Intel: No Plans for Support of Other Protocols over Thunderbolt

Thunderbolt to Remain PCIe and mDP Solution

by Anton Shilov
02/24/2011 | 10:04 PM

Even though originally Light Peak was meant to support a number of completely different protocols, its final implementation - Thunderbolt 1.0 - only supports two. As a result, those device makers, who want compliancy with the tech should acquire a controller from Intel.


"PCI Express and DisplayPort are supported natively. Other protocols can be supported via adapters," said Dave Salvator, a spokesman for Intel, in an interview with X-bit labs.

At this point Intel does not comment whether it plans to support the Thunderbolt - previously known as Light Peak - by its chipsets and when. Besides, the company believes that the TB will complement USB, but not replace the USB 3.0.

"We see Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 as complementary, we continue to support USB 3.0," added Mr. Salvator.

Using adapters or other means it will be possible for device makers to comply to the TB standard.

"If you can make a device use PCI Express, it can run on Thunderbolt," said the Intel spokesperson.

Thunderbolt technology supports two low-latency communications protocols - PCI Express for data transfer and DisplayPort for displays. Thunderbolt technology works on data streams in both directions, at the same time, so users get the benefit of full bandwidth in both directions, over a single cable. With the two independent channels, a full 10Gb/s of bandwidth (something not truly needed for HDDs these days) can be provided for the first device in the chain of the devices. All Thunderbolt technology devices share a common Mini DisplayPort connector. Intel's Thunderbolt controllers interconnect a PC and other devices, transmitting and receiving packetized traffic for both PCIe and DisplayPort protocols and thus makers HDDs need to develop or use additional controllers to make their drives compatible with the TB I/O interface.

Intel claims that the adoption rate of the new I/O technology will not be considerably limited. Still, it is aimed currently at professionals rather than on typical consumers.

"The combination of the very fast data transfer and beyond-HD display support on a single slender cable has great appeal for HD media creators, especially who work on laptops. Those same features also solve the big challenges posed by the growing HD media libraries many of us now own," stated Mr. Salvator.