Thunderbolt hard drives should make data-transfer scream

Debut in MacBook Pro makes Light Peak stylish, speed makes it important

What enthusiastic geek wouldn't want something – anything – that runs at 10Gbit/sec? No matter what was going through it that fast?

If I caught Ron Popeil pitching a combination garbage disposal/gumbo maker on late-night, I couldn't get my credit card out fast enough if it ran at 10Gbit/sec.

[ See also: MacBooks will make Light Peak a standard before its time ]

That's why Intel's Light Peak data interconnect was almost guaranteed to be a hit, after it finally decided not to keep trying to build fiber into laptops and just go with copper instead.

Sticking it in Apple MacBook Pro notebooks was clever because it gives Light Peak an automatic fashionista gloss and selling point, despite the cheesy Thunderbolt re-tag on Light Peak and the pining by some pundits for the sylphlike profile of the MacBook Air

Body image issues aside, the new MacBook Pros gets a lot more power, but no revolutionary revamps: heavy duty quad-core i7 processors, 500GB solid-state drives, faster AMD Radeon GPUs and high-def cameras for videoconferencing.

Powerful Macs traditionally go to work processing images and video, which requires a lot of muscle on the graphics side, and the ability to move huge files before the Photoshopper dies of old age.

That particular use case isn't that common in corporate computing. Most users would like to get a full-length movie on or off their laptops in just a few seconds, but most IT execs signing off on the purchase won't be able to justify the expense, especially with no other Thunderbolt devices on the market.

My assumption was that it would show up first in resource-intensive data-center hardware. So I'm pleasantly surprised to see LaCie and Western Digital taking the covers off Thunderbolt (Light Peak) enabled external hard drives.

Intel lists other partners also working on Thunderbolt-enabled devices, but only the LaCie hard drive has so far even been revealed, it won't ship until this summer and no one has talked about prices.

Anyone who has ever sat watching the lights blink slooooowly on interminable backup, restore or uploads will be thrilled to have the chance to roto-rooter the pipes between external storage and any kind of computer – server, laptop or whatever.

USB 3.0 – still fairly new and fairly rare among shipping products – runs at up to 4 Gbit/sec. Regular USB 2 runs at 480 Mbit/sec and the "fast" Firewire runs at only 800 Mbit/sec.

So adding Thunderbolt (Light Peak wasn't a great name, but it's still a lot better than Thunderbolt), would be a huge improvement, and an enormous reduction in the most tedious part of any compute-enabled process.

As we move more toward cloud-based apps, services and the assumption that our phones, laptops and office networks will all be connected seamlessly, storage volumes will increase and the amount of time wasted waiting for it to squeak through old, slow data pipes will as well.

For once, I can't wait to replace the plugs on my current hardware with something that showed up first on a Mac. Even if it can't make a nice gumbo.

Kevin Fogarty writes about enterprise IT for ITworld. Follow him on Twitter @KevinFogarty.

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