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Light Peak supports multiple protocols at once on a single cable

The speed that computer can send data to other devices is very important. Each year, software and backups for many consumers and businesses grow in size and the huge amount of HD media consumed expands as well. With the increased file sizes being streamed to external devices and sent to external storage, faster connectivity options are needed.

The first step in faster communications between a computer and external devices is USB 3.0. This faster port is still not widespread in machines today because there are no motherboard chipsets with USB 3.0 integrated – motherboards that do support 3.0 use costly add-in chips. There are a number of add-in cards and adapters available that let manufacturers and end-users utilize USB 3.0 though.

Intel is already looking past USB 3.0 to an even faster method of transferring data and to and from a computer that uses optical signals called Light Peak. These optical cables will at first be used side-by-side in machines with USB 3.0, though Intel does believe Light Peak is the logical successor to USB 3.0.

Intel's Kevin Kahn said, "We view this as a logical future successor to USB 3.0. In some sense we'd... like to build the last cable you'll ever need."

The most interesting feature of Light Peak is that the cable is capable of supporting many protocols at the same time. For instance, the single Light Peak optical cable can support USB and SATA simultaneously. The cable also has enough bandwidth to stream a full HD digital movie, a feed from a HD camera, and duplicate the desktop of a laptop all at once.

A prototype laptop featuring Light Peak was on display at a speech Kahn gave at IDF in Beijing. The prototype used a USB 3.0 port with extra hardware to allow it to detect optical transmissions. The port can also be connected to standard USB 3.0 hardware as well.

Light Peak is capable of transferring data at 10Gbps, enough bandwidth to stream a full-length Blu-ray film in 30 seconds. Intel believes that the speed could be upped to ten times that 10Gbps number in the next ten years. Light Peak will be available late this year and partners will start shipping devices using Light Peak next year.

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By Aikouka on 4/15/2010 10:40:32 AM , Rating: 3
I wonder what kind of uses the OEMs will use this new technology for? I can't imagine much would harness the theoretical limit of 10Gbps, and if this is similar to other peripheral standards, you're still limited by internal transmit speeds.

So unless Intel builds this into their next chipset, you'll most likely see this technology running over PCI-E lanes similar to how USB 3.0 and SATA 6GB run right now. If I recall, a single PCI-E lane is only capable of 250Mbps transfer speed. Some motherboard manufacturers use fancy techniques or extra chips to combine lanes (ASUS does this on their higher end boards for USB 3.0) for reaching speeds closer to the peripheral's advertised speed.

RE: Uses?
By corduroygt on 4/15/2010 10:44:08 AM , Rating: 5
Apple will put a bunch of them in their laptops and you'll be required to buy:

1. lightpeak to ethernet
2. lightpeak to usb
3. lightpeak to vga/dvi/hdmi/displayport
4. lightpeak to firewire
5. lightpeak to 3.5mm stereo jack
6. lightpeak to SD

Dongles at $39 each to be able to hook up your Mac to anything.

RE: Uses?
By Phynaz on 4/15/2010 10:52:36 AM , Rating: 2
Wow, two posts to turn this into a totally unrelated Apple bash.

Good job.

RE: Uses?
By SublimeSimplicity on 4/15/2010 11:51:52 AM , Rating: 4
Often unrelated, never undeserved.

RE: Uses?
By Samus on 4/22/2010 3:16:56 AM , Rating: 2
I wonder if they'll make the sheathing of two conductive layers to stream electricity through, because one of the requirements to replace USB will obviously require power delivery...maybe more than 5v 500ma this time.

RE: Uses?
By rninneman on 4/15/2010 11:53:48 AM , Rating: 4
Maybe because Apple asked Intel to develop Light Peak. The original Intel Light Peak demo was shown on a Hackintosh.

RE: Uses?
By rninneman on 4/15/2010 11:56:11 AM , Rating: 5
Here is a link for you to do some more reading before posting uninformed comments.

RE: Uses?
By Cheesew1z69 on 4/15/2010 1:21:10 PM , Rating: 2

Although Light Peak is early in its development, Intel demonstrated a fully functional system at the 2009 Intel Developer Forum (IDF). Their demonstrations were being run on a prototype Mac Pro motherboard, using Light Peak to run two 1080p video streams, LAN and storage devices over a single 30 m long cable.[16] At the show, Intel claimed that Light Peak equipped systems will begin to appear in 2010.[17]

Intel has designed a prototype PCI-E card for desktop PCs as an add-on. This would mean many people wouldn't need to buy a new motherboard for the new cable type. The card has two optical buses powering 4 ports. These PCI-E cards will have the same bandwidth 10Gbps as the built in motherboard chips and ports[citation needed].[18]
[edit] Disputed origins

Although the history is not yet well recorded, shortly after the IDF presentation technology blog Engadget reported that Light Peak had been developed by Intel in collaboration with Apple. The article claimed that Apple had been working on the technology since 2007, around the time that ClearCurve was introduced, and that Apple CEO Steve Jobs personally asked Intel CEO Paul Otellini to take up development of the system as a new standard, stating that an all-optical interconnect was the only way to proceed.[19]

However, cnet later reported that other "industry sources" dispute this claim. This report states that Apple was contacted by Intel as part of an ongoing effort to introduce its industry partners and garner additional feedback. Sony was also mentioned at the IDF in this context, Apple was not mentioned at all.[19][20]

In any event, Intel has suggested that systems using Light Peak are already being designed, and there are rumors that Apple intends to introduce Light Peak-equipped systems in Q4 of 2010.[19] In addition to the demonstrated system, Intel has also announced that they will introduce a smaller low-power version for portable devices in 2011. They have also stated that the system will allow future expansion to 100 Gbps throughput.[21]

RE: Uses?
By Drag0nFire on 4/15/2010 1:42:34 PM , Rating: 2
Give the man a 6. This is a work of pure beauty.

RE: Uses?
By cfaalm on 4/17/2010 3:02:45 PM , Rating: 2
While the irony is misplaced, the theory isn't even bad. I mean if a couple of these ports are on the side of a Macbook or any laptop then you, the consumer, can decide which (extra) ports you need. Even breakout box with various connections might be possible. This will make everything much more versatile.

RE: Uses?
By PAPutzback on 4/15/2010 10:54:05 AM , Rating: 2
I don't see using up the bandwidth but it needs to be available seeign as this will support multiple devices. I wonder if it can run into a hub. Then you might have your external SSD, video camera, keyboard... plugged in.

But at that kind of date rate why not just create one port for everything. Then we can start upgrading our cabling with fiber. It won't be long before houses are running SSDs in WHS and will need a fat backbone.

Optical has been out for so long, I don't know why it has taken so long to get into a pc other than for sound.

RE: Uses?
By Silver2k7 on 4/15/2010 11:10:58 AM , Rating: 2
Fiber Channel have been avalible for the high-end for quite some time, first generation since 1997 according to wikipedia.

"Fibre Channel signaling can run on both twisted pair copper wire and fiber-optic cables."

But yeah your point still stands optic is not really used in home PC's yet.

RE: Uses?
By mckirkus on 4/15/2010 11:43:11 AM , Rating: 2
I think we'll see SSDs easily cracking the 1GBytes/s barrier soon which would eat up 80% of the LightPeak bandwidth (that's 8x 1GBit/s). SATA 6G is new but it's 6Gbits/Second (minus overhead).

RE: Uses?
By afkrotch on 4/15/2010 10:04:27 PM , Rating: 2
The point of Light Peak is to have a single cable for all. Intel wants Light Peak to replace USB, DVI, VGA, CAT5, etc. I'm all for it, depending on device.

I would be fine with Light Peak for everything, except my mouse and keyboard. I put some real tight bends on those cables. Enough that it'd break fiber, if that were the cable.

RE: Uses?
By XZerg on 4/15/2010 11:33:56 AM , Rating: 2
Well if this the CABLE TO RULE 'EM ALL, then there are situations where the bandwidth would be not sufficient. One example would be monitors. DisplayPort already is at 17Gb/s+ To add to this would be running multiple monitors and wanting to daisy chain them. Or one cable going to the monitor that has "USB" connections too. Eventually when the SSD mature to provide an order of magnitude higher bandwidth, this will be good too.

Come to think of it, it would be nice if SATA is killed off too by this.

RE: Uses?
By afkrotch on 4/15/2010 10:25:23 PM , Rating: 2
Light Peak is set to start at 10 Gb/s and scale to 100 Gb/s. There's no point to go that high yet, as there's not a whole lot that can even push that much. 16x PCIe v3.0 can only go up to 16 Gb/s.

DisplayPort's max trasfer rate is only achievable with a 3m long cable. Light Peak is 100m long.

Intel has already shown off Light Peak running two 1080p streams, lan, and storage devices over a single 30m long cable. You're not going to run into many bandwith issues with 10 Gb/s speeds.

That speed, you can probably run like 100 1080p streams, lan, 10 SSD hdds, and god knows what else on a single cable.

RE: Uses?
By jonmcc33 on 4/15/2010 2:21:21 PM , Rating: 2
If I recall, a single PCI-E lane is only capable of 250Mbps transfer speed.

250MB/s actually and that's for PCIe 1.X. PCIe 2.0 has 500MB/s per lane. But nothing external that I know of has transfer rates that fast.

RE: Uses?
By Anoxanmore on 4/15/2010 3:31:25 PM , Rating: 2
Firewire comes to mind... 1.6-3.2Gbps :)

RE: Uses?
By foolsgambit11 on 4/15/2010 5:49:40 PM , Rating: 3
500MB/s (capital b) is 4Gbps. Firewire peaks a 3.2Gbps, which is 400MB/s.

Though I wonder if the OP didn't mean the actual peripherals, and not the external connection protocol. What peripherals actually demand 4Gbps? I guess monitors? 24bit color, 1080p at 80fps is about 4Gbps.

RE: Uses?
By Aikouka on 4/15/2010 3:56:37 PM , Rating: 2
I appreciate the clarification, it seems my knowledge was based on the P55 chipset ( ), which uses reduced speeds. Not including my failing to remember 'b' versus 'B' :P.

So that means it'd take about 3 PCI-E 2.0 lanes to fulfill the bandwidth required by this new spec. That should be possible to work into boards based on the X58 chipset.

RE: Uses?
By afkrotch on 4/15/2010 10:30:13 PM , Rating: 2
So it's actually B and not b? I'm getting confused, cause I'm looking at a bunch of different sources and they don't seem to know there is a difference between B and b.

I don't like looking at a single source and instead look at multiple.

RE: Uses?
By AnnihilatorX on 4/16/2010 4:23:51 AM , Rating: 2
B and b is defintely different in computing terms. b is bit and B is bytes, which is either 8 (universal definition) or 10 bits (in SATA for example using 8/10 coding)

RE: Uses?
By afkrotch on 4/15/2010 9:50:40 PM , Rating: 2
Imagine a single cable going from your PC to your monitor. That cable will run the video, audio, and usb ports. Then you can connect your keyboard/mouse, headphones, and external hard drive to your monitor. While we probably wouldn't make use of 10 Gbps transfer rates (unless you have some kind SSD external raid setup going on), we could definitely make use of an increase in speed.

Also with anything new, Intel is going to throw out a new chipset/controller for it.

In PCI-e v3.0, a single lane is going to go up to 1 gbps, while v2.0 is 500 mbps. In other words, 16 gbps for a 16x slot. v3.0 should be out in Q2.

RE: Uses?
By kzrssk on 4/19/2010 10:07:11 PM , Rating: 2
I've been excited about this technology ever since I heard about it. Think if there was only one port on the motherboard, and a big, squiddy lightpeak<-->everything cable that would connect your monitor, speakers, keyboard, mouse, external HD, camera, and everything else. I can't tell you how much a billion cables running around the back of my computer desk, getting all tangled up, pisses me off.

Definitely excited. :D

Go Intel!!!! One cable to rule them all!
By XZerg on 4/15/2010 11:25:55 AM , Rating: 2
This is definitely something that we all should be looking forward to. I really hate having 10000000 different cables for each thing. USB did a good job of bringing a standard to remove the need of many other types of cables: SCSI, PARALLEL port, Serial, Firewire, ... If it wasn't for the bandwidth limitation - it would have replaced many more easily. NOTE: I realize SCSI and FireWire offer better bandwidth and latency but that's not so important to most users as simplicity of universal compatibility.

Right now the monitors world has 4 standards: VGA, DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort. Add the variations of DVI too to make this mess even more insane. The ethernet cables too are a mess - cat5, cat5e, cat6, ... Storage: usb, firewire, esata, ...

Just imagine running all the computer devices off only one type of cable! It would be like what USB did to connectors but for cables now too.

Go Intel! I only hope that Intel/Apple (I read somewhere Apple co-developed it too) that they make this open standard or at the bare minimum charge next to nothing in royalties for chips/cables.

RE: Go Intel!!!! One cable to rule them all!
By redbone75 on 4/15/2010 12:32:51 PM , Rating: 2
I only hope that Intel/Apple (I read somewhere Apple co-developed it too) that they make this open standard or at the bare minimum charge next to nothing in royalties for chips/cables.

With Apple trying to patent everything under the sun (wait, did they try to patent the sun yet?) I don't see that happening.

By Phynaz on 4/15/2010 1:17:19 PM , Rating: 3
Let's see...

Opencl - open
Darwin - open
Webkit - open

Perhaps you don't know the difference between patented and open.

RE: Go Intel!!!! One cable to rule them all!
By Believer on 4/15/2010 2:28:38 PM , Rating: 3
I really doubt this will turn into the ONE CABLE TO RULE THEM ALL... simply because despite of all the bandwidth available in fiber it still doesn't supply any power to these devices.

So if you still need an additional power cable from PC or an external adapter to wall socket, then this one cable can never rule supreme in singular.

Electrical cables, such as USB and PoE (Power over Ethernet), will still have their niche set when you want the true simplicity of only ONE CABLE TO RULE THEM ALL... regarding external devices at least. Internal proprietary communication cables such as SATA better watch out though :)

RE: Go Intel!!!! One cable to rule them all!
By XZerg on 4/15/2010 3:04:01 PM , Rating: 2
I was expecting someone to post this. I am sure that Intel will provide a means to send power too over the same cable, i.e. Copper wire for power and Fiber Optic for data transmission. If not then this will be DOA otherwise imho.

RE: Go Intel!!!! One cable to rule them all!
By Believer on 4/15/2010 5:55:57 PM , Rating: 1
I doubt they would introduce an integrated electrical solution into the same cable. It doesn't do much good for the cable overall.

1) You'd almost have to have several types introduced where the electrical wire part are designed to cater to the different power situations this technology could otherwise cover. As example a monitor, GPU and a HDD does have quite different power requirements I believe. And sub-categories and different standards within the same cable is bad for the simplicity and the adoption of the technology.

2) Adding electrical components will disable the favourable intrinsics that a pure optical transmission would have. You would hence again have to design with electrical noise and EMI susceptibility and such in mind just like for any other electrical cable to be used in consumer market.

I do not think this Light Peak tech will ever host any integrated power transmission capability; unless heavily augmenting technology where you excite electrons by wavelengths found in the fiber optic spectrum makes a giant leap into the consumer market, or something equally unlikely occurs.

But a DOA tech? Nah, far from it. Compare to any of the xATA-cables out there; they have all had power separate and they're still successful.

So I hold true to my above statement; This tech will not make all other cables obsolete, but it is a welcomed introduction none the less.

Now hurry and integrate it to the PCB so that we can advance the field of optical on-chip communication buses too!

By afkrotch on 4/15/2010 10:47:40 PM , Rating: 2
1) I'm sure your monitors and 3.5" hdd enclosures will still require an external power supply. Intel is probably just pushing to run enough power for things like a usb key or 2.5" hdd. The same kind of thing we are doing now.

It'd be stupid to try and power a monitor, 3.5" hdds, etc through the cable. It'd mean, we'd need large PSUs inside our computers, as they'd have to power these other external devices.

2) You don't lose anything. The fiber will be the only data transmission line. The copper line is purely just for power purposes.

By foolsgambit11 on 4/15/2010 5:57:59 PM , Rating: 2
The Wikipedia article suggests that the fiber may be encased in a copper braid to provide both protection to the fiber and power to the device.

By afkrotch on 4/15/2010 10:37:07 PM , Rating: 2
Intel is working on having the Light Peak with an additional copper cable for power. At least, according to Wiki.

By afkrotch on 4/15/2010 10:34:41 PM , Rating: 2
I'd rather not run a computer off only one type of cable, but run off only 1 cable.

Imagine 5 different cables, all the same. Would be confusing figuring out which cable goes where. Instead, I just want a single cable to plug in.

It's like when I deal with these stupid fiber NICs we have at work. Mixing up the Tx/Rx on the ST connectors. I do that all the damn time too.

By zephyrwind69 on 4/16/2010 2:03:52 AM , Rating: 2
Look at history-Metcalf said 40 years ago he didn't know what kind of cable he'd be using but it'd be Ethernet.

10Gb over copper is here today with Ethernet, they're planning 40Gb/s soon, like 1-2 years, and you can run storage and network over it today no problem. Why we need to go optical today eludes me. 5-10 years, yeah, but I'll stick to Ethernet and a multitude of plugs.

BTW, Cat5, 5e, and 6 all use the same RJ-45 plug which is pretty much setup to the same specs as every other one, not confusing at all. All 5e is a guarantee of bandwidth to 1Gb/s. Oh, and I've cabled my house with Cat-5E and run USB and Video over baluns to a PC in the other room....silence is golden.

This will be a localized connection only and a niche product for many years to come, especially if Intel starts chipset pricing high. There's so many competing standards that interconnecting this with the propietary cables, and adapters, would be too expensive.

Durability of Optical Cables?
By Operandi on 4/15/2010 12:50:10 PM , Rating: 2
My main concern would how well these cables can stand up to abuse. Glass fiber cables are very fragile and even the plastic based cables don’t take kindly to being roughed around. Copper cables on the other hand take a lot of punishment and if you do manage to put a bad kink in cable it’s still functional.

RE: Durability of Optical Cables?
By nihim on 4/15/2010 2:22:13 PM , Rating: 4
I'm currently taking a fiber optics networking course. I used to be upset at how fiber hasn't proliferated in the home sector. We're still using old copper cables while there is this awesome tech that uses the fastest traveling energy (light) and can also provide much more bandwidth.

After actually working with fiber though, I'm perfectly happy with copper ethernet. Optical fiber cable is a bit more delicate than copper, yes, but it's the connectors that REALLY suck. It's much more difficult to terminate and polish fiber. It's a very delicate and time consuming process that requires lots of experience to do right without a ton of redos. Add four different common types of connectors (No RJ45/8P8C standard like copper), easily dirty damagable connectors, many types of fiber cable, required link loss planing/testing, and you have a networking medium that offers slightly better performance but at the cost of being a lot more PITA to install. Although you don't have to rerun the fiber to upgrade network speeds nearly as often as copper.

While you wont have to worry about many of the installation problems as the intel tech is for short connects (like patch cables), the fiber networking industry isn't doing the intel tech any favors in seeming convenient.

RE: Durability of Optical Cables?
By JediJeb on 4/15/2010 5:20:52 PM , Rating: 2
I wonder what the life will be on the cables? A few scratches from not handling them correctly and the light doesn't exit as it should. Or worse a little dirt in the connection on the computer, probably not as easy to clean out as usb connectors either.

Proprietary, Exotic, Expensive, Exclusive
By Sahrin on 4/15/2010 1:16:21 PM , Rating: 3
And people wonder why Intel has been dragging their feet with USB3 implementation (first the host controller, now deploying it to Chipsets)?

Because everytime someone uses USB3, Intel doesn't get paid royalties.

Technologically impressive though it may be, this looks to be another disgusting abuse of Intel's monopoly power and I hope the FTC beats the crap out of them for it.

(Important Note: It's not 100% clear how Intel will market this product, but every indication is that they are going to unleash a new proprietary interface on the marketplace, for which Intel will be the only provider. Since they already control 85%+ of the market, it will become the de facto standard...and no one will be able to sell a computer without support for Light Peak).

RE: Proprietary, Exotic, Expensive, Exclusive
By kemche on 4/15/2010 4:12:25 PM , Rating: 2
That's dumb. If Intel is the only vendor, you do realize that it will fail. They have to open/license the spec. If they don't how are Camera, HDD, SSD, etc vendors are going to integrate into their device.

By Sahrin on 4/15/2010 6:55:21 PM , Rating: 2
"That's dumb. If Intel is the only vendor, you do realize that it will fail. They have to open/license the spec. If they don't how are Camera, HDD, SSD, etc vendors are going to integrate into their device."

By selling them the host controller? That's the way USB works. Intel designs a Host Conroller, and gives it away for free. There's no indication that they're going to do the same for Light Peak, and because Intel has control of the chipset market (85% share) they decide what interconnects are used.

mmmm fiber optics
By Shig on 4/15/2010 10:33:27 AM , Rating: 3
Death to copper! hehe

RE: mmmm fiber optics
By Anoxanmore on 4/15/2010 10:54:04 AM , Rating: 3
I can has fiber optics naow?

By Chiisuchianu on 4/15/2010 2:19:45 PM , Rating: 2
cant wait until all those different plugs are gone and we only use lightpeak

RE: yay
By JediJeb on 4/15/2010 5:22:58 PM , Rating: 3
Until you get a scratch on the end of one of the cables and have to replace it. A bent pin on a serial, usb, firewire or other connector can be straightened with some needle nose pliers and it still works even if a little crooked, but a few scratches or dirt on optical connections and the data either stops or gets corrupted.

By CurseTheSky on 4/15/2010 12:27:14 PM , Rating: 2
...use this technology to allow us to hook an external graphics card to a laptop (or desktop!) Something along the lines of an external enclosure with an AC adapter (power brick) and a Light Peak connection between the enclosure and the laptop. That way, you could buy a cheaper laptop with a decent processor and other specs, but stay with integrated graphics. When you want to game or do other GPU-related tasks, you could just break out the external desktop card.

I know AMD/ATI just came out with something like this (the Acer Ferrari has it), but it won't be widespread or practical until the technology is available on nearly all modern computers. Even if we were only able to get the PCI-E 2.0 x4 bandwidth equivalent out of the card, it would be a huge step up.

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