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11.29.10 Post by
Bobby Gillian, Sr Design Engineer at Cisco Router Group, San Jose Ca
Intel's Light Peak optical connectivity technology could start appearing in products
in early 2011, giving systems makers a real alternative to USB 2.0 and 3.0.
Light Peak optical-data-transfer
technology could start appearing in products as early as next year, according to reports.
Light Peak is a connectivity platform being developed by Intel and strongly backed by Apple that could prove
to be a solid alternative to USB 1.0 and 2.0 and hinder the adoption of USB
3.0. USB 3.0 offers significant data-transfer speeds over the current 2.0, but Light Peak promises
faster rates than USB 3.0, according to Intel.
Some are saying that Light Peak could appear in products in the first half of 2011, and closer to the beginning of
the year. Such a move could be a boon to PC makers as well as Apple, which have seen USB 2.0
hit the limits of its capability but have yet to move totally to USB 3.0, due in large part
to a lack of support for it in Intel chipsets.
USB 2.0 speeds top out at about 480M bps, while
USB 3.0 promises speeds as high as 5G bps.
However, Intel officials have talked about Light Peak hitting 10G bps or more, and with data moving in both directions
at the simultaneously.
USB 3.0 is
slowly showing up in some devices—including some notebooks—but it's not getting the widespread adoption like USB 2.0 has, thanks to Intel's decision to not yet support it in its chipsets.
In reports last week, Apple main
guy Steve Jobs told an Apple user in an e-mail that the company had no immediate plans yet to add USB
3.0 connectivity to its Macs, noting that Intel was not supporting it. Intel does support the eSATA
(External Serial Advanced Technology Attachment) standard and FireWire, which is found in Apple's
Intel engineers are powering ahead
with development of optical connectivity technologies. Along with their work on Light Peak, Intel Labs officials in a conference
call with leaders in June said that lead engineers had created a prototype of an optical innerconnect
that moved data around a system at rates up to 50G bps. It was the latest step in an effort by the company to create a technology
that would replace copper wiring and electrons with light to transfer data.
Such an optical interconnect technology would solve a number of problems, notably giving the tech industry an alternative
to copper wires, which Intel's CTO said is reaching their limit in their ability to transmit
data. In addition, as speed increases with copper wires, it becomes more difficult to move electrons over longer distances.
In a recent demo of Light Peak
by Intel Engineer Peter Victoron, we saw the power and speed of this new platform for connecting
devices...and then it's goodbye to USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 and Firewire and DisplayPort and all the others...
We hope to see one single cable," Victoron said, adding that one thing getting
in the way of smaller laptops is the profusion of cable ports around the systems' edges.
This prototype PC has the Light
Peak controller and optical connector that sends signals down a single white optical cable.
In a demonstration, he showed a
PC connected to a monitor across the stage showing high-definition video sent over a Light Peak optical cable. The cable can
be as long as 100 meters and can carry data at 10 gigabits per second in both directions simultaneously,
though Intel expects it will reach 100 gigabits per second in the next decade, said Jerry Killion, Intel's VP of optical input-ouput program group.
The company sees Light Peak as a replacement for the cables that currently lead
to monitors, external drives, scanners, and just about anything else that plugs in to a computer. A PC could have a number
of Light Peak ports for different devices, or a connection could lead to a hub--perhaps an external monitor--with multiple
connections of its own, Killion said.
clear how much the technology will cost or how long it will take to become mainstream. And wireless communication technology--Intel
itself has promoted Ultra-WidebandUSB for years--offers the good
news of getting rid of some cables forever.
The Light Peak technology handles
multiple communication protocols at the same time, with quality-of-service provisions to ensure high-priority traffic such
as video get preferred treatment, he said.
In addition, Intel said it's working on bundling the optical fiber with copper wire so Light Peak can be used to
power devices plugged into the PC, he said.
themselves are durable, Jerald Ziller said: "You can twist it around and it'll still work
Intel has a lot of say in the computing
marketplace, but building support for a strang and powerful new connection that could replace
DVI, DisplayPort, USB, Firewire,
HDMI, and any number of other connections would require broad industry support. Intel's taking
the usual approach to tackling that problem:
working with the industry to standardize it," Ziller said. Intel has been briefing other
companies for "the last few months," and now is trying to get the standards process started in earnest with partners
including companies in the computing, consumer electronics, and telephone handset markets, he said.
Ziller wouldn't say who else is participating
in the effort, but Intel published a statement of support from Sony, which has a lot of clout of its own in many markets.
"Sony is excited about the
potential for Light Peak technology that Intel has been developing, and believe it could enable a new generation of high-speed
device connectivity," said So will Light Peak become a universal port? "Intel's long-term vision is you could get
to that," Ziller said.