Thunderbolt 2.0 Eliminates the I/O Bottleneck
Back in the mid-’90s, USB (Universal Serial Bus) did a good job standardizing the dizzying array of cables and connectors used to connect, communicate and deliver power between computers and a wide range of external devices. The industry-adopted standard simplified the bus and communications protocols so a single connector interface could be used for a wide range of devices. While the current version USB 3.0 continues to more than meet the needs for input devices for supporting charging and syncing all of our tablets and phones and for handing the lower demands of consumer backup and storage use, it is showing signs of stress when you look at the needs of professionals and power users. High-speed, high-volume video and audio creation/production require low latency and highly accurate time synchronization. This means you can increase productivity with enhanced performance and decreased lag times. To meet these demands, Intel and Apple developed Thunderbolt technology which initially provided 10 Gbps throughput. With the rapid adoption of 4K video production/distribution, Thunderbolt 2 is now being implemented to deliver more bandwidth and lower overhead to provide full bandwidth response.
Keeping pace with our newest high-performance processors, system designers have been able to integrate the Thunderbolt 2 chipset and interface into thin, light laptops so cinematographers and other power users are able to achieve workstation performance over a single cable in the office and in the field. Thunderbolt is based on PCI Express and DisplayPort which allow designers to use off-the-shelf controllers and standard drivers while supporting higher-definition display resolutions as well as eight-channel HD audio. While the Thunderbolt protocol physical layer delivers comprehensive link maintenance, the key to its performance and flexibility is the transport layer. This layer includes a high-performance, low-power switching architecture and a very efficient, low-overhead packet format. The technology multiplexes PCI Express transactions and isochronous DisplayPort communications on the same link.
Available as either a copper or optical cable, the Thunderbolt copper cable economically delivers the specified bandwidth and is capable of delivering 10W of power to bus-powered devices such as high-capacity, high-speed SSD and HD storage solutions. Thunderbolt2 provides two bi-directional channels on the same connector with 20Gb/s throughput in both directions. As a result, the technology is able to move data 40 times faster than USB 3 and up to 24 times faster than FireWire 800.
Because the PCI Express bus and DisplayPort are incorporated in the controller, simultaneous traffic from both busses are packetized and transmitted over the cable. The technology delivers more bandwidth and lower overhead to provide full bandwidth response. While the Thunderbolt protocol physical layer delivers comprehensive link maintenance, the key to its performance and flexibility is the transport layer. This layer includes a high-performance, low-power switching architecture and a very efficient, low-overhead packet format. The technology multiplexes PCI Express transactions and isochronous DisplayPort communications on the same link.
To ensure optimum performance for demanding applications such as audio/video production/post production and mission-critical data management transfer, we tested Thunderbolt 2 enabled storage systems and were able to consistently achieve sustained data rates up to 1,342 MB/s. This makes working with large video files – even 4K – easier, faster and consistently reliable. In addition, Thunderbolt 2 delivers enough bandwidth to daisy-chain multiple high-speed devices without having to add a hub or switch. For example, video production/post production facilities maintain full copies of all of their work – RAW, FX, CGI, edits, versions and final cuts. Thunderbolt 2 allows you to connect as many as six storage solutions, providing up to 120TB and more of stored workflow content immediately available to the producer or editor for fast, efficient project management.
Thunderbolt 2 is rapidly becoming the connectivity solution of choice by professional and prosumer cinematographers and production/post production experts who almost universally rely on newer Mac Pro and MacBook Pro systems that include the technology. In addition to the technology’s lower peripheral and cable costs, the ability to quickly and easily carry out large data transfers for a wide range of applications will drive its broader adoption-not just by workstation and performance laptops that meet the rapidly expanding A/V market’s storage and peripheral needs but for SMB data management and backup requirements.