Intel's Light Peak Technology vs USB 3.0

By Paul Lilly

Intel has been talking up a new high-speed optical cable technology that could one day reach 100GB/s.

It's hard to imagine the USB port going anywhere. We bitch and moan when notebooks ship with too few of them, and we've come to rely on the USB spec to connect our digital cameras, smartphones, portable flash drives, input devices, and just about every other gadget that interacts with a PC. So what could possibly replace this ubiquitous standard?
 
The answer is Intel's Light Peak technology. As Intel describes it, Light Peak is the code name for a high-speed optical interconnect designed to facilitate much faster data transfers than what's available today. That includes USB 3.0, otherwise known as SuperSpeed USB, which tops out at a theoretically maximum throughput of 4.8Gbps. In the real world, the actual performance will be somewhat lower because of overhead, but even at full bore, Intel's Light Speed technology will feature a 10Gbps pipe right out of the gates, more than twice as much as USB 3.0.
 
Intel points out that you could transfer a full-length Blu-ray flick in under 30 seconds using a first-gen Light Peak cable, but it gets even better. By the end of the decade, Light Peak could potentially scale all the way to 100Gbps, enough to ensure that the bottleneck stays on the hardware and not the cables connecting them.
 



 
It's also worth noting that we're not talking about some far off tech that may never see the light of day. If all goes to plan, the technology will be ready for manufacturing by then end of the year, with shipping products in early 2011.