With the upcoming release of Intel’s Alder Lake S series of chips coming later this year, a new class of SSD devices supporting the latest standard of PCIe will be hitting the market.
The PCIe 4.0 standard is the currently the fastest data transfer standard for drives that is available for consumer SSDs and enterprise storage solutions, but that will soon look to change with the upcoming PCIe 5.0 standard.
What is PCIe?
Peripheral Component Interconnect Express abbreviated as PCIe or PCI-e is the latest high speed serial computer expansion bus standard designed to replace the older PCI, PCI-X and AGP Bus standards.
The PCIe standard has smaller footprint compared to the previous standards for computer bus standards and with this smaller footprint comes a reduced number of pins for the Input and Output (I/O).
Though the standard has a reduced I/O pin count, it has better performance scaling for bus devices, it has a more detailed error detection and report mechanism known as Advanced Error Reporting (AER) and native hot swap functionality. Later revisions of PCIe support I/O Visualization.
The PCIe bus standard is the most common interface on motherboards for personal computers to enable the attachment of Graphics Cards, Hard Drives, SSDs and Network components such as Wi-Fi cards and Ethernet enabling hardware.
What is the hype over the new update to the standard?
Phison Electronics Corporation has revealed its PCIe 5.0 controller for motherboards coming next year which is an indication of new SSDs being released in the second half of 2022 with the new PCIe controller processor chip being labelled as the Phison PS5026-E26 Gen5 SSD chip.
The chip will be fundamentally based on its PCIe 4.0 predecessor with the 12nm processor but theoretically be able to push out a higher data transfer rate of 32 Gbps (Gigabits per second) which is equivalent to 4000 MBps (Megabytes per second MBps) with the new PCIe 5.0 standard.
The controller chip will follow an ARM based architecture with Cortex-R5 cores being present on the processor dyes, which are accompanied by accelerators from Phison’s own CoXProcessor 2.0 package.
The controller will support PCIe Dual Port, Single Root Input / Output Virtualisation (SR-IOV), Zone Namespaces (ZNS) and all 3D NAND memory types with ONFI (Open NAND Flash Interface) 5.x and Toggle 5.x.
Previous drive standards such as M.2, U.3, E1.S and E3.S drives will all be compatible with the PCIe 5.0 standard thus keeping the physical dimensions of drive inserts the same, though the manufacturing of these chips entails a complicated process as a pose to the PCIe 3.0 and 4.0 chips.
Due to the higher data transfer rates of PCIe 5.0, long range interference is introduced when transferring data at such high transfer rates and thereby signal strength is affected. Multiple Network Drivers will be implemented by manufacturers to maintain signal integrity.
The new chips are mainly destined to end up in high end PCs such as workstations, Data centres and business/enterprise grade storage solutions but will soon come to consumer SSDs.
Phison is testing their controller with a number of partners to ensure compatibility across a wide range of motherboards and aim to bring this technology to the market in 2022.