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Intel's Thunderbolt With Fiber Optics Years Away 69

CWmike writes "Intel's Thunderbolt high-speed interconnect technology could be years away from getting optical technology, an Intel executive said this week at IDF. Originally introduced in February on Macs, Thunderbolt was pitched as being optical technology but currently uses copper wires. Dadi Perlmutter of Intel's Architecture Group said copper wires are working much better than expected, and that fiber was expensive. 'It's going to be way out,' Perlmutter said. 'At the end of the day it's all about how much speed people need versus how much they would be willing to pay.'"
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Intel's Thunderbolt With Fiber Optics Years Away

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  • by DrgnDancer ( 137700 ) on Friday September 16, 2011 @08:21AM (#37418734) Homepage

    Except it doesn't work like that. Let's say Intel know that it will cost them 10 million dollars to create the optical version of the tech. They know that the optical version will (ignoring dev costs, just on parts) cost, say, three times as much as the copper, but only offer a 15% improvement in performance. They can make a reasonable guess that while a small subset of people will happily pay three times as much for a 15% performance gain, they aren't going to be able to make their 10 million back. If they can't make back their dev costs, they aren't going to dev. They'll wait till the economics make more sense.

  • by Overzeetop ( 214511 ) on Friday September 16, 2011 @08:40AM (#37418832) Journal

    I read that as "we don't own all the patents on the interconnect hardware, and to produce it would cost us more than using our in-house patent base and patent-free copper connections. Surprisingly, it turns out we're somewhat incompetent at modeling electrical connections and the results don't match our simulations but they're better than we planned, so we'll patent what we have and plan on taking that to the bank."

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Friday September 16, 2011 @08:54AM (#37418928) Journal
    While "Thunderbolt" is essentially a PCIe 4x external cabling mechanism, rather than a more typical external interface like ethernet, it seems reasonable to assume(for the sake of getting some rough numbers) that the challenges of getting a Thunderbolt 10Gb/s optical connection working would not be less than the challenges of getting other optical 10Gb/s connections working(might be slightly more, if, say, PCIe is touchier about latency or something, might be slightly less if Thunderbolt never promised to support a cable more than 10 meters long; but ballpark here).

    Conveniently, there exists just such a 10Gb optical interface: 10GigE. Even better, the optical portion is frequently broken out into a separate module(to allow for multiple different grades of tranceiver, depending on distance and fiber requirements), making it possible to price the optics package separately from the switch to which it attaches.

    10GB/s optical XFP or SFP+ modules are, indeed, not all that cheap. Much cheaper than they were; but (at least the Intel ones that some rough retail-pricing showed) still easily as costly as some of the smaller planned "thunderbolt" peripherals...

God doesn't play dice. -- Albert Einstein