The new Thunderbolt-enabled Little Big Disk from LaCie.

(Credit: James Martin/CNET)

Intel announced a completely new I/O peripheral protocol today called Thunderbolt, which had previously gone by the code name Light Peak. In a nutshell, Thunderbolt is a superfast peripheral standard with the speed of 10Gbps (1.25GBps) and almost no overhead. This means devices can be connected at a real-word throughput speed of around 1.25GBps. Thunderbolt is compatible with DisplayPort 1.1 and later.

The LaCie Little Big Disk comes with two Thunderbolt ports.

(Credit: James Martin/CNET)

Currently, the technology is available only in Apple's new MacBook Pro (which comes with one Thunderbolt port) and can be used only with DisplayPort devices, such as Apple's Cinema display. But that will change soon.

Today, LaCie announced an external hard drive, the LaCie Little Big Disk, that will be one of the first storage devices to support Thunderbolt technology. A prototype of the drive was used at the Intel demo today. The Little Big Disk has two solid-state drives inside.

The drive comes with two Thunderbolt ports and can be used to daisy-chain with other Thunderbolt-enabled devices, such as a display or additional storage device.

LaCie says that thanks to the support for Thunderbolt, the Little Big Disk can deliver multiple streams of HD video plus hours of content in just minutes--instead of hours, as in the case of USB 2.0 or FireWire. Basically, the external hard drive now offers speeds previously available only from rack-mounted storage arrays, allowing general and professional users to access a large amount of data in real time in a matter of seconds.

Owing to its two Thunderbolt ports, the Little Big Disk can also be daisy-chained for storage expansion or connection to up to six other peripherals.

The LaCie Little Big Disk will be available by this summer. Currently its pricing and capacities are still to be determined.

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