Why OS X Lion roars

Measuring the performance of this beast was actually quite difficult. The thing is so damn fast that finding anything that could feed it data quickly enough wasn’t easy. There are a number of benchmark utilities out there – although it was clear that some of them were becoming confused by the delayed-write RAM cache held inside the drive array – but all of the figures were eye-popping, somewhere between 300 and 500MB/sec read and write speed. For comparison, the 512GB SSD drive in my MacBook Pro 17in tops out at about 200MB/sec, so be in no doubt that this Promise drive array is right at the cutting-edge for speed.

Why OS X Lion roars

Even better, if you need more space, just buy another one and plug it in, and then another. A 17in iMac has two Thunderbolt ports, so it could have at least 12 of these monsters connected to it. That’s 120TB of disk space…

For high-powered workstations Thunderbolt is here, it works, it’s fantastically exciting

But there’s more. Apple has just updated its rather lovely 27in monitor to a full Thunderbolt connection, so now the monitor itself sports a Gigabit Ethernet connection, a FireWire 800 port and some USB 2 connections, all running over the Thunderbolt channels. If you take a new MacBook Air, which has only two USB 2 sockets and a Thunderbolt port, you can add this screen and gain a whole bunch of extra connectivity too.

I’m so excited by this groundbreaking technology – an interconnect that’s protocol-agnostic and which runs at speeds that were unthinkable even a few years ago. Indeed, when wiring up my new office, I’m having to make hard decisions: should I go with 10Gbit Ethernet cabling, or stick with 1Gbit CAT-5E in the expectation that my future requirements won’t be supplied by Ethernet at all, but by Thunderbolt over fibre?

And here’s the joy: today, these cables are limited to 2m in length, but take apart the plugs at each end and you’ll find a whole bunch of small microprocessors in there. These handle the signal-shaping over the 2m wire run to ensure you get the full 10Gbits/sec throughput, but clearly there’s no reason why there couldn’t be fibre transceivers in the same place, and a longer cable carrying fibre at full speed. They’d still need to run DC power down the cable as well to support remote-powered devices, so the cable itself would probably look identical but simply be longer. Run that through the trunking, sir? Don’t mind if I do.

For high-powered workstations Thunderbolt is here, it works, it’s fantastically exciting, and it’s clear that Apple’s desktop/laptop hardware business is big enough to attract a range of vendors to get involved with the technology. The results are eye-watering, and without any significant cost premium.

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