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.
In demos during Intel's unveiling, we didn't actually see the data reach 10Gbps, but nonetheless, the speeds were impressive, topping out at about 8Gbps. First out the gate with product, as has already been announced, is Apple, which includes aThunderbolt port on its new MacBook Pro models.
If Thunderbolt delivers on its promises in the real-world, though, it looks set to overtake competing high-speed storage interconnects, USB 3.0, eSATA, and FireWire 800. The chart below shows just how Thunderbolt compares; and on paper, it looks quite good.
Some additional benefits include the fact that it takes the stress off the CPU for data transfers, thereby letting you use your machine to do other tasks while a transfer occurs in the background.
Media creators will appreciate Thunderbolts low-latency, high-accuracy 8-nanosecond sync time across all daisy-chained devices. This means that you can match each frame on all of the devices you're working on through real-time processing, so each device is on the same frame. The time management unit is built into the Thunderbolt controller on each device, so they can talk to one another and synchronize accordingly.
Thunderbolt is compatible with displays based on DisplayPort 1.1 and later, and uses a connector that's based on mini-DisplayPort. Unfortunately, not many users have DisplayPort. Apple uses DisplayPort, of course; and a handful of monitor makers use it on high-end models aimed primarily at the business and professional markets. Consumer monitors continue to rely on DVI and HDMI, though there is always a chance now that Thunderbolt is a reality, it will help spur more monitor makers to adopt DisplayPort.
Connectivity and Creation
Let's not think that Thunderbolt will replace anything anytime soon. "This is complementary to the other I/O interconnects we work on--USB 3.0, PCI Express," says Ziller. "We don't see it replacing USB. USB is a mainstream IO on all products, and Intel will continue to fully support it."