New SATA express spec will increase throughput to SSDs

A new PCI Express specification has been announced with the aim of bumping up the speed for the interface to solid state drives (SSDs). The interconnection speed for SSDs would be bumped from 6 GB/sec up to 8GB/sec and 16GB/sec.

New SATA express spec will increase throughput to SSDs

The Serial ATA International Organization‘s (SATA-IO) new standard would be able to protect the investment already put forth in current SATA PCIe products because it’s actually a hybrid, making use of the old technology. It will look the same as the current spec to host computers.

Currently if you have a SATA PCIe device you are getting 6Gbit/sec on a single channel. That probably is working just fine for your system if you have a traditional hard drive connected to it. SSDs are a bit different. These types of drives and some of the hybrid drives that have both moving parts and flash memory can have multiple channels to their chips. What does this mean for you? It means that when multiple channels are using that 6Gbit/sec connection it can get overrun pretty quickly.

As easy a sell as this seems on paper, consumers need to remember that SSDs are still a very small part of the overall storage market. That means that SATA-IO couldn’t just scrap the existing standard and expect consumers to upgrade or pay the price. The new spec is actually a hybrid maintaining the PCIe physical interface but moving the SATA controller off of the host computer and onto the SSD itself.

The new standard is going to offer up to two PCIe lanes which means you either get 8GB/sec or 16GB/sec depending on how many of those connections the device in question uses. Mladen Luksic, president of SATA-IO, discussed this decision saying, “It’s scalable because PCIe is scalable in terms of adding more lanes. So if there is a need to satisfy higher performance requirements of SSDs, we can do that simply by putting more lanes in rather than increasing the raw speed of the physical interconnectivity.”

The new specification should be out by the end of this year and will define new motherboard and device connectors that will support current SATA devices and new SATA Express devices.