Last year we hinted that another Thunderbolt revision would happen this year, with a speed bump in 2014. It turns out that's exactly what's being announced at NAB this week. Intel took the opportunity to unveil its first 2013 Thunderbolt controllers as well as tease next year's Thunderbolt spec update. As a refresher, Cactus Ridge was the codename of the Thunderbolt controllers that accompanied Ivy Bridge systems. Haswell gets a new set of controllers: Redwood Ridge.

Intel is announcing two this week: the DSL4510 and DSL4410. These two are replacements for Intel's current DSL3510 and DSL3310, with 4/2 and 2/1 (channels/ports) respectively. There are no performance changes other than official support for DisplayPort 1.2 (and thus 4K displays). If you connect either of these parts to a Thunderbolt display you still only get DP 1.1a support. There's still a PCIe gen 2 x4 interface on the other end of these controllers.

The Redwood Ridge parts should be a little cheaper as they integrate a 1V voltage regulator that used to be external. The integration also reduces board area by a bit. Power consumption is also lower at idle compared to Cactus Ridge, and disconnected power consumption is significantly lower (1mW vs. 7mW for Cactus Ridge). Redwood Ridge includes the appropriate hooks for Haswell's upcoming aggressive platform power management reductions. Ultimately this is the real focus behind Redwood Ridge. With Haswell, all components on the platform need to be more power efficient - Intel's own silicon included.

Next year Intel will introduce Falcon Ridge, the first real performance upgrade to Thunderbolt. Intel is only mentioning an increase in performance to 20Gbps, which I can only assume refers to signaling speed per Thunderbolt lane. If that's correct we'd be looking at a doubling in peak theoretical bandwidth over Thunderbolt, perhaps finally making this interface useful for external GPUs. No word on a release timeframe for Falcon Ridge, but my guess is that we'll see it debut around Broadwell (14nm Haswell shrink). Given that Haswell is a late Q2/Q3 launch at best, I'd say end of 2014 is likely for Falcon Ridge.

Dropping power, BOM cost and increase performance in the future are all great, but Thunderbolt adoption on the PC remains embarassing at best. There's a lot of finger pointing between Intel and Microsoft on this, but none of it matters to the end user. Apple continues to be the only platform player that seems to get Thunderbolt and take it seriously. If Intel wants Redwood or Falcon Ridge to matter, it needs to make sure that we actually see real adoption of Thunderbolt in the PC space - with backwards compatibility guaranteed between those devices that have been shipping on the market for a couple of years now.

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  • ltcommanderdata - Monday, April 8, 2013 - link

    Since current Thunderbolt is PCIe 2.0 based is Thunderbolt 2014 PCIe 3.0 based to achieve the doubled bandwidth?
  • JNo - Monday, April 8, 2013 - link

    "Redwood Ridge"

    Silly name. Say it fast as you can 10 times in a row - makes a great tongue twister though.
  • HisDivineOrder - Monday, April 8, 2013 - link

    The reason only Apple "gets it" is because Apple didn't really emphasize USB3 very much. Meanwhile, PC's did. So when Thunderbolt shows up, is insanely expensive, offers little in the way of reason to exist to the majority of consumers, then honestly Intel is providing an answer to a problem that's already been solved. Namely, faster than USB 2 was needed and despite Intel's best delays to try and stymie support, USB3 was adopted. Thunderbolt remains outrageously expensive and peripherals that support it remain fringe expensive.

    So whose fault is it? Intel's. Completely and totally Intel's. Like with everything, Intel charges way too much for it and acts like they're ahead of everyone else, so why wouldn't people pay more for their tech? Except USB3 is perfectly fine for most anything people use the tech for. Most people don't need or want to pay for a slightly better DisplayPort cable when anything that includes the tech is so expensive as to make people's eyes bug out.
  • Tegeril - Tuesday, April 9, 2013 - link

    You really have no idea what Thunderbolt is capable of if you think it's just a 'slightly better DisplayPort cable.'
  • watersb - Tuesday, April 9, 2013 - link

    But the 'have no idea what Thunderbolt is' is *exactly* the huge problem here.
  • mayankleoboy1 - Tuesday, April 9, 2013 - link

    TB is just a layer on top of the PCI-e lanes. It is not really revolutionary. It just uses more bandwidth to give more bandwidth to the end user. There is nothing special about it.
  • philipma1957 - Monday, April 8, 2013 - link

    As a t-bolt user and owner of 1 pegasus r6 ,1 pegasus j4 , 3 lacie little big disks and 1 seagate stae 121 t-bolt gear is sooo much better then usb3 it is funny.

    The real problem is most people don't need it for what it can do best ; allow a very fast external boot setup. Most window pc's have access to the internal area and putting in a ssd as a boot drive is easy. right now iMacs are a joke to put in a ssd. It is hard to do a mac mini and apple ssd options cost an arm and a leg.
    so like it or not t-bolts as boot drives are mac-centric . If we get a 2x speed t-bolt it may allow external gpus so mac would benefit as upgrading your gpu is tough in a mac. (other then a mac pro) So i really don't see t-bolt working with windows gear unless most windows builders prevent easy hdd access. Just an opinion for what it is worth.
  • name99 - Tuesday, April 9, 2013 - link

    I don't want to insult you, but I really think pretty much everything you said is false.

    (a) I would guess that most PCs these days are either laptops or iMac clones --- that's what I see selling in large numbers at Best Buy. So getting at drives is not easy on the bulk of machines.

    (b) Macs can (and have obviously for years) been able to boot off USB. I ran my old iMac for years off an SSD connected vis USB2. You can do the same thing (and a whole faster) via USB3, but even via USB2 if you really want, you could RAID stripe 2 or 3 SSDs together and use that as a faster drive. I've striped (using Apple's built-in SW RAID) many slow drives together in my time and it works pretty well.

    (c) I have no idea what the current Windows USB boot situation is. A quick Google search suggests to me that it's still pretty crappy.

    Point is, I don't think your logic works because actually all the evidence suggests that Apple users can externally boot off USB (2 or 3) just fine and can goose the performance if they want, whereas it is WINDOWS users who cannot easily boot off USB, and who would benefit from booting off TB (which I assume would look to the OS like booting off an internal drive).
  • Dustin Sklavos - Monday, April 8, 2013 - link

    I'm kind of in the same boat. Thunderbolt is all potential and no execution. "Oh look, our refresh reduces power consumption and adds DisplayPort 1.2 support." And? That doesn't actually address any of the very real problems Thunderbolt has.

    The fact that the controller eats half the PCIe 2.0 lanes off of the PCH means that motherboard manufacturers have to either give up a lot of value adds or install a multiplexer, and neither of these is an attractive option.

    Bundle it with the chipset, make it cheap, and then maybe you'll see adoption. But expensive proprietary standards don't benefit anyone.
  • repoman27 - Monday, April 8, 2013 - link

    That's a very odd way of looking at it.

    5% of all PCs shipped worldwide in the past two years have had Thunderbolt ports due solely to Apple's commitment to the technology. Thunderbolt is an Intel technology designed first and foremost for Apple, to solve Apple's problems, namely that scant few of the PCs they sell have user accessible PCIe slots or any available internal volume to house expansion.

    Thunderbolt is just the ticket for MacBooks, Mac minis, and iMacs, all of which have integrated graphics, and those that do have a dGPU generally have one that can get by just fine with only 8 PCIe lanes. Thus the most common configuration that Thunderbolt ships in is connected to the PEG lanes off of the CPU and not hung off of the PCH. The whole point of Thunderbolt is to essentially provide all the bandwidth of the PCH via one small friction-fit connector. The back end of a Thunderbolt controller is the equivalent of the PCH's DMI 2.0 and FDI connections.

    The fact that LGA 1155 doesn't offer enough PCIe lanes to go around is hardly a shortcoming of Thunderbolt. You could say the same of any bandwidth intensive controllers: 10GbE, 6 Gb/s SAS/SATA, USB 3.0, etc.

    Since Haswell will finally have DP 1.2 support and is very focused on power, these are the obvious items to address in the Redwood Ridge update. Thunderbolt controllers are pretty huge, and not necessarily designed on the same process as the chipsets they accompany, so integration may not be a reasonable option at this juncture.

    Thunderbolt has been shipping for over 2 years now, and brought 10 Gbit/s per lane serial I/O to consumer products while costing about an order of magnitude less than any other 10 Gbit/s technologies available. The cheap you're talking about doesn't happen for technologies that far out on the performance curve. If you want it now, you're gonna pay for it.

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