Nov 072013

I am not aware of how widely it has been publicised, but it was certainly a surprise to me … and a few others. After upgrading to OSX 10.9 (Mavericks), and when going into the “Network Settings”, a new network device appeared. Specifically something called the “Thunderbolt Bridge”.

It turns out that this is a new feature of OSX where you can connect two Macs (or potentially other kinds of system) together with a thunderbolt cable, and run IP over that connection. Which is fast compared with normal ethernet, although it is comparable with 10GE and slower than 40GE, and 100GE (and of course slower than modern InfiniBand).

But it probably isn’t as usable as 10GE at present for the following reasons :-

  1. There’s no networking hardware support for thunderbolt networks at present.
  2. The cables are different, so offices would have to be rewired for it. Which would be very expensive.
  3. It turns out that thunderbolt takes a lot of processor power to run networking at that speed.

That’s not to say it won’t make a fine way to connect two Macs together for data transfers. With any luck (unfortunately I can’t test it), it should be a case of just plugging the two Macs together and using normal sharing mechanisms to do a transfer. Both sides should automatically configure an IP address, so normal networking services should be able to see the other Mac across the “Thunderbolt Bridge”.

The only problem with this new feature is the name – “Thunderbolt Bridge” – which might be user-friendly, but is likely to make networking people flinch. User configured network bridges have been known to cause problems!

For more details have a look here.