Light Peak Ready, But Uses Copper

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.

  • house70
    lightpeak without light...
  • squanto

  • CopperPeak?
  • eddieroolz
    If it isn't done with fibre optics, then it has lost the point.
  • agnickolov
  • jdamon113
    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
  • hellwig
    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).
  • mauller07
  • mavroxur
    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.
  • rhino13
    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.