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Attack of the Minis

Attack of the Minis

Light Peak is an interesting technology and one I want to see sooner rather than later. Essentially it’s one connector for all purposes: peripherals (storage, i/o), networking (short distances in first release, longer later) and a replacement for the connectors we use now (which will largely work with adapters. The only protocol that may not run over Light Peak is USB 3, but USB 1 & 2; FireWire 400/800, eSATA, SAS ethernet and Fibre Channel could all be replaced with a single Light Peak connection at 10 Gbits/sec.

By comparison:

FireWire 800 is nominally 800 Mbits/sec

USB 2 is up to 400 Mbit/sec

USB 3 runs at 3 Gbit/sec, the same as a single lane of PCIe internally.

Ethernet runs up to 1000 Mbit/sec and

eSata connects at 3 Mbit/sec.

So, with a single 10 Gbit connection we could run a couple of FW drives; mixed with some USB (power permitting) and an Ethernet connection simultaneously with only a single connector on the host computer.

Robert Cringely may have inside information – note how he swaps from the generic Light Peak (Intel’s name for the technology) to LightPoint. Apple are expected to brand the connector with their own branding as they did with FireWire (IEEE1394) and AirPort (for 802.11).

Xgrid has been built into OS X for years, offering some nice loosely coupled multiprocessing capabilities that few people have taken advantage of. Grand Central dispatch is now built into OS X that allows high efficiency task scheduling not just on the local multi-core machine, but down to individual program threads between tightly coupled machines (think FiberChannel). But LightPoint makes FiberChannel look slow, is inexpensive (FiberChannel is not), and is super easy to set up. And don’t forget Apple has invested gigabucks in that huge North Carolina data center — a data center that is schedule to open very soon.

Start with a Light point-equipped Mac Mini. Need more horsepower? Just get another Mini and connect with LightPoint. Grand Central will automatically distribute the load across multiple devices. A 2U rack will hold EIGHT Mac Minis that, tightly coupled, will run rings around an Xserve. Better yet, given a good high bandwidth connection, OS X will be able to access applications and data in the cloud as though it were local.

[Update] All reference to LightPoint has been removed from the Cringely article.

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  • Marcus R. Moore · February 21, 2011 at 8:05 pm

    The recent days have been filled with LightPeak [LightPoint- typo, or...] news, with some speculating that the MacBookPros due to be released later this week will be the first Macs to premier this technology. I’m pretty happy with my 2009 MBP, but the introduction of LightPeak technology would certainly have me checking eBay for the going value of my machine in lieu of an upgrade…

    In years past we certainly would have seen this tech on MacPros first, but portables are where 70%+ of the market is going, and that number is only going up as the reasons for someone to choose a desktop solution slowly evaporate. Large screen and expandability are the only two that I see being around for a while, and both of these could be solved through expansion ports that stay with a home setup, but don’t add bulk while you’re away.

    For myself, I set aside my G5 MacPro when I had to make the switch to Snow Leopard for FCS3. With the 5 year spread between the two machines, the portable was actually almost as fast as my old tower in most rendering situations. Though I notice when there’s lots of Canon h264 transcoding to do [compared to todays MacPros], other than that I’ve been able to survive pretty well on a MacBookPro 15″ for editing with a second display and a video monitor thru and MXO mini.

  • Marcus R. Moore · February 22, 2011 at 7:10 pm

    Looks like evidence is mounting for a Lightpeak debut on Thursday.

  • David Baud · February 23, 2011 at 10:40 am


    I think you meant to say:

    “USB 3 runs at 3 Gbits/sec” instead of “USB 3 runs at 3 Mbits/sec”.

    • Admin comment by Philip · February 23, 2011 at 11:06 am

      Thanks. I thought I’d corrected all of those, but missed that one.



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