When Apple wanted to showcase its first Thunderbolt-enabled Macs, it turned to Promise Technology and the storage company's Pegasus multiple-drive RAID enclosures to highlight the finer points of the nascent peripheral connection technology. Now that the next version of Thunderbolt is upon us, Promise thinks it will be the first to enter the market with a RAID 5 storage product for Thunderbolt 2.
I had a chance to talk to Promise's Vijay Char at the Thunderbolt Community showcase during this week's Intel Developer Forum. Char was showing the Pegasus2 R series of RAID 5 hard drive enclosures and SANLink2 Fibre Channel bridge products.
The products I saw at IDF were just display models--nothing was running a live demo. Still, once Apple begins shipping its revamped Mac Pro later this year, Promise plans to have its Thunderbolt 2 products available, Char says.
As you may know, Thunderbolt 2 combines the two 10Gbps bi-directional channels of the original Thunderbolt specification into a single logical, bi-directional channel with 20Gbps of bandwidth. This higher throughput makes it possible for Thunderbolt 2 systems to transfer and display 4K video simultaneously, a feat that today's 10Gbps Thunderbolt can't match. The connectors and cables remain the same between the two versions of Thunderbolt. Thunderbolt 2 products will be backward-compatible with Thunderbolt devices and systems, but will run at 10Gbps speeds.
Hardware companies were slow to adopt Thunderbolt after its 2011 debut, but momentum for the connection technology is building. Intel claims more than 100 Thunderbolt-enabled devices exist today, with more than half of them supporting Windows. The company says that 240 licensees are working on Thunderbolt devices, and Intel expects these numbers to grow with the release of Thunderbolt 2.
Promise's SANLink2 will provide two 8Gbps Fibre Channel ports for connecting Thunderbolt 2 systems to Fibre Channel SAN storage. Most Mac users needing to connect to Storage Area Networks rely on PCI cards to do so. The soon-to-ship Mac Pro lacks internal PCI expansion and will require either an external PCI expansion chassis or a product like the Thunderbolt-connected SANLink. The current SANLink product offers two 4Gbps Fibre Channel ports for systems with Thunderbolt. It is available through the Apple Store for $799.
Promise hasn't released pricing or configuration information for its Pegasus2 R external RAID enclosures, but the company says that they'll come equipped with dual Thunderbolt 2 ports, feature hot-swappable drive bays, and ship with a Thunderbolt cable. Two of the current line of Pegasus R models are on sale through the Apple Store: The Pegasus R4 with four 1TB hard drives costs at $1099. A Pegasus R6 with six 3TB hard drives currently sells for $2999.