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Light Peak Ready, But Uses Copper

By - Source: Computerworld | B 31 comments

The current ready-to-go version of Light Peak uses copper, not fiber optics.

Friday during CES 2011, an Intel executive told Computerworld that its Light Peak interconnect technology is ready for implementation. The only thing is that the new tech--which connects PCs to displays, external storage and more--is currently using copper instead of the promised fiber optics.

Intel announced Light Peak back in 2009, an alternative to USB that will use fiber optics to transmit data between systems and connected devices. Rather than compete with the current technology, Intel believed that Light Peak and USB could co-exist on the market. In fact, USB-based display and networking protocols could essentially piggy-back on top of the Light Peak connection.

But if the initial builds are based on copper, will there be enough of an incentive for manufacturers to embed the Intel technology? Previous reports indicated that the light-based version would transfer data at bandwidths starting at 10 gigabits per second over distances up to 328 feet. However by using copper instead of fiber optics, the speed and range may not be quite as spectacular.

Still, the executive vice president and general manager of Intel's Architecture Group David Perlmutter seemed satisfied with the current copper-based results. "The copper came out very good, surprisingly better than what we thought," Perlmutter said. "Optical is always a new technology which is more expensive."

Perlmutter pointed out that copper is a good solution for meeting the needs of consumers today, but manufactures will eventually begin to implement the fiber optics version. When that will begin Perlmutter didn't say-- he also wouldn't specify when devices would actually include the new copper-based version of Light Peak.

Ultimately the use of copper in Light Peak comes across as a cost issue for the end-user. At one point Intel said that Light Peak-enabled devices would hit the market in late 2010 or early 2011. But if manufactures begin to roll out the copper versions this year, consumers may not see the fiber optics-version until next year-- if the price is consumer friendly, that is.

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Top Comments
  • 11 Hide
    squanto , January 10, 2011 4:16 PM

Other Comments
  • 9 Hide
    house70 , January 10, 2011 4:12 PM
    lightpeak without light...
  • 11 Hide
    squanto , January 10, 2011 4:16 PM

  • Display all 31 comments.
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , January 10, 2011 4:18 PM
  • 6 Hide
    eddieroolz , January 10, 2011 4:32 PM
    If it isn't done with fibre optics, then it has lost the point.
  • 2 Hide
    agnickolov , January 10, 2011 4:39 PM
  • 3 Hide
    jdamon113 , January 10, 2011 4:43 PM
    Still sounds okay, lesat it is faster than usb3
    I still think they are short sidding them selves.(intel)
    Fiber inside a server or pc would have sold, regardless the price.

    But we can call this redpeak for now
  • 7 Hide
    hellwig , January 10, 2011 4:49 PM
    Lets see, USB 1.0 to USB 3.0 uses the same port. Yes, 3.0 technically requires a different cable/socket to enable 3.0 capability, but you can still plug in your old 1.0 and 2.0 devices using those same cables.

    Light Peak comes out first with copper. Eventually it will support fiber-optics, requiring brand new sockets/ports and cables, even though the technology itself won't be changing. Doesn't sound like a good plan to me (not for consumers anyway). Imagine if Intel did this with all its technology, you'd have to buy a new socket/motherboard everytime they came out with a new processor (ok, ok, bad example there).

    I also don't understand where this is needed. You can already do 10Gbit ethernet over fiber and copper (obviously, the distance with copper is greatly reduced, but Intel hasn't told us how far Light Peak can go with copper), so unless Light Peak is going to be extremely inexpensive compared to 10GigE, it's not better in anyway than an already implemented and available technology. Besides, where is the bandwidth coming from for Light Peak? Intel's consumer products are pretty much running-out of bandwidth (16 PCIe lanes on the P67/Sandy Bridge is a max of 32gbps, and you'll use at least half of that on your graphics card).

    And don't tell me this is a server/data center/corporate solution. There are plenty of technologies that already exist in those sectors, and when talking server/data center/corporate, you don't bother mentioning USB. Intel is clearly trying to create a consumer technology here, and failing miserably.

    No way I'm buying a copper-based Light Peak device today when a year from now my new computer comes with an optical interface only. I've been burned before (I bought SPDIF speakers a decade ago that use coax-RCA when too many sound cards and other devices use optical, how I wish I could plug them into my BluRay player).
  • 1 Hide
    mauller07 , January 10, 2011 4:56 PM
  • 1 Hide
    mavroxur , January 10, 2011 5:09 PM
    If they first release this on copper, and then try and change the standard to fiber at a later date, I predict a failure of the market to adopt this technology, and an associated "fail" of it shortly after release. Releasing another copper standard to "coexist" with USB 3.0 just smells too much like a "trying to replace" tactic. If it were fiber, then I could understand a coexist / complementary technology, but not copper vs copper.
  • 1 Hide
    rhino13 , January 10, 2011 5:18 PM
    I'm not really a fan of closed standards. Particularly when they involve Intel. I'd like to see USB4 throtle this peaking standard, but we shall see.
  • 2 Hide
    malphas , January 10, 2011 5:22 PM
    hellwigImagine if Intel did this with all its technology, you'd have to buy a new socket/motherboard everytime they came out with a new processor (ok, ok, bad example there).

    Ha ha, excellent.
  • -1 Hide
    alchemy69 , January 10, 2011 5:23 PM
    Transparent copper?
  • 0 Hide
    scook9 , January 10, 2011 5:25 PM
    TheCapuletIf they can make it so that the copper platform and the fiber platform are interchangable so that we can upgrade with just the cable later on down the road, I could see this as being a really good thing.

    Google "SFP" ;) 
  • 0 Hide
    ares1214 , January 10, 2011 5:43 PM
    This is probably just a thing to hold us over. I highly doubt the whole point of Light Peak was to be done on copper. Its just a copper version of light peak will be ready sooner, and may yield sizable benefits over todays tech, just not AS sizable as what we would see with fiber. If fiber Light Peak is 5 years away, and they can get this ready in 1 year with copper, i dont blame them.
  • 0 Hide
    BrightCandle , January 10, 2011 5:49 PM
    According to Intel's spokes people the design contained copper from the start. Lightpeak was a combination of copper and fibre together (I assume for power transfer reasons). Cutting out the fibre may just mean that the cables are cheaper but the plug should be compatible.

    Unless I am going to get 10Gbit/s over 50m or so I am not interested in just the copper version. I wanted to replace the dual bonded LAN with something faster but without the enterprise cost of 10Gb Ethernet. The fact that Intel wasn't showing this off at CES suggests they know the current implementation is a lemon.
  • -1 Hide
    Anonymous , January 10, 2011 6:02 PM
    why would anyone buy into this if they know there's a optic version arriving not too far down the line, why not just wait and do it right the first time, especially seeing as that according to the statement, this is not a rival format to USB3 but rather could be used to even carry UBS3 signals.....
  • -1 Hide
    Anonymous , January 10, 2011 6:53 PM
    Again Intel boels hits around.
    I work in industrial automation and fibre optics is know for so many years now but why the hell does it takes ages to get reality in the consumer world?
    Copper,wt f!As always they just want to make money again and again.
    Its already there-100Gb/s,believe me,but its always that !@#$% money.
    Super fast light computers have been invented yet where are they,we are being fooled yet again.
  • 1 Hide
    jimmysmitty , January 10, 2011 6:56 PM
    rhino13I'm not really a fan of closed standards. Particularly when they involve Intel. I'd like to see USB4 throttle this peaking standard, but we shall see.

    You do realize that Intel is one of the major players in the USB standard, right? In fact one of the two guys who created the USB standard works for Intel.

    As for Light Peak, I didn't see this coming. I know Intel was working on a way to embed copper with the fiber in order to be able to also charge devices since charging with light isn't quite possible.

    Maybe its a start and the older copper based cables and devices will be able to plug into newer ones but will have limited performance, much like plugging in a USB1.1 device into a USB2.0 device only produces 1.1 speeds.

    hellwigImagine if Intel did this with all its technology, you'd have to buy a new socket/motherboard everytime they came out with a new processor (ok, ok, bad example there).

    I can understand the frustration of having to completely upgrade your system but TBH, its not that bad and carries good reasons. Its why AMD had to kill off S939 and 940. Even though S940 was the same pin amount as AM2, they needed to kill it in order to take advantage of the full potential of the CPUs. They are doing it again with AM3+. Bulldozer wont work in AM3 because it would severely limit the CPUs potential.

    Sandy Bridge required a completely new pin layout because, well the GPU is integrated onto the CPU die itself and if you look at the reviews its power usage is amazing. It stays near a dual core Core i5/i3 while having 2x pretty much everything and a much faster GPU.

    I think if it was this way in the car industry we would have had better alternatives to gasoline a long time ago. Without the push to keep evolving a platform it would be dead in terms of performance gain. Honestly I don't think Socket 478 could give us the same level of performance as LGA775 did or current sockets do even if they found a way to shove a quad core Sandy Bridge into it.
  • 0 Hide
    thejerk , January 10, 2011 7:11 PM
    Optical is new technology? Since 25 years ago?
  • -1 Hide
    mikem_90 , January 10, 2011 7:47 PM
    Now is time for AMD's chipset to ramp up Sata 6g/sec and USB 3.0 Adoption. Even if Lightpeak is a faster and better technology, Intel would have to create a new chipset and very likely a new CPU to better take advantage of all these things (USB 3.0, Sata6g/sec and Light peak). The PCI-E squeeze on Intel's mainstream platform is going to constrain them unless they're going to pull an extra 8x or 16x out of nowhere.

    AMD can push harder on their platform to take up the slack. Or maybe Intel will just use some sort of PCI-E switch kind of like how Asus did their SATA3/USB3 Add-on card. Still not ideal though.
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