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Intel Networking Technology

Intel Connects PCs To Devices Using Light 179

CWmike writes "Intel is working on a new optical interconnect that could possibly link mobile devices to displays and storage up to 100 meters away. The optical interconnect technology, Light Peak, could communicate data between systems and devices associated with PCs at speeds of up to 10Gbits/sec., said David Perlmutter, vice president and general manager of Intel's mobility group. The technology uses light to speed up data transmission between mobile devices and connected devices like storage, networking and audio devices, the company said. The technology could help transfer a full-length Blu-ray movie in less than 30 seconds, says a post on Intel's site. Light Peak can run multiple protocols simultaneously over a single cable, enabling mobile devices to perform tasks over multiple connected devices at the same time. 'Optical technology also allows for smaller connectors and longer, thinner, and more flexible cables than currently possible,' according to the Intel entry. It could also lead to thinner and fewer connectors on mobile devices, Perlmutter said."
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Intel Connects PCs To Devices Using Light

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  • Is this just cheap components for Fiber? 100 meters is pretty far, I am guessing that this could have networking uses beyond ripping media to external drives.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Ephemeriis ( 315124 )

      Is this just cheap components for Fiber? 100 meters is pretty far, I am guessing that this could have networking uses beyond ripping media to external drives.

      100m is a good distance... More than I'd probably need for connecting a mobile device to anything else in my house... But it isn't amazing. Doesn't good ol' ethernet cap out around 100m?

      • by maharb ( 1534501 )

        Yes, it is the same distance but at 10X or 100X the speed of current Ethernet. If this stuff is really at consumer level pricing then imagine how cheap it would be for a business to insert this stuff in a data center or workplace. I guess there could be latency issues or something but I still don't see why this couldn't be used to move large amounts of data around a data center or office LAN.

  • by RMH101 ( 636144 ) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @08:09AM (#29527257)
    What I've wanted for some time is a universal standard of structured cabling: I'd run a "bus" cable round the house, and in each room or termination point I'd have a box that allowed me to run different signals and different protocols over that bus - audio, HD video, ethernet, etc. No more running new cable runs each time I wanted to add a phone point, or an extra network socket. If this provides a way of doing this over a universal optical bus, then count me in...
    • What you describe is similar to the old 10base5 (thicknet) Ethernet. Structured cabling uses a star topology.
    • What I've wanted for some time is a universal standard of structured cabling: I'd run a "bus" cable round the house ...

      You're either a visionary, a fan of Jules Verne, worked in government some years ago, or you watched Terry Gilliam's Brazil on TV recently.

      Either way, sign me up for your newsletter. ;-)

    • I think this is it, this new cable tech. would be the be all end all of all cabling, for this much bandwidth through put, yo could put all your devices on it, your phone, pc, media center, etc...etc...

      Now we just need the matching protocol that would allow to run simultaneous messages on the same cable.

      • 1394/Firewire is wonderful; the only downside is that it lacks the wonderful driver classifications (and support) that USB has.

        As far as I am concerned, if Apple designed the basics again as they did with firewire and intel adds the driver support that USB has it'll be a win-win situation.

        I just hope that Apple designs the plugs because USB plugs always have been stupid!
        Not that firewire is a whole lot better-- but I for one hate this A/B plug insanity that we must deal with. I only want 2 kinds of p

    • You probably don't want a bus cable... I remember troubleshooting some old bus networks... Pain in the ass. Entire network would freak out because somebody had unplugged something.

      You can already do most of what you describe with CAT5e/CAT6. CAT6 obviously makes a great network cable... But you can easily use it to carry telephone as well (even if it isn't VOIP). Lots of the new construction we're working in just has bundles of CAT6 going everywhere. Run 3 or 4 lines of CAT6 to a wall and you're unli

  • Hmm... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @08:16AM (#29527303) Journal
    I'd be interested in the cabling and connectors. 10Gb/s over fiber is certainly good, and would have a variety of fun uses; but is hardly groundbreaking, you've been able to get 10Gb over fiber for a while now.

    To be putting it in consumer electronics, though, you pretty much have to make the cabling and connectors quite durable and generally idiot proof. This hasn't, historically, been the first set of attributes you associate with optical fiber(it's a hell of a lot more durable than you'd expect a tiny thread of glass to be; but you have to care about turn radius, and dust and stuff getting on the connectors, and whatnot). Either Intel is just handwaving, or they actually think that they've got a set of mechanical designs that'll let fiber be as robust as USB, and still work despite accumulations of pocket lint, and people rolling over cables with chairs, and stuff getting bent in laptop bags, and whatnot.
    • dust and stuff getting on the connectors, and whatnot .. and still work despite accumulations of pocket lint

      Although this isn't mentioned specifically in the video, it appears as if the transceiver is meant to be permanently attached to the fiber. This would be the easiest solution to the lint issue, plus it would eliminate the complexity of making good optical connections. Essentially, I think they intend to have the transceivers molded into both ends of the fiber and it would probably look just like an USB cable to the average user, only with fiber running end-to-end, rather than copper. Of course, I'm not sure

      • In that case, I'd say that the real innovation would be in price. Electrically pluggable fiber transceivers are quite common(in the form of GBICs and SFPs); but are far more expensive than ordinary cable connectors. Even a couple of cheap refurb gigabit models attached to a cheap fiber patch cable would push you into Monster Cable prices.

        If Intel has 10Gb 100meter transceivers cheap enough to mold onto the ends of fiber cables that consumers are going to break every six months, they'll have a real hit on
    • by Renraku ( 518261 )

      Optical cable is fucking easy to do.

      You do not need high quality glass fibers to do consumer fiber runs. Plastic fiber will work just as well, and has a much better turn radius.

      Glass fibers have no place in the home until they're literally fool proof. If I can't spool a cable around my arm or step on/trip over it without destroying it, I don't want it.

  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @08:19AM (#29527313) Journal
    Sending data via light? Not really news; fibre-optics are used for most bulk data transfer. Using fibre for peripheral connections? Not really; there have been standard fibre connections for audio, FireWire, and SCSI for quite a few years. Intel doing the same thing everyone else is doing buy shouting loudly about it? No, that's been going on for years too.

    Can anyone enlighten me as to which part of this story is meant to be news?

    • Watching the short video the only two things that seem to be new are:

      * the optocouplers got much smaller
      * they also got a lot cheaper to manufacture

      Basically means, that these things could be embedded in usb sized connectors and sold for an affordable price. What they did not explain is how they want to circumvent user habit of cable folding. Optical cables tend to be quite sensitive to this.

    • by alexhs ( 877055 )

      Crappy journalism. That's like advertising iSCSI as Ethernet.

      Fiber data transfer is nothing new, but Intel designed a chipset for what could be some kind of "FireWire over fiber", designed for generic PC to peripheral interconnection.

      Existing standard fiber connections are dedicated (only one signal/protocol in the fiber) while this one can multiplex (or time-share ?) many signals of different protocols.

      • But FireWire over fibre already exists, has an IEEE standard for several years, and has been implemented by multiple vendors. You can only run FireWire over it, but FireWire supports things like IP as well as a SCSI-like protocol and isometric transport for video bytestreams, so it's not exactly a massive limitation.
    • Tiny. Cheap.
    • You have ran a hi-res display, audio, an external drive, and networking over a single connection, with no mucking about to set it all up?

  • Hang on, are there cables or are there not? If this is wire-less (something like IR) and reliable then that sounds like quite a big achievement, if not then it just sounds like fibre optics with a bit of a twist. I can't tell from the description or the article whether this new "Light Peak" is a system over wires (at which point why trumpet the mobile applications?) or some big jump in wireless peripheral connection.

  • by Lemming Mark ( 849014 ) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @08:55AM (#29527521) Homepage

    Well, the title was not very helpful - it came from the first of the linked articles. The second was a bit more informative but still quite vague.

    The interesting thing here seems to be that they're planning to tunnel multiple protocols over the optical link. So you might be hanging monitors, USB devices, SATA drives, whatever off this link. It'd be a bridge that could tunnel your device connections to somewhere quite physically distant, using only a single cable. One assumes (maybe this is a big assumption) that an important part of the effort is in getting hardware that can efficiently do the encapsulation / decapsulation of the various device protocols. I'm not entirely sure why you couldn't do this over a 10Gb ethernet link, with some kind of protocol for tunneling over ethernet. I'd speculate that it'd make the controller chips more expensive if you did this but I really don't know. Everything is guesswork anyhow, until they give us more information.

    The main thing I can see this being useful for is stuff like blade desktops - the real computer you're using as your desktop is just a blade server in a chilled room, with sysadmins leaving it regular sacrificial offerings for optimal uptime. The monitor, USB devices, everything would then be connected to the blade desktop by a single optical cable. Only one slim cable to route for each desktop, everything runs over it so the "desktop" can still have functional USB ports etc. Having an optical cable seems like it would be ideal for that kind of scenario. The ultimate thin client. If you have multiple Light Peak ports on a single blade then perhaps you could get multiple virtual machines to drive separate workstations, making your datacentre density even higher.

    Other stuff it might be interesting for is some kind of cheap (?) high speed networking, home media servers, low cost SAN hardware, etc. Depending on how they do it of course. But if they made it generic enough it would be really interesting for a lot of applications that are now priced out of the reach of individuals and probably also small businesses.

  • The article is scarce on information. I agree with all the others who've said that this seems like they re-invented fiber. I'm guessing since they mentioned mobile devices that this is really a low-power, low-cost fiber transmitter that they're talking about. Current electro-optical transceivers at 10gbps are pretty large in form factor and suck up a lot of power (~300mW) which would be inappropriate for mobile devices.

  • We have had IEEE 802.3ae for six years now. What's the benefit over your run-of-the-mill 10 Gbps Ethernet?

  • Just an idea (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JediTrainer ( 314273 ) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @09:16AM (#29527709)
    Why hasn't some enterprising inventor come up with a cable/connector that combines optical (for data) and copper (for power) in a single cable?

    Probably wouldn't be great for long distances, but I could imagine something like that having some advantages for replacing USB and ethernet w/PoE (at least in a home or office setting).
  • Since Blu-Ray refers to a disc medium, once the "full-length Blu-Ray movie" is no longer on the physical disc, but on a "light pipe," how is it a Blu-Ray movie anymore?
    • I wondered how long a "full length Blu-Ray movie" is? Is it, like, just under 100 metres so it fits in the cable? Or is it 3 km, so that you have to drag that 100m cable for 30 seconds at 1 m/s to transfer it?

      All these new units of measurement get me really confused.

      • Well, assuming the refractive index of the cable is 1.0 and the extra distance that the light travels to bounce off the walls is negligible then 30 seconds transferring a movie is about 5.6 million miles long. Think of it as a long train passing over a short bridge.
  • Never really thought about it 'til now but -- why isn't there a consumer-level optical PHY already??.

    The only thing close to a technological limitation that I can imagine would have to be the modem silicon
  • What?! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by konohitowa ( 220547 ) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @09:30AM (#29527875) Journal

    OMG! You can use light to transmit data over a cable? That's freaking crazy!! Wow.

    What's next? Some way to switch circuits without using tubes or relays? Yeah -- like that would ever happen.

    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      The story is about Intel bring this to devices for your PC.

      I like it, it will be easier for me because I would prefer all my components be external and neat place around my desk.

      • External components? Really? Not like there's a market for external hard drives, CD/DVD players/burners, digital cameras, scanners, printers, phone interfaces, music players, and all the other things that we only wish we could connect to our computers from the outside rather than having them built in. First, there would really need to be some way of connecting them to your computer. And hopefully it would be some sort of standard.

        Perhaps, one day, that dream will be realized.

  • Signals actually travel slightly faster in a copper coax than they do in a glass fiber, I've been told. So, while the bandwidth is impressive, your ping times are going to increase by a few nanoseconds...
  • How long does it take to transfer the blu-ray disc 100m if I toss it like a frisbee?
  • Its the PCjr keyboard incident all over again... the nightmares!!! The sore arms trying to align it...

    Seriously tho, why not just enhance bluetooth instead? Its here, its now..

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