Saturday, May 12, 2012

After A Year, Windows To Get Thunderbolt

Last year, Apple's customers were delivered a lightning-fast new multipurpose peripheral bus called Thunderbolt. Apple's displays now get their video via Thunderbolt, and the displays' USB ports and other expansion options transmit their data back to the Macs via the small but fast Thunderbolt cable.

Based on the work of Intel software engineers' work on drivers, machines running Microsoft's operating system will get access to Thunderbolt later this year. Thunderbolt has two effects. First, small-factor machines with a little Thunderbolt port will be able to connect to things requiring a larger interface when connected to a Thunderbolt display (e.g., Gigabit Ethernet ports are larger than Thunderbolt, and don't fit on a MacBook Air). Second, whole controllers that previously had to be inside a machine and could not be made plug-and-play (e.g., SATA or RAID controllers) can now be made part of a peripheral, and the OS will be none the wiser because Thunderbolt hides these details from the OS. On OS X, this means hot-pluggable devices that could not have been hot-pluggable; forthcoming "certified" drivers will enable this under Microsoft's operating system, too.

Another point in favor of Thunderbolt is that with 20GB/s throughput, it should handle all the system's I/O just fine (including the monitors). As more Thunderbolt devices are made, the cost should come down for Mac users who want them. Moreover, as MS-Windows begins to access Thunderbolt hardware, more Thunderbolt monitors will appear and will offer some competition for Mac users who presently have but one monitor vendor.

The good news? Customers may never need a RAID card again. Hardware controllers can live just fine at the end of a Thunderbolt cable. This promises to free users from the risk of obsolete controllers. Let's just hope our Thunderbolt buses keep up with our outrageous demands.

No comments: