[Beowulf] Intel Light Peak: 10-100 GBit/s optical consumer LAN

Eugen Leitl eugen at leitl.org
Thu Sep 24 08:50:21 EDT 2009


(But will it be a packet-switchable protocol over that physical
link, or yet another USB brain damage?)

http://news.cnet.com/8301-30685_3-10360047-264.html

September 23, 2009 12:54 PM PDT

Intel's Light Peak: One PC cable to rule them all

by  Stephen Shankland

The Light Peak technology sends signals with infrared light over optical
fibers.  (Credit: Intel)

SAN FRANCISCO--Intel unveiled technology called Light Peak that it hopes
ultimately will replace the profusion of different cables sprouting from
today's PCs with a single type of fiber-optic link.

Dadi Perlmutter, the newly promoted co-general manager of Intel's
Architecture Group, demonstrated Light Peak at the Intel Developer Forum here
and said components for the technology, though not Light Peak-enabled PCs,
will be ready in 2010.

"We hope to see one single cable," Perlmutter said, adding that one thing
getting in the way of smaller laptops is the profusion of cable ports around
the systems' edges.  This prototype PC has the Light Peak controller and
optical connector that sends signals down a single white optical cable.

This prototype PC has the Light Peak controller and optical connector that
sends signals down a single white optical cable.  (Credit: Stephen
Shankland/CNET)

In a demonstration, Perlmutter showed a PC connected to a monitor across the
stage showing high-definition video sent over a Light Peak optical cable. The
cable can be as long as 100 meters and can carry data at 10 gigabits per
second in both directions simultaneously, though Intel expects it will reach
100 gigabits per second in the next decade, said Jason Ziller, Intel's
director of optical input-ouput program office, in an interview.

The company envisions Light Peak as a replacement for the cables that
currently lead to monitors, external drives, scanners, and just about
anything else that plugs in to a computer. A PC could have a number of Light
Peak ports for different devices, or a connection could lead to a
hub--perhaps an external monitor--with multiple connections of its own,
Ziller said.

It's not clear how much the technology will cost or how many years it will
take to become mainstream. And wireless communication technology--Intel
itself has promoted Ultra-Wideband (UWB) for years--offers the attraction of
getting rid of some cables altogether.

The Light Peak technology handles multiple communication protocols at the
same time, with quality-of-service provisions to ensure high-priority traffic
such as video get preferred treatment, he said.  Intel's Dadi Perlmutter
traces the Light Peak cable from a PC to a monitor on the other side of the
stage. Light Peak can traverse distances up to 100 meters.

Intel's Dadi Perlmutter traces the Light Peak cable from a PC to a monitor on
the other side of the stage. Light Peak can traverse distances up to 100
meters.  (Credit: Stephen Shankland/CNET)

In addition, Intel said it's working on bundling the optical fiber with
copper wire so Light Peak can be used to power devices plugged into the PC,
he said.

The cables themselves are durable, Ziller said: "You can tie a knot in it and
it'll still work."

Intel has a lot of clout in the computing marketplace, but building support
for a radical new connection that could replace DVI, DisplayPort, USB,
Firewire, HDMI, and any number of other connections would require broad
industry support. Intel's taking the usual approach to tackling that problem:

"We're working with the industry to standardize it," Ziller said. Intel has
been briefing other companies for "the last few months," and now is trying to
get the standards process started in earnest with partners including
companies in the computing, consumer electronics, and telephone handset
markets, he said.

Ziller wouldn't say who else is participating in the effort, but Intel
published a statement of support from Sony, which has a lot of clout of its
own in many markets.

"Sony is excited about the potential for Light Peak technology that Intel has
been developing, and believe it could enable a new generation of high-speed
device connectivity," said Ryosuke Akahane, vice president of Sony's Vaio
Business Group.

So will Light Peak become a universal port? "Intel's long-term vision is you
could get to that," Ziller said. 


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