Intel Thunderbolt bolts through data transfers
PC World - After a few years in development, Intel formally unveiled its next-generation data transfer interconnect. The new Thunderbolt standard represents a shift in the underlying technology--and a potential shift in how we can do things down the road.
Thunderbolt began as a project out of Intel Labs, and was originally conceived as an optical technology, with optics in the cable as well as the device host controllers. That technology was codenamed Light Peak, and debuted at the Intel Developer Forum in 2009. The idea, explains Jason Ziller, director of Thunderbolt planning and marketing, was to create a single cable that supported high-speed transfers and multiple protocols, to address the explosion of data storage thanks to high-definition video and other digital media formats.
Which brings us to the unveiling of Thunderbolt. Gone is the "light" of Light Peak, as Intel moved away from the all-optical approach, because the costs on the host controller side were still too high for their PC OEMs, this in spite of the prices having come down over the course of development. Instead, Light Peak morphed into Thunderbolt, a high-speed, dual-protocol interconnect which uses an electrical copper wire.
That wire, together with the Thunderbolt host controllers, can deliver up to a mind-boggling 10Gbps across Thunderbolt's two channels. Thunderbolt supports both the PCI Express (PCIe) and DisplayPort protocols. Intel says it chose PCI Express because of its flexibility; and it chose DisplayPort because it's optimized for use with PCs (however, you can use a connector to convert a Thunderbolt cable to HDMI).
Each wire carries two independent bidirectional channels, so that translates to a total of 40Gbps maximum. Bandwidth can be split across multiple devices, as Thunderbolt--like FireWire 800 before it--supports daisy-chaining, in this case up to 7 devices.
"We determined an electrical connector was possible by having an innovative cable design, and being able to do it in a more cost effective manner," says Ziller of the choice to ditch optical. "The electrical solution is less expensive because there's no electrical to optical transceiver."
The only thing lost by going to copper, he added, is the support for long wires; the copper cables are limited to 3 meters in length. For those who do need the extra length, though, longer optical wires will be available.
"We haven't abandoned the idea of a light connection," says Ziller. "We still believe optics is in our future, and it will be necessary in our future. We're still doing research and development into that." Electrical isn't dead yet, but it will reach a dead end.
- Silicon Valley's 19 Coolest Places to Work
- Is Windows 8 Development Worth the Trouble?
- 8 Books Every IT Leader Should Read This Year
- 10 Hot Hadoop Startups to Watch
- Slideshow: 7 security mistakes people make with their mobile device
- iOS vs. Android: Which is more secure?
- 11 sure signs you've been hacked
- Data Warehouse Augmentation: The Queryable Data Store While organizations have, to date, been busy exploring and experimenting, they are now beginning to focus on using big data technologies to solve...
- Rebranded Quadmark revamps its IT solutions with Google Apps Switching to Google Apps halved Quadmark's IT admin costs while achieving 10% time savings per employee. The global consulting firm now spends 80%...
- CrashPlan PROe Security Because mobile laptops often are connected to unsecured networks, a very high standard of security is required to ensure privacy.
- Protecting Digitalized Assets in Healthcare Healthcare providers face an urgent, internal battle every day: security and compliance versus productivity and service. For most healthcare organizations, the fight is...
- Live Webcast LIVE EVENT: 5/7, The End of Data Protection As We Know It. Introducing a Next Generation Data Protection Architecture. Traditional backup is going away, but where does this leave end-users?
- LIVE EVENT: 5/7, The End of Data Protection As We Know It. Introducing a Next Generation Data Protection Architecture. Traditional backup is going away, but where does this leave end-users?
- Make or Break: New Auto Products Must Go To Market On Time This Webcast quantifies the value of time to market for the auto industry and highlights how Primavera Enterprise Portfolio Management can help organizations. All Data Storage White Papers | Webcasts