New SATA Express & µSSD Interface Standards Pave Way for Faster and Smaller SSDs
Solid-state drives are about to get two new connectivity options to allow for a higher maximum data throughput ceiling and smaller physical size (respectively) – SATA-IO, the organization behind the popular Serial ATA standard and specification for connecting storage devices to computers, has revealed two new interface standards – SATA Express and µSSD.
SATA Express is currently under development, and it will match up the SATA feature set with upcoming PCI Express 3.0 transfer rates. Potentially, this will allow speeds as high as 8Gbps or 16Gbps to flow through the cables – depending on whether the specific implementation uses one or two PCI Express lanes, respectively.
So, when solid-state drives become fast enough to break the current SATA 6Gbps barrier, SATA Express will become the next option. This is what will eventually make it important.
Probably the best part of the spec is that the SATA-IO is promising backward-compatibility with normal SATA devices – though there will be new device and motherboard connections, you should still be able to plug your older drives into SATA Express plugs, but certainly not vice-versa.
Moving on, SATA-IO has also revealed something called µSSD, aimed towards embedded applications, tablets and especially Ultrabooks (Intel's new standard of ultraportable laptop). The µSSD spec (completed, by the way, and no longer under active development) essentially strips out the physical connector block and allows for a SATA connection directly through the ball-grid-array side of an integrated chip (containing both the flash controller chip and the flash memory).
What this means is, instead of removable connectors or slots that allow easy replacement and upgrading possibilities (like the current mSATA standard shown on the left for similar targets), the µSSD is but a single permanently-attached device on the motherboard; you cannot remove it (unless you have certain expensive equipment). It doesn't sound so great to me at least from an upgrading standpoint, particularly if put into Ultrabooks (or future MacBook Air refreshes), but in embedded systems they should be fine.
Sandisk actually has a series of SSDs supporting the new interface already: the company's iSSD line offers capacities of 8 to 128GB and all support the µSSD spec. While the SATA-IO press release did not mention specific speed limits on the standard, the Sandisk iSSDs claim to support a 6Gbps interface, so that is all that will likely be available until a SATA Express version (?) comes out in the future. (Via The Tech Report)