Akitio Thunder2 + SolarFlare = Dual 10Gb over Thunderbolt

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by mmomega, May 17, 2017.

  1. mmomega macrumors demi-god


    Dec 30, 2009
    DFW, TX
    So my main focus and reason for doing this is because I am in the process of switching my office over where all servers and main workstation are on 10Gb connections.
    And like anyone else that has looked into this for a Mac outside of the older tower Mac Pro, you really aren't going to get 10Gb under the $400-500 range.

    I decided there had to be a way to make this work on my nMP for at least of half that price.

    Fortunately I already had an Akitio Thunder2 PCIe box from when I tried eGPU's earlier last year.

    I then searched for a few 10Gb NIC's with Mac Drivers available.

    I came across the SolarFlare SFN5122F
    • Low power consumption: Less than 5 Watts
    • Support up to 254 Virtual NICs
    • Full 40 Gbps Bidirectional Line-rate Performance
    • Low Latency
    • Dual-Port SFP+
    Now SolarFlare only lists 10.9 and older drivers on their site but I decided to take a chance with it regardless.
    The prices vary on this card from sometimes $120-340 but I thought I could do better and took to eBay.
    I found one for $46 shipped so I ordered it right away.

    I received the 'package delivered' update at lunch today and got back to the office as soon as I could.
    I was fingers crossed the entire time because I had previously ordered a few Mellanox ConnectX-2 cards and couldn't get them to work over Thunderbolt.

    But the SolarFlare worked!

    At first I just placed the NIC into the Thunder2, connected the Thunderbolt2 cable and power and just wanted to see if macOS would detect it without doing anything else. No joy.

    I headed to the support website and downloaded the drivers
    Solarflare OS X Driver Package [OS X 10.9 - Signed]
    Installed the drivers and restarted the Mac and right after boot up it was there. 2 new Ethernet ports @ 10Gb

    At the moment I just have it connected to a 10Gb switch and plan on getting the file servers switched to 10Gb this month when I get the time.
    So outside of a speedtest and just trying a file transfer, which nothing went over Gigabit speed at the moment but I was just more so excited that I didn't have to drop $500 on a similar setup. This little project came in at $263.


    The Thunder2 has a case to cover and protect the electronics I just didn't have it on today.
    Screen Shot 2017-05-17 at 1.38.40 PM.png
    Screen Shot 2017-05-17 at 2.32.57 PM.png
  2. MrX8503 macrumors 68020

    Sep 19, 2010
    Can you explain your use case for 10Gb? Why not use TB networking?
  3. mmomega, May 18, 2017
    Last edited: May 18, 2017

    mmomega thread starter macrumors demi-god


    Dec 30, 2009
    DFW, TX
    For me, I am the only primary Mac user in my office and I have 30+ hardwired Gigabit workstations across 7,000 sq ft. My office is about 100ft from the networking cage and a 50Meter fiber cable was $30 so pricing played a big factor also.

    I have slowly been implementing some 10Gb into the network.
    First it was switches with 10Gb links so I wasn't using multiple ports for Link Aggregation.
    Now I am switching over the main file servers to 10Gb for the same reason. Those servers are currently utilizing 4 gigabit port each times 3 servers for Link Aggregation and moving those to 10Gb has freed up 12 ports for some future expansion so I don't need to add another switch just yet.

    For my Mac Pro and making it 10Gb was more so a 'could I do this for a lesser cost' type of deal and I already had the Thunderbolt to PCIe box from a previous project, so I was really only out the $46 for the 10Gb NIC. If it didn't work then it could be used in a different machine.

    I have dual Gigabit on the Mac Pro but that doesn't really increase my transfer speed to a file server over normal Gigabit.

    Since doing it I am more than likely going to keep and use this just because my machine is the main one consistently transferring larger files but 100MBps transfers werent hindering me 'much' it was more of a want than a need but since I have it, I'm definitely keeping it from this point forward.

    Also I am just hoping that if another person was in a similar situation and wanted or needed 10Gb, were on a nMP, iMac or Mac Mini with Thunderbolt and wanted to stay under the $500+ other companies were charging then this was a viable solution for them also.

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