Feeds

Intel: 'PC makers took the light out of Light Peak'

Thunderbolt will go optical. One day

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Business security measures using SSL

Intel originally designed its Light Peak interconnect as an optical technology that would replace all other PC connections, handling everything from LAN to storage devices to monitors. But after the company unveiled it in 2009, PC manufacturers called for a cheaper electrical incarnation – i.e. non-optical – and due to other market pressures, this electrical version, renamed Thunderbolt, will coexist alongside the likes of USB.

"We started having broader conversations with OEMs and got feedback about the technology," Jason Ziller, Intel director of Thunderbolt planning and marketing told The Register this morning after a press event in San Francisco. "We started studying ways to reduce the cost, and that's how the electrical solution came about."

Aviel Yogec, the engineer who oversees the Thunderbolt project, told us that even before the OEMs weighed in, he was exploring an electrical version on copper. But the added pressure from manufacturers crystallized those efforts. "We had done [electrical] to some extent," he said. "But then we got the pressure [from OEMs]. Optical seems sexier than electrical, but eventually, when you have to pay for it and actually bring it to market, you have remove some of the cost."

Originally, Yogec and his team moved data from silicon to an on-board optical transceiver, which could then move data at 10Gbps over distances of up to 100 meters. They weren't completely sure, Yogec said, that they could achieve similar speeds over cooper. But nearly two years on, they have. Thunderbolt is a 10Gbps, bi-directional, dual-channel copper link that supports two separate protocols: DisplayPort and PCIe.

The rub is that the current Thunderbolt technology - which debuted today on Apple MacBook Pros – only works across a 3 metre cable. But according to Yogec and Ziller, Intel will eventually offer an optical cable that will plug into the existing on-system hardware, transferring data across much larger distances. "There's a variety of applications we've thought about [that require longer cables]," Ziller said. "For example, media creation, where you have long distances between video cameras and the machines they're connected to."

And eventually, the company says, it hopes to introduce an all-optical setup, where that optical transceiver sits on the PC. "We haven't abandoned the idea of a light connection," Ziller said. "We still believe that optics is in our future and will be necessary over time and will be brought in over time. We are still doing research and we will assess when its appropriate time is to bring that into the platform."

"We are still working to reduce the component cost of optical," Yogec said. "We reduced the cost significantly, but OEMs still had issues. But eventually, we will have to move to optical."

According to Yogec, the electrical version of the technology provides exactly the same speed as the optical version. The only difference is the length of the cable – and cost.

The rumor is that the idea for Light Peak originated with Apple and Steve Jobs. Ziller declined to address such rumors. But when we asked Yogec how the project began, he indicated that the idea originated somewhere outside of Intel Labs. "The idea came from somebody who said let's take all those PC cables and roll them into one cable," he explained.

Such interconnect nirvana is still a ways away. Intel says that it will continue to back USB and that it will build USB 3.0 into future chipsets. "[Thunderbolt] is complementary to USB 3.0," Ziller said. Repeatedly. ®

New hybrid storage solutions

More from The Register

next story
4K-ing excellent TV is on its way ... in its own sweet time, natch
For decades Hollywood actually binned its 4K files. Doh!
Oi, Tim Cook. Apple Watch. I DARE you to tell me, IN PERSON, that it's secure
State attorney demands Apple CEO bows the knee to him
Apple's big bang: iPhone 6, ANOTHER iPhone 6 Plus and WATCH OUT
Let's >sigh< see what Cupertino has been up to for the past year
Huawei ditches new Windows Phone mobe plans, blames poor sales
Giganto mobe firm slams door shut on Microsoft. OH DEAR
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Get your Indian Landfill Android One handsets - they're only SIXTY QUID
Cheap and deafening mobes for the subcontinental masses
Apple's SNEAKY plan: COPY ANDROID. Hello iPhone 6, Watch
Sizes, prices and all – but not for the wrist-o-puter
A SCORCHIO fatboy SSD: Samsung SSD850 PRO 3D V-NAND
4Gb/s speeds on a consumer drive, anyone?
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.