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ThunderBolt / Advanced IF

Thunderbolttm and Thunderpacktm

ThunderPack™ and ThunderPack Minitm were introduced in 2016. They primarily use the Thunderbolttm 2 interface for direct connection to computers. They are both designed to accept a Thunderbolttm 3 circuit in the near future.

Thunderbolttm 2 is a widely-accepted interface standard developed by Apple and Intel. It offers many desired features for high resolution workflows (20Gb/s) and monitoring. The connector is the same as mini-display port. There are adapters that can connect TB2 to Ethernet and standard USB2 and USB3 ports.

Thunderbolttm 3 is the new standard being rolled out in 2017. It is based on the USB-C connector and is a super-set of the USB 3.1 Gen 2 specification. In brief, Thunderbolt 3 brings Thunderbolt to USB-C. The superset of features that Thunderbolt 3 provides include:

  • At 40 Gbps, Thunderbolt 3 is the fastest connection available (by comparison, native USB 3.1 operates at 10 Gbps and USB3 is 5 Gbps).
  • Thunderbolt 3 is bi-directional with four lanes of PCI Express Gen 3 and eight lanes of DisplayPort 1.2.
  • You can connect to any dock, device or display, including billions of USB devices.
  • Protocols in TB3 include HDMI, DC power, Firewire, USB3, Thunderbolt 2, Ethernet, and VGA.

The first TB3 products shown in 2016 had a limitation because the tech specs were defined before Apple had incorporated them into their products; consequently, many of those products did not have the necessary Apple drivers. Since MacPro and MacBook Pro are used widely in the entertainment industry it caused a lot of confusion. This situation is being resolved and will not be an issue in the future.

In Q3 2017 we will make available a Thunderbolttm 3 circuit board that will be field upgradeable from the Thunderbolttm 2 circuit that comes in the current products.

Advanced Networking Interfaces

ServerPacktm comes standard with GbE and 10GbE RJ-45 network interfaces, and can optionally accept various fiber interface boards depending on the needs of connecting to a data center switch. ServerPacktm has a PCIe3/12Gbs architecture ready for the most demanding compute and storage tasks.

Fast 10GbE interfaces are rapidly becoming the standard since the cost is coming down. Now, organizations are deploying faster 25, 40, 56, and even 100 GbE systems. ServerPacktm is designed to keep pace with these up-and-coming standards.

If 10GbE SFP+ Fiber is needed, a good idea would be to install a Mellanox 40GbE option board and use a break-out cable to get 4 x 10GbE SFP+ ports that each can be addressed individually. These can also be aggregated on a switch to get a single instance of 40GbE bandwidth. It’s more cost-effective than using multiple 10GbE boards and only requires the use of one PCIe slot.

Multiple high bandwidth ports have several new applications that are just beginning to emerge. For example, professional VR (Virtual Reality) recording rigs use as many as 20 high resolution cameras recording in sync. Currently, each camera records to its own storage device. Each card must be individually retrieved from the rig and the footage is transferred using a standard card reader (usually working at USB3 data speeds). We are working with a couple of partners to develop a fiber interface to the VR rig to transfer all of the footage simultaneously to portable storage in real time.

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