CES — The Serial ATA International Organization, otherwise known as SATA-IO, has announced a new specification for external storage devices. Dubbed USM, or Universal Storage Module, the connection standard is based on 6Gbps SATA. USM uses the same Serial ATA data and power plugs as internal hard drives, but it puts them inside a much beefier connector. Internal SATA jacks are only designed to be plugged in and disconnected about 50 times. According to SATA-IO member Seagate, USM has been engineered to withstand 5,000 connections. Here's what the connector looks like attached to an ultra-slim storage device based on a 7-mm notebook drive.
Those familiar with Seagate's GoFlex external hard drive interface will recognize the USM connector, which is essentially the same thing. Seagate has been working with SATA-IO since GoFlex was first introduced, and it's now become an official standard under the USM name. The complete specification is expected to be finalized later this year. Companies like Antec and Thermaltake are already showing off USM prototypes.
The USM connector is quite a bit bulkier than eSATA, including hybrid ports that incorporate USB power, so you probably won't see it pop up in a motherboard port cluster anytime soon. USM is meant more for consumer electronics devices and docking stations. The latter could certainly use a more robust connection standard.