Thunderbolt: the home price & performance leader

A reader wrote in to ask about a 10Gb Ethernet network for home use. Sorry. Thunderbolt is the home network price and performance leader - not Ethernet. What happened?

Several years ago an Intel briefer promised me $50 10Gb Ethernet ports. The shocker: prices have dropped very little in the last 8 years. Why?

I don't look back as often as I should. But this note from a ZDNet reader prompted some retrospection and research:

I just read a very old article (Build a 10 Gbit home network for $1100) [January 2008] of yours and I am very interested in creating a fast network . Can you update this article or please show me where I can similar equipment for the same amount. I can't find similar prices and I need the throughput for my renderfarm and quick transfer of other files on my home network.

That "very old" article covered a special deal for an Infiniband network - 2 10Gb adapters, cables and an 8-port switch. Surprisingly, it's still a competitive deal, 8 years later.

GigE: way old.

Apple introduced its first GigE system in 2000. 15 years later GigE is still standard on Mac systems.

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Obviously, Apple's - and everyone else's - networking investments have been going into Wi-Fi, not Ethernet. People are willing to pay for the convenience of faster Wi-Fi; not so much for faster Ethernet.

That shows in the pricing. The lowest priced 10Gig PCIe adapter online is about $100. Same with the lowest cost Infiniband adapter.

Lowest cost Thunderbolt adapter: $72. For 20Gb/s from Asus.

The Storage Bits take

Of course, Thunderbolt can't do many of the things Ethernet does, such as routing or communicating to dozens of devices. But for home users who want to connect a few peripherals, Thunderbolt is the clear leader.

You can even get fiber optic Thunderbolt cable hundreds of feet long. The ability to connect to PCIe peripherals is unique to Thunderbolt as well.

Thunderbolt isn't switchable, so daisy-chaining is the only choice. I currently have 5 - out of 6 maximum - devices on my Thunderbolt installation and it works great.

Need more devices? Buy another adapter. The Mac Pro's 6 Thunderbolt ports can build a monster system.

Given all the angst around Thunderbolt's pricing early on, it appears that Intel and Apple are doing something right compared to Ethernet. It is now the lowest-cost and highest performance home network available.

Courteous comments welcome, of course.