Smoothwall Firewall project

Sunday, 15 April 2012

eSATA , Thunderbolt or USB3, that is the question?

As with all things technological , when a standard comes to the end of it's life there will always be more than one way to move forward.

So it is with the demise of USB2 and Firewire, which have basically come to the end of their usefulness, when you look at the size of the external disks we now have , and the size of the data that we wish to move around.

There are three contenders that I can currently see to replace these, and they are USB3, eSATA and Thunderbolt. Now I think that Thunderbolt is a great technology and offers the best performance without a doubt, but currently it only seems to be getting traction in the Apple world, where even here external disk drives are thin on the ground. To compound this scarcity of choices is the fact I live in a multi-machine world, where I have to move data between many machines, which include mainly Linux and even the odd Windows VM.

The PC manufacturers do not seem interesting in this new interface yet, I hope this changes, but I have to deal with the here and now and not what I would like to happen.

I initially started using eSATA as my laptop supported it, and it was reasonably fast and I could run VM's directly from this drive - using a hybrid disks - but it has a big hole in it's usefulness, not every machine has one of these ports, and it is not compatible with anything else. USB3 on the other hand is completely backwardly compatible, and this is where it really wins, as I can use USB3 where I have it , and it can switch back to USB2 when it is not. This has proved more than useful on many occasions while moving files around.I have also noticed that more and more motherboard manufacturers are supporting it, and once it becomes a standard on laptops, then to my mind it is game over. I now see eSATA as more of a bridging technology that became popular due to the absence of the the new USB3 standard.

So with this in mind I have just bought a USB3 PCI-e adapter for my older Desktop server, and I will now compare this performance to the ESATA I have in the laptop and see how I get on. All the benchmark data I have read lead me to believe it will be significantly faster, as it's speed is closer to the 6GB SATA III than the 1.5GB SATA speeds I currently have in the laptop. I will report back.

I always feel on these technology change overs that you need to be careful, so that you make sure you cover your bases and examine the alternatives, but need to make sure your not left holding the new Betamax technology.Anyone still own an HD player when you now wish you had a Blueray player?

There is one other part of the jigsaw that I will right a separate post about, and that is a the filesystem to use to make the external disk truly portable between Mac, Linux and Windows.


Codfather said...

After testing with a Seagate Hybrid 500GB disk, I was seeing faster performance on the USB3 at around 125MB per second sustained on reads. This was perfect for my virtual machines , and faster than the built in eSATA adapter. If I were to swap the HD for an SSD I would expect this time to obviously increase again.

Paul DR said...

Thanks for comparing eSata and usb3, now I know which tech to recommend. I have a usb3 external drive and use it to backup files, I also have a pci-e usb3 adapter in a desktop to increase speed.

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