PCI Express 3.0 products could reach stores next year

PCI-SIG released the final PCI Express 3.0 specification to members on Thursday

The standards-setting PCI Special Interest Group on Thursday released the final PCI Express 3.0 specification to members, and products based on the specification could reach stores by the end of next year, the group said.

The PCI Express 3.0 specification offers more bandwidth to enable faster communication between components inside a system. The specification will be able to transfer data at speeds of 8.0 gigatransfers per second (GT/s), a 60 percent improvement over earlier specifications.

PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect) Express -- widely known as PCIe -- is a bus that enables high-speed communication between components inside a PC, particularly for cards added to expansion slots. It is widely used in gaming systems for add-in components such as external graphics cards, which can be attached to PCI-Express slots.

A lot of PCIe technology is implemented inside the system, but end-user devices such as for graphics and storage based on the PCIe 3.0 specification may be available by the end of next year, said Ramin Neshati, a PCI-SIG Board member and chairman of the serial communications workgroup.

There is about a 12-month gap between approval of the final specification and product release, Neshati said. The products have to go through a rigorous testing process before being approved for sale.

The new architecture will also allow companies to build low-cost and power-efficient components and systems, Neshati said. PCIe 3.0 is also backward-compatible with the previous PCIe architectures, which means PCIe 3.0 components will work with hardware based on older specifications.

But beyond attaching peripherals, PCIe could also be used for on-board components such as co-processors, Neshati said. The new specification could boost data transfers in high-performance systems, and data will get to storage devices and memory faster.

But PCIe implementations in systems will depend on design and budget, Neshati said. If a system builder is on a budget and has certain power consumption restrictions, they could build a server based on PCIe 2.1, which is still robust architecture, Neshati said.

For faster servers, system builders could go with PCIe 3.0, Neshati said. Products designed around the PCIe 3.0 specification will be able to achieve bandwidth near 1GBps one direction on a single-lane configuration and scale to 32GBps on a 16-lane configuration.

In a similar configuration, PCIe 2.1 can achieve speeds of 16GBps. A connection between a PCIe device and the system is established through a point-to-point connection generally referred to as a lane.

Some of the improvements have also come through improved signaling techniques, Neshati said. The receiver and transmitter on each end are better at filtering out the noise coming from sources such as other components. That filtering boosts the signal and enables power-efficient and quicker data transmission.

Companies backing PCI-SIG include Intel, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Advanced Micro Devices, Dell, Nvidia and Oracle. The organization has between 800 and 900 members, with the number fluctuating every month, Neshati said.

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