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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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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.

"I'm an Internet expert too. It's all right to wire the industrial zone only, but there are many problems if other regions of the North are wired." -- North Korean Supreme Commander Kim Jong-il
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