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All modern interconnection technologies, whether it is DisplayPort, USB 3.0 or FireWire, utilize copper wires, which have relatively limited peak bandwidth. In order to solve the bandwidth and wire problems in the long term, Intel Corp. is working on Light Peak optical interconnection technology, the company revealed at Intel Developer Forum 2009.

Intel claims that once relegated only to datacenter and telecom environments with high price points, optical technology may soon find its way into mainstream client systems, consumer electronics, and even handhelds.

Light Peak provides initial data rates of 10Gb/s and potential scalability to 100Gb/s and beyond, something copper input/output (IO) will not be able to achieve. Light Peak also supports multiple simultaneous protocols which will allow bandwidth aggregation of the various interconnects used in systems today onto a single high speed, thin, flexible, and long cable and small connector. Potentially, Light Peak can connect camera, display, docking station, or external hard drive through a single and thin connector.

Light Peak makes this possible by moving the next IO speed increase to optical and getting away from the electro-magnetic interference (EMI) and thickening and shortening of cables that are plaguing copper IO technologies today, Intel said. Unlike the current high cost optical technologies in the datacenter, Light Peak will bring the benefits of optical in a mainstream client-ready cost footprint.

Light Peak is in the developmental stages, but Intel executive vice president and general manager of Intel architecture group Dadi Perlmutter showed a demonstration of real silicon transmitting storage, LAN data and display (1080p) data across a single thin, 30m fiber optic cable.

Intel will be working with the industry to determine the best way to make this new technology a standard and to accelerate its adoption on a plethora of devices including PCs, handheld devices, consumer electronic devices and more. The end goal is to make Light Peak a complement to existing I/O technologies by enabling them to run together on a single cable and at higher, and more scalable speeds.

“With its potential for future I/O speed increases, and as rich multimedia proliferates, Light Peak can enable technologies and systems that share data both in the home and office to continue to deliver full speed external IO that can keep pace with internal compute device bandwidth,” a statement by Intel reads.

Tags: Intel, Light Peak

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