Tech Report: Thunderbolt, SSDs, and Storage Trends for 2012

Studio Daily by Bryant Frazer and Beth Marchant

With last year's introduction of the Thunderbolt interface, the mobile editing workstation really came into its own. Some observers speculated that the super-high-speed jack, which makes incredibly powerful peripherals truly portable, was a signal of the impending demise of the decidedly non-portable Mac Pro tower.

And when it came to portable power in 2011, more editors and VFX artists than ever started eyeballing solid-state storage as a potential win for their mobile workstations. The drives remain quite expensive compared to spinning disks, but with hard-drive prices sky-high in the aftermath of major floods in Thailand, they didn't seem quite so extravagant by year's end.

Curious how the makers of increasingly mobile desktop software packages were seeing their user's experience changing, we asked reps from the big three makers of nonlinear editing software — Adobe, Apple and Avid — about Thunderbolt, SSDs, and what other storage trends they expect to make the difference for their customers this year. Scroll down to read the responses.


Steve Forde, senior product manager, visual effects

Q: How do you see Thunderbolt affecting the working environment for CS users in 2012?

Thunderbolt is a dramatic improvement for all creative professionals. Performance in any creative tool usually comes down to the trinity of performance criteria – CPU, RAM and disk. The GPU adds another whole dimension when applications are tuned for it (Mercury Playback in Premiere, etc). That said, if the trinity aren’t working in harmony, you aren’t leveraging the hardware you’ve bought. There have also been huge advances in RAM performance and capacity, and Moore’s Law has held steady in processor performance. Disk, however, is usually overlooked as just capacity and not speed. Mix all this with the general shift in the market to more mobile computing vs. workstation class, and you have a recipe for innovation that brings along something like Thunderbolt. Overall, as more CS users move to mobile computing, Thunderbolt provides the bandwidth to connect fast and large storage devices which can give them better than workstation class performance. With the ability to connect not just fast SSDs in small form factors, but also make mobile computing a first-class citizen on things like fiber SANs, etc, this will be a huge boost to editors as well as motion graphics and VFX artists. read more...

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