Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Intel's Thunderbolt With Fiber Optics Years Away

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the sometime-down-the-road dept.

Intel 69

CWmike writes "Intel's Thunderbolt high-speed interconnect technology could be years away from getting optical technology, an Intel executive said this week at IDF. Originally introduced in February on Macs, Thunderbolt was pitched as being optical technology but currently uses copper wires. Dadi Perlmutter of Intel's Architecture Group said copper wires are working much better than expected, and that fiber was expensive. 'It's going to be way out,' Perlmutter said. 'At the end of the day it's all about how much speed people need versus how much they would be willing to pay.'"

cancel ×

69 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Just give us the tech (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37418672)

.. we will be the judge of whether we need the speed or not.

Re:Just give us the tech (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37418720)

and when the answer is 'no', how much money would they have lost in development, advertising and production?

Re:Just give us the tech (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37418732)

Will you also be willing to pay Intel back if the tech they offer you doesn't sell? Intel might be several $million in the hole if they build a technology they think is "expensive" and that they belive, after using their significant history with selling to tech consumers, will not sell.

Smart companies do their homework before bringing products to market. Dumb ones let the consumer decide how quickly they go out of business.

Re:Just give us the tech (3, Insightful)

DrgnDancer (137700) | more than 2 years ago | (#37418734)

Except it doesn't work like that. Let's say Intel know that it will cost them 10 million dollars to create the optical version of the tech. They know that the optical version will (ignoring dev costs, just on parts) cost, say, three times as much as the copper, but only offer a 15% improvement in performance. They can make a reasonable guess that while a small subset of people will happily pay three times as much for a 15% performance gain, they aren't going to be able to make their 10 million back. If they can't make back their dev costs, they aren't going to dev. They'll wait till the economics make more sense.

Re:Just give us the tech (1)

Amouth (879122) | more than 2 years ago | (#37419292)

from what i've seen in how they are doing copper cables vs using fiber.. this is nothing that new - it reminds me almost exactly of using SFP's/Mini-GBIC which for networking and the san world allow for both copper and fiber connections - and while not always cheap, that is mainly an attribute to the market they belong (enterprise class equipment).

i might be wrong but while i'm sure developing the underlying protocol and controller isn't cheap - it should have a simple interface to the cable. the controller should not have to care if it is going to travel over fiber or copper - that is the job of the transceivers..

Re:Just give us the tech (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#37419448)

Apropos of your sig: Since Intel is already active in some areas of networking hardware(in addition to their longer term R&D about optical chip interconnects) they probably already have a very good idea of what various high speed optical interfaces would cost. Their 10 Gig-E optical interface modules are off the shelf items today, and I'm assuming that they are continuing work in that vein to be ready for the next faster round of ethernet standards. I imagine that there are some differences between what Thunderbolt requires and what Ethernet requires; but Intel isn't exactly just pulling numbers from nowhere when they say that moving Thunderbolt to optical trancievers would be too expensive for the target market: they already sell fairly similar hardware, and even a horrible bandsaw accident wouldn't stop me from counting the world's supply of laptops with SFP+, XFP, etc. interface ports...

Re:Just give us the tech (1)

DrgnDancer (137700) | more than 2 years ago | (#37419956)

That was pretty much my point.

Re:Just give us the tech (1)

saurongt (1639029) | more than 2 years ago | (#37419772)

Yeah, that's all and well, but Intel has over $20 billion in cash, short-term investments and trading assets. Meaning a huge lot of money that, given the current interest rates, is probably earning almost nothing. Why not put the money to work and sink it into advanced, though possibly not extremely profitable, ventures? There is just no way putting cutting edge technology on the market and expanding the company patent portfolio can be bad for them, and some of the newer technologies might turn out to be much bigger than the marketing foresees now. I just don't understand postponing new development, while having a huge chunk of money in the bank.

Re:Just give us the tech (1)

DrgnDancer (137700) | more than 2 years ago | (#37420042)

This I wouldn't disagree with; and Intel does do some of this. For whatever reason they don't think this particular product is worth it. I pulled the 15% number out of my ass of course, but if they aren't expecting the optical interface to be a huge improvement over the copper, maybe they just aren't bothering for such small gains.

Re:Just give us the tech (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37421714)

The old adage applies here:
Q. How do you make a million-dollar company?
A. Start with two-million dollars.

In this case, it's 20 Billion, but even if you're not earning interest on your money, it's better to hang onto it, rather than burn it on developing a product that you don't think will sell well. (Or, better yet, use that money to develop/improve products that you do think you can sell.)

Re:Just give us the tech (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37424700)

Yeah, that's all and well, but Intel has over $20 billion in cash, short-term investments and trading assets. Meaning a huge lot of money that, given the current interest rates, is probably earning almost nothing. Why not put the money to work and sink it into advanced, though possibly not extremely profitable, ventures? There is just no way putting cutting edge technology on the market and expanding the company patent portfolio can be bad for them, and some of the newer technologies might turn out to be much bigger than the marketing foresees now.

Uh... what makes you think they aren't doing this? They've been working on this technology for a long time, without expectations of immediate returns. All they're saying now is that in spite of the noise made last year about optical Light Peak, it's still going to be a while longer before they productize their optical tech. That doesn't mean research has halted.

To expand on this, for years Intel has been talking about their belief that sometime in the not-too-distant future, various types of interconnect will inevitably shift to high-speed optical as clock rates get too high for electrical connections. They anticipate even chip-to-chip connections on single boards going optical. So they're plowing R&D money into basic research to make this both possible (integrating high performance laser diodes into logic fabrication processes, for example) and cheap (lots of work on cheaper fiber, connectors, etc.). The optical form of Light Peak was an attempt to turn some (not all) of this research into a product, but for right now it appears that copper's still a more practical interconnect for a shipping product.

Re:Just give us the tech (1)

mabhatter654 (561290) | more than 2 years ago | (#37422586)

The issue is per unit costs, not startup. I also think there is also the profit angle.

Right now, if adding optical cost $5 in parts, that's $45 at retail... There's no clear use, so the "race to the bottom" starts befoe the tech is highly profitable. There is also the matter of handing Fiber Optic cables to the general public... It's just too fragile and users would rebel.

Also, 10Gb fiber cards are like $500 each right now... Why would intel kill that market?

Re:Just give us the tech (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37426380)

> There is also the matter of handing Fiber Optic cables to the general public... It's just too fragile and users would rebel

Seriously? Millions of folks use TOSlink connectors on their stereos, and they're not particularly fragile in the least. The cables themselves are cheaper than copper because they don't even need insulation.

I'll stick with USB (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37418686)

thanks for giving it a try tho, intel.

I need the optical tech (2)

Obble (1680532) | more than 2 years ago | (#37418692)

I need the optical connection now so that my optical mouse can fully function. Without it, its way too slow!

Re:I need the optical tech (0)

TeknoHog (164938) | more than 2 years ago | (#37418772)

I need optical so that we could send video without any conversions. I'm sure we already have strong enough lenses to scale the picture down to the fiber diameter.

Re:I need the optical tech (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37418810)

You need a coherent fibre bundle, not just any old fiber, but that's roughly how endoscopes work.

Re:I need the optical tech (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37427220)

I need optical so that we could send video without any conversions. I'm sure we already have strong enough lenses to scale the picture down to the fiber diameter.

You need a coherent fibre bundle, not just any old fiber, but that's roughly how endoscopes work.

Whoosh?

-@|

Re:I need the optical tech (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37418776)

What I want to know is, can I get an optical Thunderbolt cable from Monster with gold connectors? I had to throw away all my optical audio cables because those shitty plastic connectors just didn't have a warm enough sound.

Re:I need the optical tech (3, Funny)

TeknoHog (164938) | more than 2 years ago | (#37419184)

What I want to know is, can I get an optical Thunderbolt cable from Monster with gold connectors? I had to throw away all my optical audio cables because those shitty plastic connectors just didn't have a warm enough sound.

Actually, I think I have an SPDIF adapter with a gold plated end. It's for connecting a Toslink cable to one of those 3.5 mm audio sockets that also include an optical link. It's not completely gold plated though, which probably explains the lack of roundness in zeros, and the missing edge in ones.

Re:I need the optical tech (1)

Fjandr (66656) | more than 2 years ago | (#37422240)

The zeros are still backward with that adapter. Now, if you got the Denon cable that also includes directional arrows, they'd come out the end in the proper orientation.

Re:I need the optical tech (1)

Tarlus (1000874) | more than 2 years ago | (#37421422)

"Sup dawg, we made your optical mouse connection an optical connection so that your optical... will optical..."
Meh, it was worth a shot.

Fourth Post (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37418722)

Fourth post easily claimed by wealthy British getabout Anonymous Q. Coward.

Translation (0)

EmagGeek (574360) | more than 2 years ago | (#37418760)

"There is still a huge amount of profit to be made off of our existing technology, so there is no need to come up with anything new at this time."

Re:Translation (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 2 years ago | (#37418868)

That's a pretty ridiculous accusation to level at intel.

Sure, Moore's law is one part prediction and one part self fulfilling prophecy, but the progress in computer performance (per watt, per dollar, etc.) over the last 40 years has been pretty nice.

Re:Translation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37424506)

As an Intel shareholder, I would hope it would be absolutely true. Premature obsolescence costs various industries billions per year in lost profits. Intel's job is the maximize the value of my shares, period. Everything they do must be supportive of that goal - it's the Law.

Re:Translation (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 2 years ago | (#37425124)

Right, because the one thing a technology company can expect is zero competitors attempting to eat their lunch.

Re:Translation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37429504)

The right time to release a new product is when the potential profit on the existing product is exhausted. Of course they don't expect zero competition, but the competition is nowhere close to "eating their lunch." So, there is still profit to be made.

When the competition becomes sufficient to exhaust the potential profit, then it will be the right time to release "the next thing."

Like FireWire... (3, Interesting)

MarcQuadra (129430) | more than 2 years ago | (#37418762)

FireWire was also supposed to 'go optical' at some point, but market forces kept it copper.

Re:Like FireWire... (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#37418788)

ISTR the original roadmap showing 1.6Gbps on copper by now, and 3.2Gbps "some time in the future" on fiber (with copper next to it for power.)

Re:Like FireWire... (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 2 years ago | (#37420134)

If the MPAA folks hadn't pushed for DRM on HDMI, we'd have nice Firewire connected AV equipment and everything'd be cool. Can't wait until I find a gateway to the universe where that happened. Although I imagine there's a bunch of slider versions of myself all hanging out in my living room over there.

Fiber is expensive? (1, Insightful)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 2 years ago | (#37418832)

I read that as "we don't own all the patents on the interconnect hardware, and to produce it would cost us more than using our in-house patent base and patent-free copper connections. Surprisingly, it turns out we're somewhat incompetent at modeling electrical connections and the results don't match our simulations but they're better than we planned, so we'll patent what we have and plan on taking that to the bank."

Re:Fiber is expensive? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37418848)

+5 pls

Re:Fiber is expensive? (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 2 years ago | (#37421986)

I agree. Mod up. I don't know what the truth is, but I think Intel's explanation is BS.

SPDIF has been around for years, and it isn't terribly expensive. I can get a 6 ft. cable for $2.99.

It's so "expensive" that's it's built into the headphone and line in jacks on my Mac, and most people don't even realize it's there.

Re:Fiber is expensive? (1)

Fjandr (66656) | more than 2 years ago | (#37422296)

Yeah, I've got an Asus laptop that's like ... 7 years old, and it has a hybrid copper-optical SPDIF port on it. Wasn't even a particularly expensive laptop at the time.

Re:Fiber is expensive? (1)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 2 years ago | (#37422366)

Afaict it's not the fiber itself that is expensive It's the laser diodes, photodiodes, precision connections to the fiber, protection against fractured fibers from kinked cables and so on that make a high speed fiber system expensive. Especially if it has to be made "idiot-proof".

TOSLINK (optical version of S/PDIF) is indeed cheap but that is because the low speeds let them get away with REALLY low grade optical components (including polymer fiber that is less prone to damage than glass fiber.

Re:Fiber is expensive? (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 2 years ago | (#37422488)

It's the end connections I presumed were expensive, and an area where their patent portfolio was thin. I can agree somewhat on the cable front, and I want thinking about TOSLINK when I thought of cheap cables, but I'd never really considered what the bandwidth was.

Re:Fiber is expensive? (3, Informative)

JDG1980 (2438906) | more than 2 years ago | (#37422430)

Toslink (optical SPDIF) is very low in bandwidth compared to modern technologies. Most implementations don't go above ~1.5 mbps, which is enough for uncompressed redbook CD audio or DTS (and more than enough for Dolby Digital / AC-3). Just because this can be done cheaply doesn't mean that the same is true of optical connections that need to handle several orders of magnitude more bandwidth. And Toslink never made much sense in the first place. Coaxial SPDIF transmits exactly the same data, the cables are cheaper, you can make the cables yourself with the proper tooling, and they are far more robust. (You can easily break a Toslink cable just by bending it too tightly - that doesn't happen with coax.)

Re:Fiber is expensive? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37424918)

I agree. Mod up. I don't know what the truth is, but I think Intel's explanation is BS.
SPDIF has been around for years, and it isn't terribly expensive. I can get a 6 ft. cable for $2.99.
It's so "expensive" that's it's built into the headphone and line in jacks on my Mac, and most people don't even realize it's there.

Optical SPDIF aka TOSlink operates at a few megabits per second (~5 max) using cheapass red LEDs (not even lasers! And truly generic off-the-shelf, any random 650nm red LED can switch on and off at a few MHz), the lowest grade plastic optical fiber, cheap plastic connectors with extremely poor alignment (important in the optical world), and so forth.

You can't get away with that kind of low-grade hardware if you hope to send and receive 10 gigabits per second (as in Thunderbolt). That requires high performance laser diodes, quality optical fiber, excellent connectors, and so forth. None of these things are available off the shelf at low costs. You can buy them today if you want, in finished product form no less (various types of high performance networking gear typically found in racks rather than on the desktop), but not at mass market friendly prices.

Intel has been talking about their research efforts aimed at bringing the cost of such things down for quite some time now (predating Thunderbolt / Light Peak by several years), but it's not always easy to go from the lab to volume production. Calm down, relax and see what they come up with in a few years. It's a bit amusing that you think their explanation is "BS"... what possible reason would they have to bullshit you about this?

Re:Fiber is expensive? (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | more than 2 years ago | (#37427102)

I read that as "we don't own all the patents on the interconnect hardware, and to produce it would cost us more than using our in-house patent base and patent-free copper connections. Surprisingly, it turns out we're somewhat incompetent at modeling electrical connections and the results don't match our simulations but they're better than we planned, so we'll patent what we have and plan on taking that to the bank."

Given Thunderbolt copper cables rely on active cables (the cables actually have circuitry in there to match impedance, regenerate the bits, and characterize the cable so they can pre-emphasize and attenuate as appropriate, I don't see the patent issues - there's tons to be patented there.

But the reality is, if you're going to transport power over the cables anyways, you're carrying copper around, and the cables are at fixed signaling rates anyhow (active cables, remembers), if copper is good enough, then it's good enough and cheap enough.

An optical solution would cost more - you'd have the same active ends, but now the complexity of copper. All to replace cheap copper that works just fine for no real identifiable benefit.

meh... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37418856)

I've never been a fan of optical cables, they have really poor flexibility for typical use in a desk/office environment. Considering how capable copper thunderbolt is, seems unnecessary.

Re:meh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37419720)

Have you seen the newer optical cables? Yes the old ones were fragile and inflexible, but the newer ones can flex nearly as well as regular old copper. In fact, optical cables at my place of work are usually stored in coils about 4 inches in diameter.

Its actually cheaper (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37418918)

I don't understand a word this intel guy is saying! Optical Fibre is the cheapest component available everywhere!!!!!

Re:Its actually cheaper (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37419912)

What he's saying is that bonding and mounting the chip costs an extra 75c more than copper, and Dell doesn't want to pay for that.

Surprise, surprise... (4, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#37418928)

While "Thunderbolt" is essentially a PCIe 4x external cabling mechanism, rather than a more typical external interface like ethernet, it seems reasonable to assume(for the sake of getting some rough numbers) that the challenges of getting a Thunderbolt 10Gb/s optical connection working would not be less than the challenges of getting other optical 10Gb/s connections working(might be slightly more, if, say, PCIe is touchier about latency or something, might be slightly less if Thunderbolt never promised to support a cable more than 10 meters long; but ballpark here).

Conveniently, there exists just such a 10Gb optical interface: 10GigE. Even better, the optical portion is frequently broken out into a separate module(to allow for multiple different grades of tranceiver, depending on distance and fiber requirements), making it possible to price the optics package separately from the switch to which it attaches.

10GB/s optical XFP or SFP+ modules are, indeed, not all that cheap. Much cheaper than they were; but (at least the Intel ones that some rough retail-pricing showed) still easily as costly as some of the smaller planned "thunderbolt" peripherals...

Re:Surprise, surprise... (1)

mako1138 (837520) | more than 2 years ago | (#37422964)

Yeah, going to optical when copper will do doesn't make economic sense. There's no need for the bigger bandwidth of optical as long as the transceivers are fixed and non-upgradeable, as they would be in consumer equipment. Even in the high-end space, there seems to be lots of 10GigE over copper these days.

Re:Surprise, surprise... (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#37424420)

As you note, with Thunderbolt showing up in places where swappable tranceivers are very unlikely to happen, it seems particularly unlikely that the interface will be going optical any time soon.

In various niches, there is a demand, backed up by actual money, for all kinds of typically copper interfaces over optical, VGA, PS/2, USB, serial, etc. However, because the markets are so small, you can't really buy any devices with optical interfaces for that, you just make do with proprietary adapters with a copper connector on each end, and the vendor's private magic going over fiber in the middle. Not inexpensive, often ugly, and frequently requires a wall-wart or two; but available.

I'd be totally unsurprised to see a Thunderbolt equivalent to these other oddball fiber extenders pop up soon enough, at a price point high enough that they'll always be rather exotic; but low enough that the people who really need to run a cable 50 meters through their flammable gas containment chamber won't flinch...

Re:Surprise, surprise... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37424992)

As you note, with Thunderbolt showing up in places where swappable tranceivers are very unlikely to happen, it seems particularly unlikely that the interface will be going optical any time soon.

It turns out that copper Thunderbolt cables contain an active transceiver at each end, integrated into the plug housing. Example chip:

http://www.gennum.com/products/thunderbolt-cable-transceivers/gn2033

So, it's already a swappable transceiver design, and down the road it's conceivable someone could release compatible optical transceivers.

(Unfortunately, this also means even the copper cabling is currently quite expensive - $50 for one cable.)

Re:Surprise, surprise... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37425872)

Even better, the optical portion is frequently broken out into a separate module(to allow for multiple different grades of tranceiver, depending on distance and fiber requirements), making it possible to price the optics package separately from the switch to which it attaches.

On nice aspect of TB at this time is that the cables are active and have a good power supply to them. This allows an existing system with existing electrical TB ports to be connected to a cable that could use optical between the two ends of the cable. In other words you can switch to longer optical connections without having to change hardware on either end. ...with all things like this it wont be cheap at first of course.

Re:Surprise, surprise... (1)

sonicmerlin (1505111) | more than 2 years ago | (#37427412)

I thought 4 channel Light Ridge Thunderbolt was capable of 4x10 gbps bidirectionally or (8/10 * 40 = ) 32 gbps of pure data. Isn't that PCIe 2.0 8x? Why does everyone say it's 4x? 32 gbps is 8x!

Local optical interconnect has NEVER made sense (1)

phage434 (824439) | more than 2 years ago | (#37418974)

This is the latest in a very very long series of failures of optical interconnect in multiprocessors, in the computer room, and at the desktop. Since the '80s people have told us that wires will never keep working, and optics is the only solution. They have been wrong, and continue to be wrong. I was even blasted by a respected physicist that told me that there was an inherent power advantage for optics. That was wrong also. Optics is great if you need to go across the ocean, but don't tell me you want to go across the cabinet with it.

Re:Local optical interconnect has NEVER made sense (1)

Amouth (879122) | more than 2 years ago | (#37419510)

well there is one very really advantage to optics over wires.. and that is that there is an unlimited potential bandwidth - single mode fiber > any electrical conductor (excluding supper conductors)

Re:Local optical interconnect has NEVER made sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37419592)

well there is one very really advantage to optics over wires.. and that is that there is an unlimited potential bandwidth - single mode fiber > any electrical conductor (excluding supper conductors)

Thats right. When I eat my conductors for supper, they loose all of their bandwidth potential.

Re:Local optical interconnect has NEVER made sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37419804)

"Thats right. When I eat my conductors for supper, they loose all of their bandwidth potential."

And by "loose", I suppose you mean all over your pants?

/PS: It's "lose". Before making fun of someone else's spelling check your own, chucklehead.

Re:Local optical interconnect has NEVER made sense (1)

brian_tanner (1022773) | more than 2 years ago | (#37419852)

Before making fun of someone else's spelling check your own, chucklehead.

You been trolled son.

Re:Local optical interconnect has NEVER made sense (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 2 years ago | (#37420162)

Oops, you misspelled knucklehead.

Re:Local optical interconnect has NEVER made sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37420160)

Copper has just as much room for bandwidth though. Remember they are basically using a wave to decide 'on/off'. Is that wave light or electricity? Light is just more flexable in what you can encode into a wave.

The gp was right though. But also slightly wrong. The power savings 'on the wire' is a zillion times better for light. HOWEVER, there is a point where you have to encode it up and decode it down. THAT is where the power comes in. As you have to power those 2 devices (oh and you cant use the wire either). If the power for those two devices is greater than the power lost over the copper wire optical will not work. While that holds true you will rarely see optical in short distances. Over long distances you get tons of leakage for electrical. So it makes more sense there as light propagates better.

Eventually the encode/decode will be better at a lower power cost. When that happens you will start to see lots of optical wire runs. As as you pointed out the bandwidth is much higher as light is pretty energetic and has good properties for making different waves that do not interfere with each other much.

Re:Local optical interconnect has NEVER made sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37423256)

and that is that there is an unlimited potential bandwidth - single mode fiber > any electrical conductor (excluding supper conductors)

Not really, optics are more resilient to noise, but they have the inherent disadvantage that you have to modulate some form of light. Modulation is much harder optically than it is on copper, so the advantage is weighted by the amount of noise immunity you need. So, yes you can mix a large number of optical wavelengths down a fiber, but the cost is currently proportional to how many you choose. You can do the same with copper, but its generally much easier to simply pick the highest frequency you can successfully reconstruct the signal with and use it as the baseband rather than trying broadband with a bunch of separate frequencies.

Re:Local optical interconnect has NEVER made sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37424058)

Where do people come off with this kind of crap? unlimited potential bandwidth?

Dammit, people! If you failed Physics 401 and Signal Processing 101, kindly refrain from any such unlikely comments until you have _at the very least_ read the !@#$$# wikipedia pages on the subject! Yes, it is that basic, even wikipedia will tell you that fiber has a LOT of limitations.

The only media where you can use light to its full potential (which is _NOT_ unlimited even then) is complete vacuum _without_ any strong gravitational fields. Everything else will limit bandwidth somewhat, in some way. Most of it is not even obvious, go read about non-zero-dispersion (NZD) fiber and DWDM to get an idea of the kind of crap involved with trying to push too much information through a single fiber.

We can still get a LOT out of a single single-mode fiber, but it is nowhere close to unlimited in bandwidth, and that's not even featuring economics and other engineering concerns (MTBF, fiber degradation...) into the equation.

What IS true is that the maximum bandwidth you can get from single-mode fiber is way above what we're using it for right now. Non-feasible data links are above 100Tbit/s, feasible but economically uninteresting data links are somewhere at 1-10 Tbit/s right now. Economically interesting data links are in the 100-250 Gbit/s range for short distances, and 10-25Gbit/s for long distance.

Re:Local optical interconnect has NEVER made sense (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 2 years ago | (#37427234)

Photons can travel arbitrarily near other photons without affecting each other at all. Electrons cannot do this - there is a hard physical limit in how close together any traces can be which conduct electricity reliably. There is no such limit for optical, so running them in parallel increases bandwidth. While you can do the same thing with copper too, it will end up taking orders of magnitude more space because of the hard limits in how close together the wires can be without interfering with each other. Because there is no theoretical limit on how close optical traces can be (the only limit being a practical one imposed by the limitations of technology), the bandwidth for an optical connection is theoretically unlimited.

Like an Onion article (1)

OhHellWithIt (756826) | more than 2 years ago | (#37419960)

TFA reads like an Onion [theonion.com] article:

"Copper will continue to improve, which happens. There have been many technologies that had been predicted dead 20 years ago that are still making good progress. We'll see," Perlmutter said.

Aren't optical signals processed via devices connected with copper wires at the end of the day?

Re:Like an Onion article (1)

Fjandr (66656) | more than 2 years ago | (#37422442)

Yes. The main benefit of optics is that you don't have the same sort of signal loss as a result of resistance. The longer the distance the more important a consideration that becomes.

Short-run cabling probably isn't going to see much difference between the two transport mechanisms. Copper still has a lot of headroom.

That processing that's done at each end is done by very efficient short-run copper. Until they start making optical traces and transistors in IC-size, that's going to be a limitation which is not surmountable. Saying it's a limitation doesn't mean much right now though.

Missed the point (1)

PenguinJeff (1248208) | more than 2 years ago | (#37420654)

While shorter distances of copper are cheap for communications long distance is expensive and lossy. I wanted a technology that I could run across the house. and still utilize full speed. Cat5e will do for now. I know Cat6 exists but I can get gigabit ethernet for cheaper with cat5e and It works even across the house. Cat6 doesn't do significantly better. Finding adapters to utilize the capabilities of cat5/cat6 as high speed usb 2.0 480Mbits/second cables looks to be a $300 endeavor. Again I know I can buy a long USB2 cable but I'd like to have one set of technology that I can plug anything into like what lightpeak was set out for. Currently I have USB2.0, HDMI, and cat5e. If it was all light peak with its high speed and cheap adapters I could use any cable as any other cable. Its great that they found copper to work good but at what distance? I'm betting if they try going the distance of a room its going to A) cost them an arm and a leg and or B) going to be lossy and slow things down. Sigh.

Re:Missed the point (1)

Fjandr (66656) | more than 2 years ago | (#37422562)

This.

Cable length is an issue for certain things, amongst them USB. I am currently at the spec limit for cable lengths. Since USB timing can get hairy when you exceed the limit on cabling, I have to make accommodations for that limit (chaining hubs is not something I will consider just to exceed it). I would like an external interconnect where this is not an issue. 15 feet is not a whole lot in many situations.

Powered extenders are expensive, because they have to integrate timing corrections to compensate for the signal delay. Optical has no such issues. I wish they'd just bite the bullet and develop a good external optical interconnect. Given the ubiquity of HBAs (at least in the enterprise), you'd think it wouldn't be THAT difficult to adapt the technology to support other types of signaling.

I thought this was expected (1)

Bengie (1121981) | more than 2 years ago | (#37420858)

About a year ago, when I was reading about LightPeak(Thunderbolt), Intel claimed it was going to be 10-40gbit and was going to take a few years *after* 22nm became standard.

Just based on Intel claiming LightPeak was meant to come out after 22nm, means it was released early. I am not surprised that the optical version is still some odd years off.

Personally, I think this early release was a mix of Apple and Intel. Apple wanting the fastest and unique, and Intel wanting to make at least some money on their tech as it has been in development for quite a long time. I remember reading about "some optical tech that will scale to 100gbit and become standard", from Intel back near 2005.

Because of them sticking with copper It will loose (1)

PenguinJeff (1248208) | more than 2 years ago | (#37421008)

Whats the point of it if we can use USB3? USB3 is compatible with my current USB devices Thunderbolt is not. Thunderbolt cost of implementing is higher than USB3. Its not that much faster there are almost no devices for thunderbolt. How many copper wires does it need? How would it scale for distances of say 50 feet? The real distance of going around the room if you don't go under the rug. If they stuck with fiber and had copper for power and sold adapters like they had set out to do. Even though its not that big of improvement in speed over usb3 it would have had a chance. Compatibility of USB3 is going to kick it under the rug. It is surely a dead end technology now.

No remote TVs :-( (1)

fgouget (925644) | more than 2 years ago | (#37421552)

Now that graphics cards are powerful enough to drive 3 or more full HD displays all that's missing is a way to connect them across the home. LightPeak looked like a perfect fit: across one cable you could connect a display, a USB infra-red remote, and even USB drives or an SD reader. And with the fiber optic cable there was no range issue. You could just go through the attic and to the other side of the house, tens of meters away if you so wanted.

But then all we got is Thunderbolt with a measly 3m maximum length. That's just enough to go from one side of an (L-shaped) desk to the other :-(

And no, $2000 connected web TVs are not the solution. Sure they may play some AVIs, maybe some MP4s, but there are also a lot of formats they don't support, Flash, MP4s with the higher end options enabled, etc. And for subtitles it's even worse. And in a couple of years when everyone standardizes on WebM or whatever the new video codec is you'll have to splash another two grands. Not because the display quality is bad, just because it's too old for the manufacturer to bother issuing firmware upgrades to support the new formats. What a waste.

External GPU (1)

sonicmerlin (1505111) | more than 2 years ago | (#37427298)

4 channel Light Ridge Thunderbolt controllers can do 4x10 = 40 gbps bidirectionally. Since it's PCIe (8/10 is data), that's 32 gbps. That's equivalent to PCIe 2.0 8x (16x is 8 GB/s = 64 gbps). So it should be enough for even really high end external GPUs. And IMO that's the most relevant application. Intel wants to go the Ultrabook route, and the only way to make that viable is to enable the ability for people to connect high-end desktop class GPUs to their high-end CPU packing ultrabooks.

What about the Sony Vaio Z? (1)

jantangring (78094) | more than 2 years ago | (#37438508)

What about the Sony Vaio Z docking station Power Media Dock? It was advertised June 28 to be using ”an optical cable” and ‘Light Peak’.

http://presscentre.sony.eu/content/detail.aspx?ReleaseID=6836&NewsAreaId=2 [presscentre.sony.eu]

It is available now, at $499.99,

http://store.sony.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?catalogId=10551&storeId=10151&langId=-1&partNumber=VGPPRZ20A/B#features [sony.com]

Check for New Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>