Thursday, June 23rd 2011

PCI Takes on Thunderbolt, Big Worries for its Promoters

Did you know what lies behind the USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt controller? It's of course the bus that connects it to the rest of the system, PCI-Express. It is the 500 MB/s per lane interconnect that is indirectly responsible for the awesome bandwidth that today's plug and play interfaces such as eSATA 6 Gb/s, USB 3.0, and Thunderbolt 10 Gb/s enjoy. What if you could eliminate the protocol overhead that comes with any of those protocols, and make PCI-Express directly an interconnect? So thought the PCI Special Interest Group (SIG), the body that decides the fate of PCI. The SIG is planning to create a cabled version of PCI-Express Gen 3, that has no secondary protocol overhead, not even of the kind Infiniband has.

A single PCI-Express 3.0 lane can provide 8 Gbps (1 GB/s) of bandwidth in each direction, the new cabled interconnect can supply bandwidth of four Gen 3 lanes, totaling 32 Gbps, over three times that of the current version of Thunderbolt. Apart from that bandwidth, cabled PCI-E will be designed to supply 20W of power to its devices, plenty of power for even a small 3-bay HDD rack. The connector itself will be designed to be very compact and flat, so it can be fitted into notebooks and tablets. PCI SIG plans to have the first specifications of cabled PCI-Express ready before June 2013. By 2013, Intel will be about 2 years away from releasing its proposed 50 Gbps version of Thunderbolt, but even then, Thunderbolt is an additional protocol that sits over the system bus (again, PCI-Express), unless Intel designs Thunderbolt controllers to somehow talk to CPU over QPI.Source: EETimes
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28 Comments on PCI Takes on Thunderbolt, Big Worries for its Promoters

#1
LAN_deRf_HA
This would be pretty ideal. Less complexity, components, and more speed. If power circuitry in boards were beefed up we could even skip out on sata power plugs right? Way neater cabling.
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#2
Yukikaze
Interesting, but saying that this "takes on" Thunderbolt is not quite correct. Thunderbolt is a pipe through which many other protocols can be bridged over to peripheral devices. PCIe is a system interconnect, with all the advantages and disadvantages this entails.

Say you want to connect a TV to your laptop: With Thunderbolt, you connect the TV to the laptop and pipe the Display Port protocol over the Thunderbolt link. With PCIe you would essentially need a GPU on the other side displaying the image on the TV for the same thing. While a solution can be found, this example does show the difference between the concepts of PCIe and Thunderbolt.
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#3
laszlo
so thunderbolt get a lightning stroke;i'm sure they find a way to connect all devices via pcie
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#4
BazookaJoe
Yeah - I'm currently rocking USB3 with "great success", but I'd drop it in a heartbeat for a direct bus - just makes more sense.
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#5
Maban
I'll take one 32Gbps flash drive please.
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#6
LucifersDad
So using this it would be possible to add graphic cards to the 5.25 front bay just like adding dvd drives, and the main difference would be most or all of the power for the cards would come from the PSU.
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#7
Maban
by: LucifersDad
So using this it would be possible to add graphic cards to the 5.25 front bay just like adding dvd drives, and the main difference would be most or all of the power for the cards would come from the PSU.
Now there's an idea. Get this man a cookie. So, I'll take one 32Gbps flash drive and 6 5.25 GPUs.
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#8
FordGT90Concept
"I go fast!1!11!1!"
PCI Express is meant for data transfer distances of 1 foot or less. It also rapidly consumes IRQs. The reason USB and Thunderbolt exists is to allow data transfer over the distance of yards, not feet, and also reduce the load on internal components of the computer by making each hub handle some of the load. I can't see a PCI Express "cable" working very well for these reasons.
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#9
LAN_deRf_HA
I'd imagine they have solutions in mind if they're seriously moving ahead with this.
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#10
NC37
Heh, coming 2012...GPU, IN A BOX!!!

Its all you love about your GPU, cept in a handy PCIe 5.25 box. Don't like your GPU's performance....swwwwwwaaaaaaapp it out with a new GPU in a box and get more performance right away, or your money back!! Its so easy, even an chimp in diapers can do it!!

Quick, someone get me a chimp in diapers...preferably one with an Uzi that blows snot bubbles when it sleeps. Yes, that is a Metal Slug analogy.

Seriously tho...if the tech was used in a console or a build a PC for dummies kit, it would be interesting. Imagine being able to upgrade without opening the hardware. Everything is modular and in it's own compartment like a giant Tetris game. Think N64 RAM upgrade back in the day. Regular people could do it.
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#11
HalfAHertz
Sounds to me like snake oil. Thunderbolt decodes one standard, to another in hardware. They want to eliminate that hardware transcoder and do it on bare metal? That means that they'll have to create a software layer which would create just as much overhead if not more...I don't see the benefits really.
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#12
scotchguy
Granted, I could be wrong.. but I can see a major benefit with this tech for mobile gaming.

Imagine a laptop (choose your size and flavor) with USB3.0, Thunderbolt, and thie PCI express out. I have said laptop with Ivory Bridge etc. and integrated graphics, getting 12+ hours battery. I can lug around a small box that looks like a portable hdd or battery pack -- this box is a GPU with battery, so it does not drain battery from the laptop nor add any additional heat. This "GPU to GO" costs as much as you are willing to pay... different models with different battery life. If designed properly, the laptop could be stacked on top and just act as a laptop cooler stand.

I personally would love to have an optional GPU to carry only when I plan on needing the power.
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#13
timmyisme22
by: scotchguy
Granted, I could be wrong.. but I can see a major benefit with this tech for mobile gaming.

Imagine a laptop (choose your size and flavor) with USB3.0, Thunderbolt, and thie PCI express out. I have said laptop with Ivory Bridge etc. and integrated graphics, getting 12+ hours battery. I can lug around a small box that looks like a portable hdd or battery pack -- this box is a GPU with battery, so it does not drain battery from the laptop nor add any additional heat. This "GPU to GO" costs as much as you are willing to pay... different models with different battery life. If designed properly, the laptop could be stacked on top and just act as a laptop cooler stand.

I personally would love to have an optional GPU to carry only when I plan on needing the power.
They're coming out with better versions. This en-gadget story shows one pathway that's being taken.

I fully agree though. Having an extension base that can add hardware such as a video card or battery pack (ASUS transformer for the full-on battery/keyboard) is a very novel idea for quick and easy portability without compromising the power of the laptop.
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#14
Delta6326
Not for sure why everyone is talking about gpu in a box in clearly says 20W of power, your going to need another source of power and then you got cords going all over the place.
by: btarunr
cabled PCI-E will be designed to supply 20W of power to its devices,
But this tech is what we need it adds competition and that speeds things up.
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#15
KieranD
Exactly 20w isnt much to power anything more than hard drives, you'd need something like an external power supply to power an external gpu.

What about pci lanes?
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#16
inferKNOX
Intel, feel the raw Pwnage!!:laugh::nutkick:
Apple, feel the raw double-Pwnage! Firewire & now this... :o

I'm actually pretty excited about this. At last, it may eliminate what is becoming a connector-type excess.
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#17
theoneandonlymrk
err i think they need to listen to intel a bit more though as intel stated thunderbolt to be the first step on the path of ALL optical interconnected chips and chip internals, they wont be using pci anything anything eventually and will not be limited by it or concerned with it.

they better get on with releasin it simples or by the time it cracks being the accepted std intel will have side stepped it entirely out of existence.

im no intel fan but appears to me(due to tri gate etc) that intels got its r+d labs on the job proper now thanks to AMD's regular competition with them as well as others
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#18
D007
Very nice, I likes less mess and less software.
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#19
1freedude
Could this please be the start of the end of ATX?
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#20
OneCool
Still all this talk about cables and connectors :rolleyes:

Stop blowing money on this crap people!



WIRELESS DAMMIT!!!!!!!!!! :banghead:
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#21
Yukikaze
by: OneCool
Still all this talk about cables and connectors :rolleyes:

Stop blowing money on this crap people!

WIRELESS DAMMIT!!!!!!!!!! :banghead:
Right, because there is a cheap 10+Gbit wireless connection on the horizon.

For low-bandwidth peripherals we already have Bluetooth.
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#22
FordGT90Concept
"I go fast!1!11!1!"
The less that's going through my brain, the better. Shielded cables FTW!
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#23
OneCool
by: Yukikaze
Right, because there is a cheap 10+Gbit wireless connection on the horizon.

.
And there never will be if they keep blowing all the investment money on stupid crap like this.
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#24
cheesy999
by: KieranD
Exactly 20w isnt much to power anything more than hard drives, you'd need something like an external power supply to power an external gpu.
considering their are external hard drives that do that i see no reason a graphics card couldn't, i'm just imagining connecting a gtx 590 to a intel netbook...
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#25
OneCool
by: FordGT90Concept
The less that's going through my brain, the better. Shielded cables FTW!
:laugh:


Little bit late in the game to worrying about that dont you think?
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