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Corning's super-strong Thunderbolt and USB 'Optical Cables' deliver data over 100-meter spans

post #1 of 38
Thread Starter 
Electronics are often delicate things, eliciting gasping dread when knocked off a table by an elbow or falling into a beer glass from between clumsy fingers. That's why it's refreshing to see a Macworld exhibitor that's willing to put their product through an old-school torture test to delight the passersby, as Corning was with its new optical cables.

Corning Optical Cables
Corning's "Thunderbolt Optical Cable" (left) and USB "3.Optical Cable" (right).


Corning had two types of optical cable on display: one compatible with the Thunderbolt standard; and another compatible with USB 3.0. Cable lengths for each range from a few meters to a hundred. The connectors house a small converter at each terminal that turns an electrical signal from a Thunderbolt or USB port into an optical one and sends that signal along the fiber before it is reconverted on the other end.

To demonstrate their tech's effectiveness, Corning was running data speed tests -- reading and writing to hard disks and SSDs -- with the signal bouncing from a MacBook Pro with Retina display to the disks over 30 to 100 meters of fiber. The read and write times they were getting from the hard disks, according to the attendant, were at that point capped only by the disk's read-write limitations.

"I've got a friend who does video editing and loves to work in absolute silence," said my booth guide. "She can't stand the whir you get from a hard drive spinning. Drives her crazy. This means she can put all of her drives in another room ? not just a closet ? and run fiber to wherever her workstation is."

The USB 3.Optical Cables max out at 30 meters, while the Thunderbolt Optical Cables can reach lengths up to 100 meters without daisy chaining.

Speed Test


I looked along the length of cable. On the MacBook screen, the speed test continued apace, with the Thunderbolt cable reading and writing in excess of 700 megabytes per second.

"Now, I know what you're thinking," she said, "where's the real benefit?"

I had actually been thinking about lunch.

She stepped away and returned with two coils of cable: one massive, the other lithe by comparison. She plopped the massive one into my hand.

"Now this is fifteen meters of your standard copper wire. Big, heavy, needs a repeater every so often or the signal degrades."

It was indeed big. And heavy. She set the lighter coil in my free hand.

"And here's your Corning fiber cable. Same length. Fraction of the weight. Fraction of the size," she said.

A convincing comparison. She took the coils from me.

Comparison


"And right now, you're probably thinking: but this is just glass, what if it breaks?"

Having skipped breakfast this morning, I had, in fact, been thinking about lunch again. I kept silent, watching her as she produced the torture test: an iron maiden for fiber optic cables, except made of plastic, and with less spikes.

Attached to one end of a fiber cable was a laser pointer. The other end was free, but the length between was knotted, bent 180 degress, looped, and pinched at multiple points.

Torture Test


"We've given these things to our partners, had them loop them through hallways and run over them, walk over them, everything," she said. "No breakage, no signal degradation. Still functioning."

And, true enough, the red laser light shined through the other end of the cable, undeterred by the bends and knots.

Corning will likely be rolling their fiber cables out some time in the second quarter. My attendant couldn't offer a specific timeframe, and gave no information on pricing.
post #2 of 38
I want to go to there.
post #3 of 38
This is great stuff! What I'd like to see next is to somehow create an "ethernet" style fiber cable with the same microelectronics on each end. I think this would really be a huge thing.
post #4 of 38

100 meters is now valid house wiring length…

 

But I think I'll wait until the optical, 100Gb/s (both ways) version is released. And until I need it, which is probably later than that.

Originally Posted by helia

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Originally Posted by helia

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post #5 of 38
Cool. Where wireless can't do the job, this would be fantastic. Sounds pretty expensive tho.
post #6 of 38
Originally Posted by broadbean View Post
Cool. Where wireless can't do the job, this would be fantastic. Sounds pretty expensive tho.

 

Where it can, it would also be fantastic, as it's already faster than Wi-Fi plans to be this decade.

Originally Posted by helia

I can break your arm if I apply enough force, but in normal handshaking this won't happen ever.
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Originally Posted by helia

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post #7 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by broadbean View Post

Cool. Where wireless can't do the job, this would be fantastic. Sounds pretty expensive tho.

True, but I suspect that it's very limited. How many people need a Thunderbolt or USB device more than about 10 feet away? Some, to be sure, but not a whole heck of a lot.

And most of the ones who do need their device at a distance can use WiFi. While WiFi isn't as fast as Thunderbolt, it's plenty fast for most of the things you're doing with it.

I can see a couple of places where it might be of value:
1. Heavy video work where the user needs access to massive amounts of storage and large (noisy) RAID systems. On the positive side, they can now use an iMac instead of a MacPro.

2. People with ultrahigh security needs where WiFi won't meet their requirements.

Other than that 0.1% of computer users, it's a nice technology, but it's not going to be something that very many people ever use.
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post #8 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

100 meters is now valid house wiring length…

100 meters is equivalent to copper ethernet's max length. If you have to follow a far-from-ideal route, it could be handy. I guess. With ideal routing, you could have a computer on the first floor, and a peripheral 33 stories up.

Ten meters can comfortably reach the next room, from the far end of each wall in my case. I don't know where 100 meters would be beneficial to Mac users, it's like it's trying to be a cheap Infiniband, but without the available ecosystem to make TB a network.
post #9 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by sflocal View Post

This is great stuff! What I'd like to see next is to somehow create an "ethernet" style fiber cable with the same microelectronics on each end. I think this would really be a huge thing.

 

Ethernet is just a connector.  It's a subset of Thunderbolt now.  

 

Put a 40 dollar Thunderbolt to Ethernet plug on either end and your done. 

post #10 of 38
What really grabbed me about the article, is how snide the writer is. "I was thinking about lunch". Twice! Was that really necessary?
post #11 of 38
People have complained about the overly poetic or in this case "snide" writing. But I really like it. It is fun to read, a bit whimsical, and adds some personality from the writer like a blogger would.

The point is, the guy was more interested in other things than analyzing to death how he could benefit from an, albeit, nifty new cable.
post #12 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post
And most of the ones who do need their device at a distance can use WiFi. While WiFi isn't as fast as Thunderbolt, it's plenty fast for most of the things you're doing with it.

You should have said, "...it's plenty fast for most of the thing I do with it." Don't assume other people have the same requirements as you. Thunderbolt is much faster than WiFi. A file transfer that might take 1 hour over WiFi could be done in 5 minutes over Thunderbolt. That's significant to me.

post #13 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by ascii View Post

I want to go to there.

 

I live right next to Corning, NY...its the next town over and drive past the world headquarters everyday on my way to work. The Corning Museum of glass is absolutely awesome if you ever get a chance to go there. They'll even let you blow your own glass design if you so choose to, or you can watch the pros do it. 

 

Granted, the stuff in this article isn't physically made in Corning, NY but its still cool to live by where this stuff is invented. 


Edited by macxpress - 2/2/13 at 9:14am

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post #14 of 38
We don't care about your lunch. It just distracts from this post, and makes you look arrogant as though you are somehow better than Corning.
post #15 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by melgross View Post

What really grabbed me about the article, is how snide the writer is. "I was thinking about lunch". Twice! Was that really necessary?

along with using "lithe" to describe a roll of wire. and using "my booth guide" and "my attendant" as though corning sent a booth person just to cater to the author's needs.

perhaps have some breakfast next time, my author; it's the most important meal of the day and will likely improve your writing.
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post #16 of 38
But was she free for lunch? ;D

All kidding aside, these optical cables look very promising, indeed. Now what we need are hard drives and servers, etc. that have the optical-to-electrical converters built-in. With pure optical connections, signal latency should be reduced to an absolute minimum.
post #17 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg Uvan View Post

People have complained about the overly poetic or in this case "snide" writing. But I really like it. It is fun to read, a bit whimsical, and adds some personality from the writer like a blogger would.

The point is, the guy was more interested in other things than analyzing to death how he could benefit from an, albeit, nifty new cable.

You can go follow him on Facebook or Twitter, and hear him thinking about lunch all you want. I'd much prefer a straight story with some useful information, rather than a "look-at-me" blog post. I'd like to learn about these cables, not hear some random person's lunch thoughts.

 

I hope this "style" is permanently retired from AI when Macworld is over (even earlier would be better).

post #18 of 38
Well, they can use whatever writing style they want. And, I like it. So, it's too bad that you don't.
post #19 of 38
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post #20 of 38
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Originally Posted by Gazoobee View Post

 

Ethernet is just a connector.  It's a subset of Thunderbolt now.  

 

Put a 40 dollar Thunderbolt to Ethernet plug on either end and your done. 

The 40 dollar Thunderbolt to Ethernet adapter is impractical, because by taking up your Thunderbolt port, it means you can no longer connect an external monitor to your machine.


What you need is either the $40 USB 3.0 to Ethernet adapter, or the $300 Thunderbolt adapter that actually has a pass-through port.

post #21 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg Uvan View Post

People have complained about the overly poetic or in this case "snide" writing. But I really like it. It is fun to read, a bit whimsical, and adds some personality from the writer like a blogger would.

The point is, the guy was more interested in other things than analyzing to death how he could benefit from an, albeit, nifty new cable.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg Uvan View Post

Well, they can use whatever writing style they want. And, I like it. So, it's too bad that you don't.

gee, every single post of this user's since joining -- all two of them -- have been in defense of bostic's writing style. perhaps they're also the president of the kevin bostic fan club?
"Personally, I would like nothing more than to thoroughly proof each and every word of my articles before posting. But I can't."

appleinsider's mike campbell, august 15, 2013
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post #22 of 38

From reading between the lines, Corning will be offering a combination high-speed data connection and drinking straw...

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post #23 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pooch View Post

gee, every single post of this user's since joining -- all two of them -- have been in defense of bostic's writing style. perhaps they're also the president of the kevin bostic fan club?

 

I went back and looked at your first two posts on this site...you were having a challenge coloring between the lines then too...

"That (the) world is moving so quickly that iOS is already amongst the older mobile operating systems in active development today." — The Verge
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post #24 of 38
OT - but still with Corning
http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=jZkHpNnXLB0&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DjZkHpNnXLB0
A Day Made of Glass 2

You've prolly seen it - but some great tech being developed there.
post #25 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by Macky the Macky View Post

I went back and looked at your first two posts on this site...you were having a challenge coloring between the lines then too...

look closer. i'm still no good at it.
"Personally, I would like nothing more than to thoroughly proof each and every word of my articles before posting. But I can't."

appleinsider's mike campbell, august 15, 2013
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post #26 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg Uvan View Post

Well, they can use whatever writing style they want. And, I like it. So, it's too bad that you don't.

Good for you, that's one vote in favor vs. twenty against.

Anyway, it's unprofessional, even for Appleinsider. This shouldn't be some teenager's blog from the 90's.
post #27 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

100 meters is now valid house wiring length…

 

But I think I'll wait until the optical, 100Gb/s (both ways) version is released. And until I need it, which is probably later than that.


Intel initially suggested that as a pretty far off target. They claimed maybe within 10 years and possibly very expensive. I can't find the article where the 10 year mark was mentioned, but consider what ports were like in 2001. You didn't have many high bandwidth options outside of fibre channel. The article jumps around much more than the part I cited below, but I do remember their words. Intel is often overly optimistic when things are further out, yet people on here are sometimes even more optimistic.

 

 

http://www.macworld.com/article/1162331/intel_thunderbolt_with_fiber_optics_years_away.html

Quote:

"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."

The cost of implementing fiber optics is significantly higher than copper, and copper can transfer data at adequate speeds at this stage, Perlmutter said. There is still more room for data transfers to jump on copper.

post #28 of 38
But did she buy you lunch?
post #29 of 38
The 'lunch' comments by the author aren't snide, they're smug. It's a rather juvenile attempt at being clever. And if this entertains you then, like the author, you lack the maturity to realize this.

Thunderbolt was developed to use optical cables. Corning's offerings will indeed help to broaden the market.
post #30 of 38
Wifi at 700MB/sec. Not likely. Also. Wifi used for high speed (like HD streaming) fails badly in areas where there are more than a few independent networks all used for this. IMO wifi is being over-sold. A single 100mbit Ethernet beats a wifi LAN and a single gigE beets the bandwidth of the entire wifi spectrum. This is 10x as fast as gigE and you can run a bundle of them up the core of a high rise in the middle of a city with no interference.
Nice.
post #31 of 38
Yes AI editors, please refrain from using any form of humour in articles to make it more entertaining to read about IO cables and printers.

These editor are wandering around trade shows. looking at pretty mundane product demos and detailing their experiences at length. If using a little creative writing is what stops them from killing themselves, that's ok. It's pretty standard practise with mainstream blogs. A little humour now and again even makes more upmarket news reporting more entertaining:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=4gZhRfx2qLc#t=124s

I thought it was a pretty concise article. Clear comparisons between USB 3, benefits over copper cabling and reliability, expected shipping dates and example usage scenarios like housing storage far away from a workstation.
post #32 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gazoobee View Post

 

Ethernet is just a connector.  It's a subset of Thunderbolt now.  

 

Put a 40 dollar Thunderbolt to Ethernet plug on either end and your done. 

LOL, $40 + $50 for a 3 meter TB cable.  $10/foot for an ethernet cable, yee-haw!!!!

 

I can cut an ethernet cable to length off a large spool and install my own connectors for under $10, and that's for a cable well over 3 meters.

 

TB is going nowhere until cables drop in price significantly.  

post #33 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gazoobee View Post

Ethernet is just a connector.  It's a subset of Thunderbolt now.

It's a subset as in just about anything with an available PCIe chip is a subset, you need a PCIe to Ethernet chip to do it. That I can tell, that adapter isn't just wiring and passives to an RJ jack.

Quote:
Put a 40 dollar Thunderbolt to Ethernet plug on either end and your done. 

Another problem is a lot of TB devices don't have a downlink port. The machine's TB output jack is very valuable, and way too few devices allow further chaining. A Buffalo TB hard drive's description even touts Thunderbolt's daisy chain capability, while not having the second port needed to let you do just that with their product.
Edited by JeffDM - 2/4/13 at 8:39am
post #34 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by melgross View Post

What really grabbed me about the article, is how snide the writer is. "I was thinking about lunch". Twice! Was that really necessary?

i agree!...the author was there "on a job" and it is corning glass fibre... what did you expect? Excitement?... but ironically you did get Excitement... that bending test with the plastic box is amazing... i would not do that with standard optical cables...

 

further more... why is the author looking at  tech products on an empty stomach? is it a "Litmus test" where if the product distracts the author from the Growling of their stomach then it's worth writing about?...

post #35 of 38
If the price isn't a complete stopper, this would be very useful for theatrical applications-- sending multiple channels of HD video from a control area hundreds of feet to the staging area, with precise control over stop, start and pause times (which is why WiFi doesn't work).

Right now I can use HD over CAT5 or 6 with a balun on each end, but the bandwidth and cabling lengths are limited and start to degrade quickly once you overstep (particularly with HDMI). Plus the quality of the signal is very sensitive to kinking in the cable run.

A direct, high bandwidth connection to the display device(s) from my laptop would make my life much easier. Of course, if it's $10/ft, not so much.
post #36 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by signal1 View Post

If the price isn't a complete stopper, this would be very useful for theatrical applications-- sending multiple channels of HD video from a control area hundreds of feet to the staging area, with precise control over stop, start and pause times (which is why WiFi doesn't work).

Right now I can use HD over CAT5 or 6 with a balun on each end, but the bandwidth and cabling lengths are limited and start to degrade quickly once you overstep (particularly with HDMI). Plus the quality of the signal is very sensitive to kinking in the cable run.

A direct, high bandwidth connection to the display device(s) from my laptop would make my life much easier. Of course, if it's $10/ft, not so much.

How long are your runs? I don't know how well it works, but Monoprice has 100ft HDMI cable for $98. I've never used it, but I have one of their 50ft cables and it works perfectly fine.
post #37 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by melgross View Post

What really grabbed me about the article, is how snide the writer is. "I was thinking about lunch". Twice! Was that really necessary?

 

Yeah, I have a feeling the author was trying to come off funny but it just made him sound like a unprofessional d-bag IMHO.

 

-kpluck

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post #38 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post


How long are your runs? I don't know how well it works, but Monoprice has 100ft HDMI cable for $98. I've never used it, but I have one of their 50ft cables and it works perfectly fine.

 

Typically around 150', which is past HDMI's spec.  I would be wary of 100', even thought the cables are available.

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