Leading Hard Drive Makers to Support Intel Thunderbolt

Seagate and Western Digital to Support New I/O Standard

by Anton Shilov
02/24/2011 | 05:25 PM

Two leading makers of hard disk drives - Seagate Technology and Western Digital - said on Thursday that they would support the new interconnect technology unveiled by Intel Corp., the Thunderbolt. Both companies aim to provide solutions supporting the TB I/O tech in calendar 2011.


"Seagate will support Thunderbolt with our external GoFlex drives with in calendar year 2011," said Nathan Papadopulos, senior manager of corporate communications at Seagate.

Seagate was not among the companies, who openly supported the standard with Intel, Apple, WD and others. This fact makes the announcement even more important.

"Western Digital believes Thunderbolt technology will bring both new performance levels and simpler connectivity for consumers to access and enjoy their digital media in new and innovative ways," said Dale Pistilli, vice president of marketing at Western Digital.

Two of the world's largest suppliers of hard disk drives, who ship over 50% of the HDDs on the globe, endorse the TB technology from Intel. Although the two companies have not unveiled any actual products or timeframes, it clear that the standard has already been set on the market of external storage. Obviously, the Intel Thunderbolt technology will yet have to become successful among the end-users as currently it is available only on several models of notebooks.

Thunderbolt technology supports two low-latency communications protocols - PCI Express for data transfer and DisplayPort for displays. Thunderbolt technology works on data streams in both directions, at the same time, so users get the benefit of full bandwidth in both directions, over a single cable. With the two independent channels, a full 10Gb/s of bandwidth (something not truly needed for HDDs these days) can be provided for the first device in the chain of the devices. All Thunderbolt technology devices share a common Mini DisplayPort connector. Intel's Thunderbolt controllers interconnect a PC and other devices, transmitting and receiving packetized traffic for both PCIe and DisplayPort protocols and thus makers HDDs need to develop or use additional controllers to make their drives compatible with the TB I/O interface.