Remember that story we wrote a couple of weeks ago about Intel considering doing a PCI Express x2 interface? Well, today's announcement by the SATA-IO confirms this story and it looks like it will be an industry wide move as the new SATA Express standard will require it for optimal performance. Click on through for a detailed look at what to expect from this new standard.
SATA Express is part of the SATA 3.2 specification and it's backwards compatible with standard SATA 6Gbps. In fact, the physical connector has been designed to cater for a pair of SATA ports. The new connector is currently available in two versions, although the final design hasn't been decided upon as yet, but there's currently one version that's exclusively for PCI Express. The new connector caters for both one and two lanes of PCI Express bandwidth, but it's not clear if it'll carry power or not.
To go with the new board level connector is of course a new cable and matching connector. As the interface can transmit both PCI Express and SATA signals the SATA-IO has come up with a connector that can handle both. The downside is a wider cable than for SATA, but considering that the bandwidth has been boosted from 6Gbit/s to 8 or 16Gbit/s, this is something we'll simply have to live with.
So far the SATA-IO is still working on options on the device end, but we'd expect to see a similar connector to the board level one on at least SSDs. Another benefit of SATA Express is less cable clutter when using a backplane, although this can be easily solved using a mini-SAS connector today. That said, SAS connectors aren't commonly found on consumer level hardware and SATA Express is at least in part targeting the consumer market space.
It's pretty clear that SATA Express was designed to allow the SATA standard to take advantage of the performance on offer by the latest SSDs as we're quickly approaching the point in time where the SATA interface just doesn't cut it anymore. It's still very early days though and the specification isn't expected to be ready until the end of this year which means that we won't see implementations until sometime in 2012. It's pretty clear that we need a faster interface than SATA 6Gbps and this is the interim solution we're left with as SATA 4.0 is still a long way from being ratified, although if it goes down the same route as SAS, we can expect speeds of 12Gbit/s per port.