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.
SATA Connectors: This is a standard SATA drive port block, but the SATA Express ones should look similar.
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
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.
mSATA: This is a half-length mSATA SSD. The slot connector on the right makes for easy replacement, similar to replacing RAM.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 iSSD: The underside of a 128GB Sandisk iSSD chip, showing the µSSD-compliant BGA traces.
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)