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Corning gains Intel approval for all-optical Thunderbolt cables

post #1 of 23
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At the Intel Developer Forum on Wednesday, Corning announced that its Thunderbolt Optical Cables are the first completely optical fiber products to receive Intel's certification.

Corning
Corning's Thunderbolt Optical Cables. | Source: Corning


The news comes more than half a year after Corning first debuted the "Thunderbolt Optical Cables" at CES 2013 in January alongside a USB standard solution dubbed "USB 3.Optical Cables."

Corning's all-optical Thunderbolt cables use the company's ClearCurve VSDN optical fiber technology to deliver high data speeds over longer distances than traditional copper cables. The optical fiber versions are also 50 percent smaller and 80 percent lighter than their copper counterparts.

?Based on Intel?s Thunderbolt protocol, Corning is providing a fast, innovative cabling solution designed for data-intensive connectivity,? said Bernhard Deutsch, vice president of Product Line Management, Optical Connectivity Solutions at Corning. ?Thunderbolt Optical Cables by Corning empower users to quickly access and move data between devices at distances copper cables cannot.?

Corning plans to make the cables available at various lengths starting at 10 meters, though final product specifications have yet to be revealed.

A release date has yet to be nailed down for the Thunderbolt Optical Cables, though Corning sees the product rolling out to distributors, resellers and online shops in the "coming months." Those interested can keep track of retail status through the company's website.
post #2 of 23

Can anyone tell me how flexible/robust optical fiber is compared to CAT-5, USB or HDMI? I've only ever dealt with copper cables in my travels. From the looks of the picture, it appears it's able to bend pretty decently. How well does it deal with kinks?

post #3 of 23

Normal fiber optics are not robust at all to bending. The "usual" Corning SMF-28e is specified for a max bend diameter of 32 mm. ClearCurve is a special fiber designed to be able to be tolerant of bends, it's specified to a bend radius of 1.5 mm.

 

Fiber is usually very tolerant to pulling and smashing, unless you get to the connectors.

post #4 of 23
Sounds expensive. Very expensive.
post #5 of 23
Originally Posted by politicalslug View Post
Sounds expensive. Very expensive.

 

Sounds like every single new technology ever made, then.

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Originally posted by Relic

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post #6 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by konqerror View Post
 

Normal fiber optics are not robust at all to bending. The "usual" Corning SMF-28e is specified for a max bend diameter of 32 mm. ClearCurve is a special fiber designed to be able to be tolerant of bends, it's specified to a bend radius of 1.5 mm.

 

Fiber is usually very tolerant to pulling and smashing, unless you get to the connectors.

 

Thanks for the info - I appreciate it! :)

post #7 of 23
More Thunderbolt accessories please.

I don't think anyone asked for better cables.

(but I appreciate the hard work these fine engineers do) 1biggrin.gif
post #8 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave MacLachlan View Post
 

 

Thanks for the info - I appreciate it! :)

 

And when he talks about intolerant to bending he doesn't necessarily mean breaking the fiber. It's about signal attenuation. Bending a normal fiber optic cable past a certain radius causes the laser light level to attenuate. In the telecom industry we were taught to limit bends to the diameter of a soda can. A few years before I retired we started using "bend insensitive" fiber cables that supposedly did not attenuate when bent too far. In a transmission school I attended many years ago, in a galaxy far, far away, the instructor set up a demonstration with a light source at one end of a fiber cable and an optical meter at the other end. Then he started to bend the cable and you could see the light level dropping as the radius got tighter and tighter. Some of the light actually escapes the fiber at the bend (which is how you tap into a fiber optic cable without interrupting the signal and I'm sure the NSA knows all about this.) We actually had a tool to detect live traffic on a fiber by bending it in the tool slightly. We could even tell which direction the light was traveling (transmit or receive). Something about internal refraction. Anywho, I don't expect these Thunderbolt cables to be that long or to get bent enough to cause problems. 

post #9 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave MacLachlan View Post

Can anyone tell me how flexible/robust optical fiber is compared to CAT-5, USB or HDMI? I've only ever dealt with copper cables in my travels. From the looks of the picture, it appears it's able to bend pretty decently. How well does it deal with kinks?

The fiber is well protected and a kink would probably only effect the outer sheath maintaining the integrity of the fiber.
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post #10 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by lkrupp View Post

Some of the light actually escapes the fiber at the bend (which is how you tap into a fiber optic cable without interrupting the signal and I'm sure the NSA knows all about this.) 

Fiber was actually tap proof at first. The FBI mandated the telecoms to devise a way to tap it.
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post #11 of 23
'hot swappable'? is that new to TB? or somehow specificly to the cable itself?

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post #12 of 23

many people, or at least i, have been waiting for longer cables since TB release

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post #13 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by politicalslug View Post

Sounds expensive. Very expensive.

So what? Those who need it will find a way to afford it.

Daniel Swanson

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Daniel Swanson

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post #14 of 23
With respect to optical Thunderbolt cables used with Macs--specifically, the new Mac Pros--as long as there is little need for the operators to access the machine or a networked array of them, like for a render farm, they could be put in an environmentally-controlled cabinet (power and air conditioned, air filters, etc.), and the Thunderbolt cable could be run through the wall to the displays and keyboards.

Daniel Swanson

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Daniel Swanson

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post #15 of 23
"Sounds expensive. Very expensive."

Yes, for now but there will come a time where copper will be much more expensive.
After all, you can't make copper out of sand.
post #16 of 23
Pricing?
post #17 of 23
@Dave MacLachlan - I can tell you this: I was at Macworld and spent a fair amount of time talking to the Corning guys about these cables, which they were demonstrating.

The cables were being crimped and smashed like crazy and performed without a flaw. A big part of this Breakthrough for Corning is their assertion that this particular type of fiber they've developed is incredibly robust, and nearly impervious to pinches and crimps.

The display model was pinched off the way you would kink a hose to cut the flow of water, and wedged into a tiny hole in a plexiglass board to hold it that way while it kept on doing its thing.

No issues.

A major benefit is the ability to put noisy gear far from your work area, which, for us audio/video people, is a fantastic benefit. Also, it will allow long runs like at a concert hall from the FOH to the stage with no audible latency, while eliminating the need for multiple lines or snakes.

You could, in fact, run a thuhnderbolt monitor off it with a mouse and keyboard while having the mac on another floor in a closet. It opens up a lot of possibilities, and i expect them to be pricey.
post #18 of 23
By the way, folks, dont overlook that they are doing this with UAB3 cables as well. Same wire, different plug. Usb3 over optic also creates many possibilities when you consider that it will eradicate the current length limitation that a regular usb cable has.
post #19 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by konqerror View Post

Normal fiber optics are not robust at all to bending. The "usual" Corning SMF-28e is specified for a max bend diameter of 32 mm. ClearCurve is a special fiber designed to be able to be tolerant of bends, it's specified to a bend radius of 1.5 mm.

Fiber is usually very tolerant to pulling and smashing, unless you get to the connectors.

They hate nails driven through them though! LOL. My company installed a pretty large fiber optic network at an auction house back in the early 1980's for an Apple ][ network (a Symbfile system). We had a hell of a time trouble shooting an intermittent failure. Finally found the carpet man had nicked one with his carpet tacks.
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post #20 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by politicalslug View Post

Sounds expensive. Very expensive.

Maybe, but since I don't expect them to be used unless the added performance is critical, the price difference won't matter much. They're not going to be replacing existing cables with optical (especially since existing devices don't have optical Thunderbolt ports).

I assume that the Mac Pro will have optical TB ports, but haven't seen anything about that yet.


ETA:

I guess I was wrong. Existing TB devices will accept the optical cable:
http://www.pcworld.com/article/240618/apple_mac_thunderbolt_ports_will_support_optical_cables.html
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post #21 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post

Maybe, but since I don't expect them to be used unless the added performance is critical, the price difference won't matter much. They're not going to be replacing existing cables with optical (especially since existing devices don't have optical Thunderbolt ports).

I assume that the Mac Pro will have optical TB ports, but haven't seen anything about that yet.

ETA:
I guess I was wrong. Existing TB devices will accept the optical cable:
http://www.pcworld.com/article/240618/apple_mac_thunderbolt_ports_will_support_optical_cables.html

All these **optical** Thunderbolt (and optical USB 3) cables do the "optical stuff" in the cables' connector plughead itself, hence rather than the copper ones which are 25mm in connector length, these optical connectors are actually a bit longer at 35mm in length, instead. 

 

Some key facts: 

• What's great, is because it's the *cable* itself (in the connector) that contains the optical processing, virtually all Tbolt 1 (10Gbps) & 2 (20Gbps) devices new and old can use them! (Tbolt 2 just channel-bonds two of the fours lanes together in each direction, one reason why they're forward-compatible with the newer faster standard.) 

 

• ...provided they are self-powered devices though, as only the shorter copper cables can provide power to some smaller low-power devices. 

 

• Corning's Optical Cables™ are coming in lengths of 3.5m/5.5m/10m/30m/50m/100m (aka 12ft/18ft/33ft/100ft/165ft/330ft). 

(incidentally, their optical USB 3 ones will only be up to 50m/165ft in length). 

 

• Pricing per-metre is around the same as the copper ones, which is really not too bad a deal. For example B&H NYC quoted me $240 for the 10 metre Tbolt Corning cable (so $24 per-metre) — not too bad a price IMO (certainly perfectly acceptable pricing to pro's and prosumers needing such a length.) As you can then usually just use cheaper shorter cables to daisy-chain to the first device that has the long connection. 

 

• Given they're made out of glass and not copper, they're about half the weight and 35% thinner than copper ones. This is another great point, as storing, carrying, and maneuvering into place is really easy. 

 

• If choosing between Tbolt and USB 3 for new peripherals, Tbolt is a better transport offering much lower latency — certainly important for pro usage like video editing, but prosumers should aim to use Tbolt too, as it will give a better experience with virtually zero lag on almost all activities when accessing Tbolt peripherals. The USB 3 will be useful for certain access point reasons, for devices users need USB for

 

• Additionally, Tbolt can join PC-to-PC (Mac-to-Mac), as well as host-to-peripheral (whatever it is: storage, monitor, or anything else) using the same connector at each end. Whereas USB 3 generally uses different connectors at each end (e.g. type-A goes to type-B) with/without additionally using a great deal of differing connector sizes (e.g. miniUSB, microUSB, male-to-female, etc.), meaning Tbolt cables have more versatility in what one can use them for as the same Tbolt connector fits in all components

 

US sales start Oct.2013 (available now!), but unbelievably for some reason UK/EU sales won't start until JULY.2014 (!) — very annoying delay for us lot (gee, thanks Corning!).  I'm guessing this may be down to constrained manufacture and thus low supplies. 

 

Corning sales/distribution info page: http://www.corning.com/CableSystems/OpticalCablesbyCorning/where-to-buy/default.aspx 

 

AFAIK, who else makes optical Thunderbolt cables? 

• Germany brand DeLock are also making some optical Thunderbolt cables (in 10/20/30m lengths). Llittle info found on them though, apart from here: http://www.delock.com/produkte/G_83257/merkmale.html?setLanguage=en ! 

 

• Japanese company Sumitomo have previously over the last 6-12 months now had optical Thunderbolt cables (in 10/20/30m lengths) but in limited supply and only sold in Japan (though recently, I found them on Amazon.de too, as Sumitomo's only non-Far East office is in Germany: http://www.amazon.de/gp/aag/main?ie=UTF8&asin=&isAmazonFulfilled=1&isCBA=&marketplaceID=A1PA6795UKMFR9&orderID=&seller=A1UJ6LRYW8TWYC ). Though initially at very VERY high prices, they've reduced recently, but still higher than Corning's  (see here: http://global-sei.com/ewp/E/thunderbolt – e.g. Amazon.jp has their 10m at around ¥47,250/US$500/€400/£300), and both these companies only offer up to 30m length compared to Corning offering up to 100m

 

This is all I have managed to find out, as all info on these optical Thunderbolt cables seems to be under-wraps, and extremely difficult to come-by. Literally zero mainstream sales info is out there generally, for inexplicable reasons; you really have to hunt the info out, it's like they all want to keep them secret or something &/or have shite marketing/pr departments!? They certainly don't sell them to users very well, that's for sure. 

 

Hope this helps someone anyway. 


Edited by jimthing - 10/3/13 at 10:47pm
post #22 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by jimthing View Post
 

[snip]

 

This is all I have managed to find out, as all info on these optical Thunderbolt cables seems to be under-wraps, and extremely difficult to come-by. Literally zero mainstream sales info is out there generally, for inexplicable reasons; you really have to hunt the info out, it's like they all want to keep them secret or something &/or have shite marketing/pr departments!? They certainly don't sell them to users very well, that's for sure. 

 

Hope this helps someone anyway. 

 

Wow! Great information - I appreciate you posting it :)

post #23 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by DanielSW View Post

With respect to optical Thunderbolt cables used with Macs--specifically, the new Mac Pros--as long as there is little need for the operators to access the machine or a networked array of them, like for a render farm, they could be put in an environmentally-controlled cabinet (power and air conditioned, air filters, etc.), and the Thunderbolt cable could be run through the wall to the displays and keyboards.

Maybe to a HUB for USB or to the high cost apple display but I would have display and have usb on it's own USB channel / ports.

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