)

> Give it time: There was a point where USB looked like an "Apple exclusive" port as well.

Not really. USB was being bundled with practically every PC motherboard in those days, especially the Intel ones.

Sure - on the motherboard. But most PCs didn't have any external ports.

Re:Thunderbolt is going to be a standard? (3, Informative)

6ULDV8 (226100) | more than 2 years ago | (#40301719)

Yeah, but back then it stood for Useless Serial Bus.

Re:Thunderbolt is going to be a standard? (2)

drsmithy (35869) | more than 2 years ago | (#40302037)

Give it time: There was a point where USB looked like an "Apple exclusive" port as well.

No, there wasn't.

Windows got support as late as Win95 release 2.1 and Win98 wasn't it? Even with Microsoft on the spec team?

Yes. That is to say, about a year before the first Mac to have builtin USB ports even shipped.

that needs to be a data only or loop back video ve (2)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#40301071)

that needs to be a data only or loop back video ver of TB.

At the very lest have a voodoo like loopback system where you can use any DP output and add it to the TB bus so you can use that X79 chipset or that add it video card as your main video out or even put a video card on the TB bus and make it the MAIN VIDEO CARD.

Re:Thunderbolt is going to be a standard? (2)

jtownatpunk.net (245670) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300739)

Not much different than Firewire. Sony didn't help things by branding it iLink on their computers. And others called it 1394. I think that crap really killed the interface on the PC platform because Joe User didn't understand that it was all the same thing. Firewire was far superior to USB with its lower protocol overhead and reserved bandwidth.

Re:Thunderbolt is going to be a standard? (1)

GNious (953874) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300899)

Firewire was (is?) more expensive to implement (or so some articles claimed), which meant Firewire devices were more expensive to sell - something to do with USB end-devices being very dumb, and Firewire end-devices needing some built-in brain.

firewire had add in cards and was not tie to chips (2)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#40301089)

firewire had add in cards and was not tie to chipsets or even intel.

Re:Thunderbolt is going to be a standard? (1)

iluvcapra (782887) | more than 2 years ago | (#40301323)

Firewire is a fast serial port with DMA that runs on hubs. Thunderbolt is a muxed/serialized PCI Express+DisplayPort, that runs on daisychains. Firewire has its own protocol with addressing and devices and profiles, Thunderbolt just lets the PCI Express standard sort all that out.

Re:Thunderbolt is going to be a standard? (1)

beelsebob (529313) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300801)

You realise that USB was an Intel standard that was pioneered exclusively on Macs, right?

Re:Thunderbolt is going to be a standard? (2)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300935)

> You realise that USB was an Intel standard that was pioneered exclusively on Macs, right?

and included for free on all of Intel's motherboards at the time so that by the time Microsoft finally got on board there were plenty of systems out there already that supported it.

The current situation with TB is the INVERSE of that.

Re:Thunderbolt is going to be a standard? (3, Informative)

iluvcapra (782887) | more than 2 years ago | (#40301555)

I remember USB being very rare in the Bondi iMac days... Intel might have put the controllers on their boards but a lot of manufacturers don't use Intel motherboards, and even if they used the chipsets. Nobody (for large values of n) who owned a PC in 1998 was ready for USB when MS "got on board," they got USB when they bought their first Windows 2000 or XP system in the subsequent three years.

The question is, will Microsoft getting on board even a factor this time? Thunderbolt doesn't require drivers, it's just serialized PCI Express -- manufacturers can put these ports on their motherboards and they work out of the box.

Re:Thunderbolt is going to be a standard? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40302323)

You were probably too enthralled with your one-button hockeypuck mouse. Windows 98 came out one month after the original iMac, and USB was almost everywhere at the time, especially on the new Pentium II systems.

And new drivers and BIOS support are needed for TB hotplug, RTFA.

Re:Thunderbolt is going to be a standard? (1)

romiz (757548) | more than 2 years ago | (#40301579)

You realise that USB was an Intel standard that was pioneered exclusively on Macs, right?

To be precise, it was a Intel, Microsoft, Compaq, and NEC standard, as you can see in the USB 1 specification. You already had Compaq PCs under Windows 95 with USB installed.

Apple probably adopted it in 1998 because its proprietary ADB was completely outdated, Firewire was too expensive for cheap peripherals, and Macs did not have the market share to impose a new competing standard.

Re:Thunderbolt is going to be a standard? (1)

drsmithy (35869) | more than 2 years ago | (#40302115)

You realise that USB was an Intel standard that was pioneered exclusively on Macs, right?

If by "pioneered exclusively" you mean "available a year or two after it appeared on PCs", yes.

The only thing Apple "pioneered" with regards to USB - thanks to The Steve - was their (now standard procedure) no-legacy-support-suckaz! attitude by flipping straight from ADB to USB with no transition period.

Only problem is ... (2)

somarilnos (2532726) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300307)

For current devices, USB/SATA really don't tend to be the biggest bottlenecks. It's nice that they're developing technology to improve this. But I have a feeling adoption of this is going to be slow going, since there's no immediate benefit and it increases the expense. I could see this quickly going the way of FireWire.

Re:Only problem is ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40300385)

There was no alternative to firewire for some time, just as there will be no alternative for thunderbolt for some time. There is a market, but you're not it.

Re:Only problem is ... (3, Insightful)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300825)

There are already multiple alternatives to thunderbolt.

That's why some of us are less than excited about a closely held standard that requires the purchase of a Mac or a $400 Intel motherboard and also requires $50 cables.

The enclosure in the article is pretty expensive too.

> There is a market, but you're not it.

You are even less in it than I am.

Re:Only problem is ... (1)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | more than 2 years ago | (#40301207)

There is a market, but you're not it

Most people are not in it. That is precisely why it will fail. Nobody is going to put money into developing for the standard unless there is real money to be made (unless it gets forced on them, like Apple's mini-DV port), and with the ubiquity of USB (and it's backward compatibility) that means that most users are going to opt for utility and familiarity over capability.

Re:Only problem is ... (1)

rev0lt (1950662) | more than 2 years ago | (#40301313)

There is already an alternative already. It's called external PCIe, and while quite similar to thunderbolt, is simpler (both in software and hardware) and more scalable.

Re:Only problem is ... (5, Insightful)

Alarash (746254) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300391)

What I expect from Thunderbolt is not to use it as a link to a storage device, but to a graphic card. This way you could have a CPU and memory heavy laptop to carry around, but then you could dock it at home and connect it to the external graphic card and play some video games.

Apparently this interface can do 10 Gbps, and that sounds like a good start.

Re:Only problem is ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40300449)

I want a 10 Gb nic via thunderbolt

Re:Only problem is ... (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 2 years ago | (#40301211)

If it's less than $200 you will be breaking just about even with what you can already get as an internal card.

Re:Only problem is ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40301865)

And how do you propose I install that card in my laptop?

Thunderbolt wins for laptops because you can do a lot over one cable. Proprietary docking stations suck, but being able to set down your laptop, connect power and thunderbolt and suddenly have a full desk with dual displays, wired gig-e, external firewire disks, and all the usb goodies you could want sounds like a pretty good deal.

less then pci-e X4 is poor for video cards (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#40301229)

less then pci-e X4 is poor for video cards and useing one maxes out the BUS. Why not just use External PCI Express and get full pci-e speed.

http://www.molex.com/molex/products/family?key=external_pci_express_pcie&channel=products&chanName=family&pageTitle=Introduction [molex.com]

Re:less then pci-e X4 is poor for video cards (1)

willy_me (212994) | more than 2 years ago | (#40301917)

The maximum speed of the connectors from your link is 5Gbps. No indication if this is at the physical or data layers. Actual speed (from Wikipedia) is 250MBps per channel. But getting multiple channels on a small connector is difficult. From the site, one of the must suitable 4x connecors still has a width of 21mm and depth of 28mm. This won't work in modern ultrabook computers.

Thunderbolt offers bidirectional 10Gbps at the data layer. Currently, up to two channels are supported on most computers (the Macbook Air only supports 1). And the connector used is tiny - well suited for the next generation of computer hardware. If Apple's Thunderbolt -> GigEthernet adapter for $30 is typical, then the cost of implementing Thunderbolt should be reasonable - probably less expensive then PCI Express External.

Re:Only problem is ... (1)

DeathToBill (601486) | more than 2 years ago | (#40301339)

I have one of these already. I call it a "docking station."

Re:Only problem is ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40301597)

What - like the Sony Vaio Z that's been out for over a year using the USB 3.0 port?

Re:Only problem is ... (1)

rsborg (111459) | more than 2 years ago | (#40302011)

Apparently this interface can do 10 Gbps, and that sounds like a good start.

That's bidirectional 10Gbps per channel or 20Gbps each way. Apple's implementation on their MBPs are effectively pushing 4 PCIe lanes over the wire (their MB Air implementation only pushes 2).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thunderbolt_(interface) [wikipedia.org]

Re:Only problem is ... (2)

v1 (525388) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300417)

there's no immediate benefit and it increases the expense. I could see this quickly going the way of FireWire.

"go the way of firewire"? firewire (particularly 800) has been the fast-and-easy solution for years. Though for some reason it never caught on with PCs. (I'll assume you're speaking from a windows point of view on FW?) 79MB/sec is sweet compared to USB "high speed" that tops out at 39MB/sec. USB3 is the tech that seems to be stumbling out the gate as far as adoption goes. It had a head start on thunderbolt and failed to capture the market and now TB is going to turn it into a young but obsolete technology.

So lets hope thunderbolt "goes the way of firewire". ;)

Re:Only problem is ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40300467)

sure, thunderbolt will end up exaclty like all variants of firewire. Included in almost everything, but used for practiacly nothing. There might be a few video editors on Macs who use it, but who cares about them anyway?

Re:Only problem is ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40300557)

eSATA has generally been the go-to method for external drives on PCs (if performance is a concern), rather than Firewire. Which could drive SSDs with little issue, wheras Firewire could not.

Re:Only problem is ... (3, Insightful)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | more than 2 years ago | (#40301375)

(I'll assume you're speaking from a windows point of view on FW?)

As does the vast, vast majority of computer users out there. I don't think anyone would argue that fact, right?

That's why USB 3.0 is going to ultimately be the standard...it's backward compatible and everyone is still using mostly USB peripherals. Until that changes (which it probably won't, regardless of capability, look at how long VGA has been hanging on, and that standard is 30 years old), USB x.0 will likely be the dominant standard for peripherals based on that fact alone.

Geeks like going out and buying new peripherals to take advantage of the new capabilities of new standards. Most people, though, just want something that's going to work with the shit they've already got.

Re:Only problem is ... (3, Interesting)

dacut (243842) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300493)

I don't think that's the target. Look what Apple has done with Thunderbolt: it's their primary docking adapter for their laptops and they've made their new monitors the equivalent of docking stations. Basically, it has just enough bandwidth to carry a DisplayPort signal plus USB.

I have a 2009 MacBook Pro which commutes with me to and from the office. It's a tad annoying to have to plug in six different cables every time I get to my desk and unplug them when I leave (which is a few times a day due to meetings). I've wished for a decent docking station; Apple seems to be averse to including a connector for this purpose, and the third-party solutions I've tried are as kludgy as one might expect. The addition of Thunderbolt doesn't have me rushing out to replace my laptop (obviously), but I'll be happy to have it when the time comes to retire this machine.

(As for why I have a MacBook vs. a Windows laptop... well, it's rather well built (and has survived a few drops to date), is Unix-y enough to allow me to develop on it and still deploy the results to our Linux servers, and has built-in grep and zsh.)

Re:Only problem is ... (1)

csumpi (2258986) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300695)

I can't speak for a macbook, but on my sony laptop the only hard wired connection needed is the power cable. Everything else is wireless (mouse, keyboard, audio, display, network). I usually don't even plug in the power during the day either, as it runs 12-15 hours on a charge.

Are you sure you couldn't cut down on the number of cables with the hardware you already have?

wireless display is less than ideal (1)

Chirs (87576) | more than 2 years ago | (#40301575)

I can see keyboard/mouse and maybe audio going wireless. When you're pushing a high resolution monitor (24-30") wireless display isn't all that great. Also, even with dual-chanel 5GHz wifi a gigabit ethernet cable is still substantially faster.

Personally I have a Dell with a docking station connector on the bottom. Docking bay has all the ports you need: power/usb/ethernet/audio/DVI/displayport/VGA/eSATA.

Re:Only problem is ... (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40301453)

I don't think that's the target. Look what Apple has done with Thunderbolt: it's their primary docking adapter for their laptops and they've made their new monitors the equivalent of docking stations. Basically, it has just enough bandwidth to carry a DisplayPort signal plus USB.

I realize you're not trashing it and it was probably a verbal slipup, but I have to say, you seem to have an odd definition of "just enough". ;)

One Thunderbolt connector carries two full-duplex 10 Gb/s links, or 20 Gb/s total (bidirectional). 60Hz refresh of a 2560x1440 27" display with 8 bits per channel needs 2560*1440*3*8*60 = 5.3 Gb/s. One lane of PCIe 2.0 is equivalent to 4 Gb/s (5 nominal, but 8b10b line coding means it's 4 actual, while Thunderbolt has a much-closer-to-100% efficient line coding). So Thunderbolt can refresh Apple's Thunderbolt Display with enough bandwidth left over for >3 PCIe 2.0 lanes.

The Thunderbolt Display doesn't just have USB, by the way. It also has a gigabit ethernet port and FW800. Those, and the USB, are all local PCI Express host controllers which communicate to the computer by tunneling PCIe through Thunderbolt. That's how Thunderbolt works: it tunnels PCIe and DisplayPort packets. All other protocols require a PCI Express host controller at the far end.

Re:Only problem is ... (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300653)

Thunderbolt isn't meant to replace USB and SATA for mere performance reasons. Thunderbolt is meant to replace them and Ethernet cables at the same time. It is the most direct connection to bus as you can get. FireWire when it was released was THE best in wired transfer. It has been superseded by better technologies. Unlike FireWire, this is an Intel technology and not by Apple. Just like USB replaced serial, parallel, joystick ports, this tech replaces many different cables.

Re:Only problem is ... (1)

rev0lt (1950662) | more than 2 years ago | (#40301367)

It is the most direct connection to bus as you can get.

It isn't. Google for external PCIe. And theoretically, you can use external PCIe to interconnect multiple nodes (think grid computing) at native PCIe lane speed. A 4 lane E-PCIe adapter can give you 20Gb/s of troughput.

Re:Only problem is ... (1)

mlts (1038732) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300683)

I'm seeing some high end devices using TB. An example would be enterprise-level tape drives (LTO-5) that can be attached to a laptop. Last time I've seen a capacity that was relevant that was usable with one was around 2000 with Firewire drives.

I wonder TB can stand out enough for it not to be put to the side. Since USB is the lowest common denominator, most devices will have at least this unless they really need faster I/O such as a mini SAN or a tape drive.

What will make or break TB is if it winds up on every PC out there just like USB 3, even if it is just used as a replacement for the VGA/DVI out for low end machines. If the critical mass of TB ports does form, then the devices will be made, be it SAN attachments, very fast SSD devices, or the ability to use a render server that streams video back, so devices don't have to have large GPUs in order to play games at a fast framerate.

Time will tell. If TB stays an "Apple-only" item, it will die on the vine. However, if it is available on consumer level hardware in the future, it likely will find a permanent niche, if only just for a replacement for the VGA out connector.

Re:Only problem is ... (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300771)

I can think of some engineering and scientific equipment that may have use for such an interface. Slow-motion cameras, high-frequency ADCs. But not the type of stuff most home users could want or afford. For them, there is one obvious application: Docking station. Just plug laptop into two cables (Power too!) to instantly have high-resolution display, wired network, external keyboard and mouse, and whatever other peripherals you need.

Re:Only problem is ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40300693)

For current devices, USB/SATA really don't tend to be the biggest bottlenecks.

It's nice that they're developing technology to improve this. But I have a feeling adoption of this is going to be slow going, since there's no immediate benefit and it increases the expense. I could see this quickly going the way of FireWire.

Thunderbolt is an expansion interface, not a storage interface.

If USB2 was a Toyota Corolla, and USB3 is a Porsche, then Thunderbolt is a 747 cargo plane.

Re:Only problem is ... (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 2 years ago | (#40301023)

People with real PCs don't really care that it is "an expansion interface". We already have that. This is why I can functionally replace a current Mac Mini with crappy old Compaq that I bought 4 years ago because it was the cheapest thing I could lay my hands on at the time.

The whole "expansion interface" aspect of it just makes it more of a security headache as does the display requirement.

It's a solution for a problem that most of us (non-Apple users) simply don't have.

Re:Only problem is ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40301831)

People with real PCs don't really care that it is "an expansion interface". We already have that. This is why I can functionally replace a current Mac Mini with crappy old Compaq that I bought 4 years ago because it was the cheapest thing I could lay my hands on at the time.

The whole "expansion interface" aspect of it just makes it more of a security headache as does the display requirement.

It's a solution for a problem that most of us (non-Apple users) simply don't have.

Imma ignore your Apple-fanboy baiting and shoot you down in one word:

Laptops.

Re:Only problem is ... (2, Informative)

bobcat7677 (561727) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300779)

Not quite right. The current generation of SSDs (Intel 520 and others) are already pushing the bandwidth limits of SATA 3.0 (600MB/s including overhead) and are already leaving USB3 (400MB/s including overhead) in the dust now. And that is just a single disk. If you want to attach a DAS RAID for high bandwidth media editing or whatever, you better be using SAS for dedicated bandwidth to each disk or you are wasting your time. USB3.0 is worlds better then 2.0 was for storage, but it's already been outpaced by drives and SATA will soon be in the same boat.

Re:Only problem is ... (1)

QuantumRiff (120817) | more than 2 years ago | (#40301055)

This will wipe the floor with any USB 'docking station' on the market.. I'm kind of excited for it.

Re:Only problem is ... (1)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | more than 2 years ago | (#40301069)

Oh, Thunderbolt is totally the new Firewire. Better in terms of specs, sure, but the average joe already has a bajillion USB peripherals, and USB 3.0 is backwards compatible. I used to sell computers at CompUSA, and speaking as someone that actually dealt with the real "average computer user" (not just the least knowledgeable programmer at the office), believe me...they're going to go into the store, look at all those rectangle ports that look like all the rectangle ports on their beige Compaq tower at home they bought back in 2004, and they're going to go with the one that has the most for less than $400.

Backwards compatibility with the myriad devices out there is why USB 3.0 isn't going anywhere and likely won't anytime soon. Without virtually every peripheral on the market coming out with a Thunderbolt alternative to sit on the shelf side-by-side with their USB 3.0/2.1/2.0/1.0 counterpart, the standard is going to be a niche product that geeks love and bash their heads against the wall wondering why nobody else does. All the capabilities in the world aren't going to transcend that. So it can be used to drive a monitor, so what? Most people are still using VGA for Christ's sake, and when did that standard get adopted? 1980-something? I know people that are still rocking CRT's for fuck's sake, and they're not enthusiasts, they're just going to continue using that monitor until it stops turning on (which, given that they're tank-like CRT's, will probably not be until the EMPs knock them out at the start of WWIII).

People need to seriously stop thinking that the quality of technology has anything to do with it's longevity or adoption. I would think that we would have learned the fallacy in that line of thought back when Betamax was getting bargain binned in the early 80's...

Promise RAID (3, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300343)

If that is a Promise RAID box, I Promise the numbers are totally imaginary. Maybe they got that performance for about a second, on a full moon, in the dark, with no one watching.

I don't doubt thunderbolt can do it, but I doubt anything Promise says.

TLDR: Promise sucks.

Re:Promise RAID (2)

silas_moeckel (234313) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300701)

Na the numbers might be real in jbod mode with a pile of SSD's. I do assure you that the raid will crash and need to be rebooted at least once a week and it will completely eat itself once a year. That is a feature that helps you test your backups.

Don't bother trying to RTFA (1)

gman003 (1693318) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300397)

The article really provides nothing worth reading. It spends a page on "what is Thunderbolt", another page on the motherboards, then a page running a *single* I/O benchmark on a *single* external RAID box, which they compare to an SSD in a USB 3.0 external enclosure (I don't even have to explain why that's stupid), before going straight to "summary and conclusions".

It's a stupid article with a single, astoundingly stupid "test", no insightful remarks or even technical detail. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

get out the hot glue gun (2, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300457)

Get out the hot glue gun... Any device with thunderbolt has the full PCI bus exposed. Plug in the right gadget, which cops and crooks WILL have, and you completely and utterly own the system down to the lowest level, memory and drive contents. Best of all its hot pluggable, no reset required, heck maybe not even detectable if you do it right by splicing into a users "video" cable, etc.

The spec even allows 7 devices in a daisy chain so you can get owned by an industrial competitor, and the local cops, and your own IT monitoring system, and the IRS, and the CIA and the FBI and MI-6 all at the same time. Fantastic!

Aside from reading, it should be trivial to create a writer to insert a root kit or keylogger into the system.

So much for the bad guys using it. The good guys can use it to bypass any DRM scheme. A little magic box plugs in, and watches memory as the decrypted file appears and is rendered. All that HDCP stuff is irrelevant, bypassed. Or, on the fly, keys are sniffed out.

If only they could have just multiplexed a USB over the displayport, or firewire, but no, they had to provide a root access connector that is now standardized across many devices. Oh boy is this going to be fun.

I honestly believe this is why rollout has been so slow, a frantic flurry of trying to figure out some way to patch the massive gaping goatse sized hole. Dev kits still not available, or so I'm told.

Re:get out the hot glue gun (4, Insightful)

Dahan (130247) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300515)

Any device with thunderbolt has the full PCI bus exposed.

With an IOMMU [wikipedia.org] in between, which the OS can use to protect sensitive memory.

Re:get out the hot glue gun (4, Insightful)

Chemisor (97276) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300591)

That's all true of the PCI-E slots you already have on your motherboard. Do you hot glue those too?

Re:get out the hot glue gun (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300859)

It takes a lot more effort to expose a PCI slot.

Any idiot can casually plug something into a TB port.

This is an actual real problem with USB ports already.

Re:get out the hot glue gun (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40301305)

No, it's not. It's a problem with Firewire which has DMA (direct memory access).

AFAIK it's the same concept that the paranoid OP is talking about. There are dedicated forensic devices for imaging a machine's physical memory via Firewire tools to extract encryption keys. This is the reason that I disable 1394 on all of my machines, though it's not like I needed much of a reason to begin with.

Re:get out the hot glue gun (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40301349)

And it's worth repeating, the #1 rule of computer security is that if you have physical access to the box it's as good as compromised.

Re:get out the hot glue gun (1)

mevets (322601) | more than 2 years ago | (#40302159)

If the machineâ(TM)s OS opens up the firewire memory space, then yes. The OS has to do that explicitly (granted its BIOS could). Some OSes did this under a mistaken idea of making things âeasierâ(TM). Some (BSD) made it an option for having the most awesome kernel debugger ever.
Security folks spread crap about it for notoriety...

It is that âremote dmaâ(TM) feature that makes FW so attractive - low latency + high throughput. But those remote dma requests are filtered through a set of range-accept registers programmed by the driver.

As I understand TB uses an iommu on the interconnect, whereas FW did it on the FW controller.

Re:get out the hot glue gun (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#40301265)

That's what case locks and intrusion alarms are for.

Re:get out the hot glue gun (1)

kandresen (712861) | more than 2 years ago | (#40301819)

It seem like you live in dinasaur times beliving everyone only use desktops... I have not had any PCI-E card exposed at all on any of my recent laptops! Now I do not know if hot-plugging a card to PCI-E in fact can be done without a system crash, but you would need to open the case for this in a way that for sure would take some more serious action.

Now compare that with simply plugging a Thunderbolt cable to a machine - laptop or desktop...

Re:get out the hot glue gun (4, Informative)

slimjim8094 (941042) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300631)

If only they could have just multiplexed a USB over the displayport, or firewire, but no, they had to provide a root access connector that is now standardized across many devices.

You don't have even the slightest idea what you're talking about. You grabbed hold of a few concepts that you apparently don't fully comprehend and then used them to rant about surveillance. A sibling of mine posted the IOMMU thing already, but that wasn't the only howler in your post. Firewire also allows DMA [wikipedia.org] so your purported solution wouldn't work for exactly the wrong reasons you were complaining about Thunderbolt. And even if they were legitimate objections, you're screwed if an attacker has physical access anyway.

Re:get out the hot glue gun (1)

vyvepe (809573) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300633)

I honestly believe this is why rollout has been so slow, a frantic flurry of trying to figure out some way to patch the massive gaping goatse sized hole. Dev kits still not available, or so I'm told.

I doubt that is the reason for slow adoption. FireWire controls DMA too and people do not seem to mind that much.

Re:get out the hot glue gun (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300889)

No. People have discarded Firewire or ignored it entirely for other reasons.

Re:get out the hot glue gun (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40301553)

I've been using firewire 800 on all my external drives for years now because it was far faster than USB2.0. Not only was the wire speed faster, but it supports command queuing, which allows higher data throughput against high-latency devices like HDs.

There are a lot of other things it is great at as well. For one, I used to plug my computer into my Comcast digital DVR box and rip perfect HD streams of whatever I was watching. There are even apps that can talk to the cable box and tell it to switch channels and automatically rip the stream, all based off a scheduler.

Re:get out the hot glue gun (3, Insightful)

silas_moeckel (234313) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300655)

It is not much different than firewire with DMA access and hotplug? IOMMU's plugged that hole years ago.

Re:get out the hot glue gun (2)

kandresen (712861) | more than 2 years ago | (#40302161)

IOMMU seems like a good solution for the Thunderbolt DMA problem!

Thanks to your post I am now aware Intel come with IOMMU when the hardware has VT-d support and that support is activated (in bios?). The same is true with AMD machines with HyperTransport. I assume HyperTransport just like VT-d must be activated in BIOS for protection to be active since a disadvantage of activating IOMMU is degradation of the DMA performance.

I must say I had eliminated any laptop with Thunderbolt from buying consideration up until finding this post, Thanks to this I will give it a second look!

Re:get out the hot glue gun (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40300705)

Local ports exploitable, news at 11.
You've got the same issue with firewire.
Or any expansion slot in the chassis.
Oh shit! Those memory slots have arbitrary access to system memory! Oh god!!
I2c header? TPM header? JTAG? Exposed traces on the motherboard? Better just dip the whole thing expoxy!!

Seriously, if any spook can get close enough to your system to jam a dongle in the thunderbolt port, then can just spend 30 seconds with a screwdriver and get at whatever else they want anyway.

How does this paranoid crap get modded so high? Oh yeah, apple bashing. So brave!

Re:get out the hot glue gun (1)

Balial (39889) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300737)

Your security concerns are legitimate, which is why you should get a chipset with VT-D support.

Re:get out the hot glue gun (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300789)

On the other hand, it's a dream for debuggers, driver-writers, kernel-programmers and DRM-breakers.

Re:get out the hot glue gun (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40300819)

I think you can say the same for FireWire, and the sky hasn't fallen (or maybe we don't know it yet).
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IEEE_1394#Security_issues

Re:get out the hot glue gun (1)

alexo (9335) | more than 2 years ago | (#40301505)

So much for the bad guys using it. The good guys can use it to bypass any DRM scheme. A little magic box plugs in, and watches memory as the decrypted file appears and is rendered. All that HDCP stuff is irrelevant, bypassed. Or, on the fly, keys are sniffed out.

If that was so easy, the "good guys" would have already have "regular" PCIe cards that can "bypass any DRM scheme", including "all that HDCP stuff".
Where can I get one?

Re:get out the hot glue gun (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40301573)

Get out the hot glue gun... Any device with thunderbolt has the full PCI bus exposed. Plug in the right gadget, which cops and crooks WILL have, and you completely and utterly own the system down to the lowest level, memory and drive contents. Best of all its hot pluggable, no reset required, heck maybe not even detectable if you do it right by splicing into a users "video" cable, etc.

The spec even allows 7 devices in a daisy chain so you can get owned by an industrial competitor, and the local cops, and your own IT monitoring system, and the IRS, and the CIA and the FBI and MI-6 all at the same time. Fantastic!

Aside from reading, it should be trivial to create a writer to insert a root kit or keylogger into the system.

So much for the bad guys using it. The good guys can use it to bypass any DRM scheme. A little magic box plugs in, and watches memory as the decrypted file appears and is rendered. All that HDCP stuff is irrelevant, bypassed. Or, on the fly, keys are sniffed out.

If only they could have just multiplexed a USB over the displayport, or firewire, but no, they had to provide a root access connector that is now standardized across many devices. Oh boy is this going to be fun.

I honestly believe this is why rollout has been so slow, a frantic flurry of trying to figure out some way to patch the massive gaping goatse sized hole. Dev kits still not available, or so I'm told.

You have got to be the dumbest person on this website. I cannot believe anybody actually wrote this. WTF am I even reading?

Re:get out the hot glue gun (3, Informative)

Chirs (87576) | more than 2 years ago | (#40301707)

Get out the hot glue gun... Any device with thunderbolt has the full PCI bus exposed. Plug in the right gadget, which cops and crooks WILL have, and you completely and utterly own the system down to the lowest level, memory and drive contents.

Sorry, no. I'm a professional linux kernel developer. Unless you have something cooperating within the OS to set up a mapping any DMA request from the thunderbolt device is going to get dumped on the floor by the IOMMU. (See the IOMMU wikipedia article if you're unsure how this works.)

"Infancy" != "Matured" (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300501)

I don't think "matured" into Thunderbolt is the right way to put it, at all.

Thunderbolt itself is just an interim solution on the way to Light Peak.

In addition, I don't think it will be fully "mature", Light Peak or no, unless and until they can start making cheaper cables. In general, I would say an active cable is not a good idea. It really raises the price.

A way should be found to put the "active" components inside the devices at either end, with the (now much cheaper) cable running between them.

Re:"Infancy" != "Matured" (1)

willy_me (212994) | more than 2 years ago | (#40302059)

A way should be found to put the "active" components inside the devices at either end, with the (now much cheaper) cable running between them.

The reason why Thunderbolt is so fast is that it doesn't have to worry about cable length. What you're talking about has already been done, it's called USB and is well suited for many applications. But the throughput on USB will never reach that of Thunderbolt. Add the availability of optical cables and Thunderbolt becomes even more impressive.

Well that's nice (1)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300573)

The real problem is getting new adoption for a new standard, especially when USB3 is just coming out of the gate. And for most people USB2/3 works just fine. Thunderbolt though, it won't have any place for another 5-6 years if that. And to be honest, I see devices in the near future shifting from Firewire to USB3 as well, USB is cheaper.

Re:Well that's nice (1)

Hydrian (183536) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300657)

(USB3) ...and is backward compatible. ...and doesn't take up any more room on a motherboard.

Outside of Apple's products, I'm does thing we are going to see a whole lot of adoption of Thunderbolt. Sounds like FireWire Redux.

Insecure by Nature (-1, Troll)

Hydrian (183536) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300599)

Just like Apple's previous external bus, FireWire, Light Peak/Thunderbolt has an inherent security issue. Both of these buses allow DMA access. This makes it relatively trivial put on some type of password/PIN sniffer hardware. I wouldn't plan on using any Thunderbolt hardware unless the physical security is reliable. So to me, this is a useless technology on netbooks, notebooks, tables, etc...

Re:Insecure by Nature (3, Insightful)

profplump (309017) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300827)

First, that complaint is true of essentially all external busses, including SCSI, SAS, eSATA and virtually everything else except USB. They're setup that way for a reason -- DMA is much, much faster.

Second, memory access on modern busses is routed through an IOMMU. This provides both memory abstraction (which is vital on modern architectures) and allows the OS to control which devices, if any, can access a particular memory location.

Re:Insecure by Nature (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40300887)

Do a little research instead of speaking out your ass. All of these, including PCI-E, thunderbolt, even Firewire allow for DMA

DVORAK Keyboard anyone? (1)

erp_consultant (2614861) | more than 2 years ago | (#40300601)

Thunderbolt is an awesome technology but at this point in time it's really, really expensive. Even the cable (which Apple does not provide) will run you at least $50. Firewire, which is dying a slow death, was the same thing. Clearly much faster than USB and USB2 but the PC makers deemed it too expensive to include so it never got much momentum outside of Apple. USB is everywhere now and it's going to hard to displace. Anyone remember the DVORAK keyboard? The QWERTY keyboard in use today was originally designed to make you type SLOWER so as not to jam the keys on the old manual typewriters in use at the time. The DVORAK design was designed to increase typing speed yet it never caught on. Why? People were used to the QWERTY keyboard and didn't want to change. It's too early to tell but I hope that Thunderbolt does not meet the same fate.

Re:DVORAK Keyboard anyone? (1)

Lashat (1041424) | more than 2 years ago | (#40301441)

Well.. sorta. Except I don't have to re-learn how to plug devices into the connectors when I move from USB to Thunderbolt. No real learning curve there.

Windows? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40300805)

Get OSX running on this shit. Fuck that Windogs shit. Come back around when you got money for a real computer.

Common use, docking (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40300817)

Probably the broadest use case for Thunderbolt for average users (i.e. not doing on the fly video, etc.) is essentially a single port universal docking connector. Plug in your laptop or tablet upon arriving back at your desk, and get your monitor, keyboard, mouse, and extremely fast or large file storage in one small cable.

What is the plan for AMD and non on board video sy (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#40301021)

What is the plan for AMD and non on board video systems?

Like LGA 2011? will that get Thunderbolt or will HIGH end desktops and workstations get locked out of TB while lower end system have it?

Will severs get it? I don't see Intel on board video in servers any time soon and Ivy Bridge-E will use LGA 2011.

Re:What is the plan for AMD and non on board video (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 2 years ago | (#40301249)

Speaking of high end workstations being locked out of TB...

Thunderbolt was conspicously missing from the recent Mac Pro refresh.

Its a docking bay standard, nothing else. (2)

bored (40072) | more than 2 years ago | (#40301033)

Its a nice docking bay standard for laptops. Outside of that there are much better choices for desktop PCs.

For one SAS makes a much better disk attachment interface, as the x4 links normally used for external connections are already 24Gbit, and they can be ganged together. Plus, there are dozens if not hundreds of vendors selling external SAS arrays. Many of which can do significantly more than 1GB/sec read/write.

Thirdly, I can't see anyone actually using an external PCIe enclosure with a graphics card connected over 20Gbit of PCIe. A big part of graphics performance is moving things over the bus. Its the graphics card vendors shipping x16 boards and pushing for faster standards. I can see people connecting a bunch of monitors using the display port connections in thunderbolt. I can also see an assortment of proprietary pcie devices sitting in an enclosure like that, but I doubt the market is large enough to really justify inexpensive pcie enclosures. Hence the current prices, which seem to indicate the enclosure is going to cost more than a complete PC.

I can see people using TB instead of firewire to transfer data from prosumer cameras, but I suspect that most home camcorders will be limited to USB3.

Frankly, its a docking bay standard for people who bought laptops without expresscard slots. Its also peace of mind for people buying >$2.2k laptops that they won't get stranded with USB3 and giant hubs.

right on time (0)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 2 years ago | (#40301399)

A bunch of Apple fluff articles about what wonderful and world-changing technologies are just around the corner and Windows FUD appears just as the WWDC is occurring in San Francisco.

I have a round bin labeled "political advertisement" into which all such things are dumped.

How convenient.

I don't care about Windows (1)

mehemiah (971799) | more than 2 years ago | (#40301469)

great, when is linux getting it? What's that, Intel doesn't care? After multiple speeches from multiple Intel executives at several conferences they don't move at all on publishing a software spec for it. We're not asking for a diagram of how it works, (there are enough of those) give us a bus, a frequency, something!
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