What are the common interface types for storage devices?

Apr 23, 2021 | CM

1. The USB interface

1.1 What is the USB interface?

USB, the abbreviation of Universal Serial Bus, is a kind of Serial BUS standard for connecting computer systems with external devices, and also a technical specification of input and output interfaces. It is widely used in personal computers, mobile devices and other information and communication products. And expand into photographic equipment, digital TV (set-top box), game consoles and other related fields. USB interface supports the device's plug and play and hot plug function. The latest generation is USB 3.1, with a transmission speed of 10Gbit/s, a three-stage voltage of 5V/12V/20V, and a maximum power supply of 100W. The new Type C plug is no longer divided into front and back sides.

1.2 What is USB 3.1? What is the difference between USB 3.1 and USB 3.0?

USB 3.1 is the most recent version of the USB (Universal Serial Bus) standard for connecting computers and electronic devices. It is capable of data transfer speeds up to 10Gbps, and while it can use the USB-C connector type, it can also use a variety of other connector types. To achieve USB 3.1 transfer speeds, your USB host connection, cables, and device must all support USB 3.1. USB 3.1 is also known as USB 3.1 Gen 2 (10Gbps). 

The core difference between USB 3.0 and 3.1 is transmission speed. USB3.0 (USB3.1 Gen1) has a maximum transmission bandwidth of 5.0Gbps (500MB/s), and USB3.1 Gen2 has a maximum transmission bandwidth of 10.0Gbps (although the nominal interface rate of USB3.1 is 10Gbps, but it still retains some bandwidth to support other functions. So its actual effective bandwidth is about 7.2Gbps). Compared to USB 3.0, or USB3.1 Gen1, the new USB technology uses a more efficient data encoding system and provides more than double the effective data throughput. It is fully downward compatible with existing USB connectors and cables.

1.3 What is Type-C?

USB Type-C, also known as USB-C, is a universal serial bus (USB) hardware interface form. The biggest feature in appearance is that its upper and lower ends are completely consistent. Compared with Micro-USB, there is no longer a distinction between the front and back of USB. The size is about 8.3mm×2.5mm, and it supports USB standard charging, data transmission, display output and other functions like other interfaces. In theory, the transmission speed of USB 3.1 Type C can reach 10Gbps.

1.4 The relationship between Type C and USB3.1

In short, USB 3.1 is about specifications and standards, and Type C is about interface types. However, although Type C is a new interface Type launched with USB 3.1, it does not mean that all USB 3.1 standard USB interface is Type C interface, and the interface using Type C form is not necessarily USB 3.1 standard. There is no fixed limit to the standard or Type of interface. In addition to USB 3.1 Type C, we can also see USB 3.1 Type A and USB 3.0/2.0 Type C interfaces.

Most computers have USB-C ports that support the USB 3.1 Gen 2 standard, which supports 10Gbps. To put this all into perspective, an entire HD movie can be transferred over USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 (10 Gbps) in about 30 seconds.

2. Thunderbolt Interface

2.1 What is Thunderbolt?

Thunderbolt is a connector standard published by Intel, intended to be used as a universal bus between computers and other devices. The first and second generation ports are integrated with the Mini DisplayPort, and the newer third generation is starting to be integrated with USB Type-C and can provide power.

Thunderbolt is a relatively new technology that supports high-resolution displays and high-performance data through one single port, but the connectivity allows you to add several devices to your computer through a daisy chain of cords. The connectivity of Thunderbolt is very fast and can provide up to 10 Gigabits per second worth of data throughput. What makes the speed and connectivity of Thunderbolt even more impressive is that it is bi-direction—it can transmit data, and receive data at the same time.

2.2 What is Thunderbolt 3?

Thunderbolt 3 is essentially a hardware interface that is designed to combine a number of different transfer protocols into a single physical connector – ensuring that it’s versatile and easy to use. Compared with the first and second generation products, the latest Thunderbolt3 has surpassed a big step, not only has made a major breakthrough in technology, but also has a considerable improvement in compatibility and adaptability. In order to provide the ultimate transmission speed, the maximum bandwidth of Thunderbolt3 can reach 40Gb/s, and it is fully compatible with the USB TypeC interface. It is 8 times that of USB3.0 and 4 times that of USB3.1. Thanks to the increase in bandwidth, Thunderbolt3 can support two 4K or one 5K display, and the transmission of a 4K movie can be completed in less than 30 seconds.

2.3 Which is better, USB C or Thunderbolt3?

Similarities between USB-C and Thunderbolt 3

When discussing USB-C vs. Thunderbolt 3, it’s important to note that both connections share quite a bit in common. Both use the Type-C form factor for the connection. Both USB-C and TB3 can be used to power devices, transfer data at high speeds, and connect a variety of peripherals including displays.

Differences between USB-C and Thunderbolt 3

While USB-C and TB3 offer similar general functionality, there are noticeable differences between the two standards. The key differences between USB-C and TB3 can be boiled down to three main points: data transfer rates, display connections, and connecting external devices.

Data transfer: 

Thunderbolt 3 is significantly faster than USB-C. USB-C supports transfer speeds ranging from 480 Mbps (USB 2.0) to 20 Gbps (USB 3.2 Gen 2x2); 10 Gbps is the most common speed. Thunderbolt 3 supports transfer rates up to 40 Gbps. In general, a laptop with Thunderbolt 3 can transfer data over that port to another device 2-4 times faster than a laptop with USB-C.

Display connections:

One of the big draws of Thunderbolt 3 is its versatility. In addition to offering blazingly fast transfer speeds, Thunderbolt 3 has the bandwidth to drive up to two 4K monitors at 60 Hz. USB-C can also support external displays with the optional “DisplayPort Alternate Mode” feature. Without this feature, displays will not work when connected via USB-C.

Device support: 

USB-C and TB3 can both be used to connect a variety of peripherals such as printers and hard drives. TB3, however, supports PCIe devices like external GPUs and fast external hard drives. USB-C simply cannot connect to these kinds of devices.

In general, USB-C will meet the needs of most people. However, there are specific use cases where Thunderbolt 3 is advantageous (or even necessary). Faster data transfer speeds (40 Gbps vs. 10-20 Gbps), support for two high-resolution displays, and the ability to connect devices like external GPUs are only available via Thunderbolt 3.

3. Display Port interface

3.1 What is the Display Port?

DisplayPort is a high definition digital display interface standard that connects computers and monitors, as well as computers and home theaters. Like HDMI, DisplayPort also allows audio and video signals to be transmitted over a single cable, supporting a variety of high-quality digital audio.

At a basic level, DisplayPort works just like any other audio and video data connection. You plug one end of the cable into your device, be it a laptop, desktop computer, or external graphics card, and the other into your display. DisplayPort technology may typically be found in higher-end devices, acting as a more premium connection type to HDMI's mainstream solution. But even as that competing cable standard evolves, DisplayPort is still leaps and bounds ahead in both resolution and refresh rate support, as well as features.

3.2 What is the Mini Display Port?

Mini DisplayPort is a miniature version of DisplayPort. Published by Apple on October 14, 2008. Now used in MacBook (replacing the previous Mini-DVI), MacBook Air (replacing the previous Micro-DVI) and MacBook Pro (replacing the previous DVI) notebook computers. It is also applied to a 24-inch LED Cinema Display. Like DisplayPort, Mini DisplayPort supports displays up to 2560×1600 resolution.

3.3 DisplayPort 1.4 vs. 1.2: What's the difference?

DisplayPort is a much more capable cable type that has been the connection of choice for high-end monitors and graphics cards for years. Even DisplayPort 1.2, originally released in 2010, offers more bandwidth than all but the latest of HDMI standards. DisplayPort 1.4 is a much more capable standard, with limited competition from even the latest and greatest.

Different output resolutions:

DP line 1.4 supports 4K, 60-240 Hz, up to 8K, 60Hz; DP line 1.2 supports up to 4K, 60-100Hz.

Different bandwidth:

The highest supported bandwidth of DP line 1.4 is 32.4 Gbps; the highest supported bandwidth of DP line 1.2 is 21.6 Gbps.

Different technologies:

DP cable 1.4 supports 10 bit image transmission and HDR dynamic image transmission, which can better reflect the visual effects of the real environment.

Different prices:

Due to the low bandwidth of DP line 1.2, the screen refresh rate is lower than that of DP line 1.4, so the price is relatively low. Under the same length, the price of DP line 1.4 is twice the price of DP line 1.2.

4. The network interface

4.1 What is the RJ45 interface?

The RJ-45 interface is the most common network cable interface, which belongs to the twisted pair Ethernet interface type. It is not only used in the most basic 10Base-T Ethernet network, but also in the current mainstream 100Base-TX Fast Ethernet and 1000Base-TX Gigabit Ethernet. It is also used in some 10G Base-T 10G networks.

RJ45 connectors are the key part of Ethernet connectivity to transmit voice and data media. They were developed as much smaller and cheaper replacements to the older telephone installation methods of hardwired cords. The easy plug-n-play style reduces the difficulty of installation.  It is frequently used for networking devices including Ethernet cables, modems, computers, laptops, printers, etc.

A new generation of Wi-Fi 6 wireless network standards have driven higher bandwidth demands for wired and wireless network connections.10GbE connectivity is no-longer just for high-end corporate networks and data centers, your home network environment can also be easily upgraded. Thanks to TerraMaster’s versatile and affordable 10GbE Solutions, small businesses and home users alike can upgrade their network environment to take advantage of the many benefits of 10GbE networks.

4.2 Gigabit Ethernet Versus 10 GbE: What's Best For Small Businesses?

Gigabit Ethernet networks have been popular among small to mid-sized businesses for nearly 15 years. For many, Gigabit Ethernet performance has been completely adequate. But currently 75% of small and medium-sized enterprises say they will deploy 10 GbE in their networks. Why? This is mainly because Gigabit Ethernet is struggling to keep up with business computing needs — particularly in virtualized environments. And, as its name implies, 10 GbE is ten times faster than Gigabit Ethernet.

Historically, network throughput outpaced server and storage performance. Today’s servers, which are designed to run many virtual machines, deliver very high performance, and modern networked storage systems offer high input/output per second (IOPS) using flash and high-performance disk drives. These hardware improvements have pushed the performance bottleneck out to the network. So, to improve the performance of resource hungry applications like virtualization and backup, SMBs are turning to 10 Gigabit Ethernet. The demands of modern business applications, along with falling costs of networking gear, has created a sort of perfect storm for 10 GbE adoption among SMBs.

4.3 What is Fiber Optic Connectors?

Fiber optic connector is the physical interface used to connect fiber optic cables. The principle is the use of light from the light dense medium into the light sparse medium resulting in total reflection. Usually there are SC, ST, FC and other types, they are developed by the Japanese NTT company. FC is the abbreviation of Ferrule Connector. Its external strengthening method is metal sleeve and fastening method is screw buckle. The ST interface is typically used for 10Base-F, and the SC interface is typically used for 100Base-FX.

SC port is often referred to as fiber port, it is used for connection with the fiber, in general, this fiber port is not likely to be directly connected to the workstation with fiber, usually through the fiber to fast Ethernet or Gigabit Ethernet and other switches with fiber port. These ports are typically found on high-end routers and are labeled "100B FX". Generally, 10 gigabit networks use fiber optic connectors.

What is an SFP Module?

Small Form Factor Pluggable (SPF) is basically a fiber optic module that fits into an SFP socket or port on an Ethernet switch or media converter. It facilitates seamless conversion of Ethernet signals into optical signals to transfer and receive data.

What Are the Functions of SFP modules?

  • SPF modules facilitate high-speed communication between switches and network components such as routers and other devices.
  • It is mainly used with copper or fiber optic cables.
  • Its small form factor makes it ideal for areas that may not be very accessible.
  • Compatible with duplex Multimode or Singlemode fiber optic cable as well as simplex cables.
  • Supports wavelengths up to 1310nm for Multimode and 1550nm for Singlemode.
  • Newer versions of SFP such as SFP+ have been developed which offer very high speeds up to 10Gbps.

How Many Types of SFP modules are there?

SFPs are mainly classified based on their speed capabilities. Some of the types are 100Base, 1000Base Gigabit, and 10Gig (SFP+). For most Fiber SFP modules, the transmission speed is 1 Gigabit, but the newer versions such as SPF+ have a higher speed of transmission, from 10 to 25 Gigabit.

Commercially speaking, there are certain abbreviations on the modules, such as SX, LX, ZX, EX, and so on. SX indicates multimode short-wavelength of 850nm, while the others indicate single mode wavelengths of varying capacities.

What is the Advantage of SFP Ports on a Gigabit Switch?

Also known as mini Gigabit interface converter (GBIC), they are used in network interface cards (NICs), Ethernet switches, firewalls, and so on to act as an interface between a network device or a devices motherboard and the networking cable. With an SFP module, you can configure several ports on the same panel. Most companies use switches with at least two or more SFP ports making them a part of the network topology such as ring, star, bus, and so on.

How Do I Choose a SFP+ Product?

Here are some factors you need to consider when choosing an SFP module:

  • Check the module’s compatibility with the cable and the switch port. The abbreviations mentioned above will help determine this factor.
  • Confirm if you require Multimode or Singlemode modules.
  • Make sure it meets the IEEE standards.
  • Determine the distance or area that you need to cover. Depending on this, you would choose a short distance or long distance data transmission.
  • What type of environmental factors do you need to take into account? Consider the operating temperatures in your application and choose accordingly.
  • Aside from the operating temperature range, do check for features such as electrostatic discharge protection.

Please allow TerraMaster to help ensure that your network is functioning in an optimal fashion. If you need to extend or install fiber optic components within your network product, let us put our ten years decades of experience in the industry to work for you!