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

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
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.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 39
    asciiascii Posts: 5,941member
    I want to go to there.
  • Reply 2 of 39
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,423member
    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.
  • Reply 3 of 39


    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.

  • Reply 4 of 39
    nchianchia Posts: 122member
    Cool. Where wireless can't do the job, this would be fantastic. Sounds pretty expensive tho.
  • Reply 5 of 39


    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.

  • Reply 6 of 39


    hai,


    it is fantastic.


    So,good to see about this its new optical cable.Corning had two types of optical cable on display.


    Those are very nice one is compatible with the Thunderbolt standard; and the other is compatible with USB 3.0.

  • Reply 7 of 39
    jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member
    broadbean wrote: »
    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.
  • Reply 8 of 39
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,946member
    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.
  • Reply 9 of 39
    gazoobeegazoobee Posts: 3,754member

    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. 

  • Reply 10 of 39
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,368member
    What really grabbed me about the article, is how snide the writer is. "I was thinking about lunch". Twice! Was that really necessary?
  • Reply 11 of 39
    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.
  • Reply 12 of 39
    chabigchabig Posts: 622member

    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.

  • Reply 13 of 39
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,758member

    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. 

  • Reply 14 of 39
    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.

  • Reply 15 of 39
    poochpooch Posts: 768member
    melgross wrote: »
    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.
  • Reply 16 of 39
    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.
  • Reply 17 of 39
    elrothelroth Posts: 1,201member

    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).

  • Reply 18 of 39
    Well, they can use whatever writing style they want. And, I like it. So, it's too bad that you don't.
  • Reply 19 of 39
    sockrolidsockrolid Posts: 2,788member
    I am buoyed by the invincibility, inevitability, insuperability.
    We will be as those emerging from decades of dread past.
    Into future's bright dawn.
  • Reply 20 of 39

    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. 



    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.

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