Thunderbolt 3-enabled computers continue to gain compatibility with various exotic and special-purpose devices. ATTO this week released its ThunderLink 3128 SATA/SAS Thunderbolt 3 adapter, which can allow a Thunderbolt 3 host to connect to up to eight SAS 12 Gbps/SATA 6 Gbps drives. The device is aimed primarily at enterprise users who have equally high-grade storage devices, such as SAS HDDs/SSDs or even tape drives, used for archival purposes.

ATTO’s ThunderLink 3128 (TLSH-3128-D00) features two Thunderbolt 3 ports (for daisy chaining) as well as two SF-8644 miniSAS external headers, which in total can connect up to eight SAS/SATA storage devices using SAS SF-8644 fanout cables (and appropriate adapters for SATA drives). When expanders and port multipliers are used, the adapter can plug up to 3,500 HDDs/SSDs or even LTO-8 tape drives to a single computer, thought this is obviously an extreme use case. As for power, the ThunderLink 3128 requires an external power brick.

The manufacturer claims that the Thunderbolt 3 to SAS adapter has been certified for both Apple MacOS- and Microsoft Windows-based PCs as well as for various “popular media and entertainment applications.” For example, LTO-8 tape drives allow to store 12 - 30 TB of data (uncompressed - compressed) on a single cartridge with up to 900 MB/s sequential read/write speed. Such a cartridge costs ~$165, which is significantly cheaper than high-capacity HDDs or SSDs. Those who need to archive large amounts of data generated on their iMac Pro/MacBook Pro or other workstations can take advantage of the ThunderLink 3128 and tape drives. Alternatively, they can use enterprise-class SSDs or HDDs.

ATTO’s ThunderLink 3128 adapter is now available directly from the company for $895. Since we are dealing with an accessory for enterprise-class storage devices, the price does not look excessive.

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Source: ATTO

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  • dgingeri - Friday, May 11, 2018 - link

    Not that new of an idea. I had to use their Thunderbolt to 8Gb Fibre Channel adapters in setting up a test system for 16 Mac Minis to a FC backup storage appliance about 4 years ago.
  • rahvin - Friday, May 11, 2018 - link

    SF-8644 are not limited to 4 drives in an SAS system. True, the 8644 contains lanes for 4 drives but under SAS standards if your controller supports it you can multiplex up to a 128 drives on SAS so with a proper backplane you should be able to multiplex a large number of drives over that SF-8644, I'm curious if this would support that or if the thunderbolt connection puts a hard limit on the numbers of Drives.

    For those curious about this SAS capability I'll share my own setup. My home server uses a LSI 9561-4i card (4 port SAS raid card that uses the SF-8644 connection for the cabeling). I run a dual ended 8644 cable to my 24 drive backplane attached to a supermicro SC846BE16-R920B []). Because SAS supports up to 128 drives per controller I'm able use a 4 port 12gbps Raid card to control a 24 drive array.

    But I'm willing to bet the Thunderbolt connection just means their using the SF-8644 plug for it's 1 to 4 octopus cable to connect to 4 separate drives. It would be cool through if included a raid controller and actually allowed you to fully utilize the SAS connection.
  • rahvin - Friday, May 11, 2018 - link

    Mistyped, 9361-4i [], boo to LSI being purchased by Avago who then sold out to evil Broadcom.
  • dgingeri - Friday, May 11, 2018 - link

    Actually, evil Broadcom was bought out by even more evil Avago, who then changed their name to seem like the slightly less evil Broadcom.
  • SSNSeawolf - Friday, May 11, 2018 - link

    I think Thunderbolt multiplexes everything, where it sends it to the host to get de-multiplexed. What's on the data wire (in this case, SAS) shouldn't matter to it, as I don't think Thunderbolt even has an understanding of what a drive is. Imagine if every Thunderbolt controller had to support every arbitrary protocol passing through it, Asprin would be in short supply.
  • repoman27 - Saturday, May 12, 2018 - link

    Thunderbolt just transports PCIe and DisplayPort packets over a fast serial link. So this would behave no differently than the same controller on a PCIe 3.0 x4 add-in card, with a little added latency since everything has to traverse several PCIe switches along the way. I suppose ATTO’s implementation and drivers might also impact which features are supported. But Thunderbolt connected devices look like any other PCIe devices to the host.
  • jab701 - Saturday, May 12, 2018 - link


    A broadcom (LSI) SAS HBA (non-raid) card is cheaper than that and goes inside your PC...

    For $512 you can get one of these ( which supports 16 drives without an expander and NVMe too
  • repoman27 - Saturday, May 12, 2018 - link

    Right, this is essentially the same HBA but in an external Thunderbolt 3 enclosure, for which you’re paying a premium. This is for when you need to add a couple SF-8644 miniSAS ports to your laptop or Mac that has Thunderbolt 3 but no internal PCIe slots that you can pop a regular add-in card into.

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