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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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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.

"If you look at the last five years, if you look at what major innovations have occurred in computing technology, every single one of them came from AMD. Not a single innovation came from Intel." -- AMD CEO Hector Ruiz in 2007
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