SATA-IO, the governing body behind the Serial ATA specification, has announced a couple of new interface standards, one in development and the other completed.
The first, dubbed SATA Express, will meld the SATA feature set with PCI Express 3.0 transfer rates. We’ve seen PCIe-based storage devices before, of course, for server-class systems, but they plug into PCIe expansion slots and have onboard SATA controllers to talk to the host system. SATA Express promises fast connectivity over a more traditional disk interface and at a lower cost. The spec will include "new device and motherboard connectors that will support both new SATA Express and current SATA devices."
Providing a faster interface for increasingly quick solid-state drives motivates the SATA Express effort, and there should be a lot of bandwidth on tap. The official press release mentions interface speeds of 8Gb/s and 16Gb/s, suggesting implementations that use one or two lanes of PCIe 3.0 connectivity.
SATA-IO President Mladen Luksic said he expects the SATA Express spec "to be completed by the end of 2011."
At the other end of the spectrum, the new µSSD standard defines a streamlined interface for mobile and embedded systems. Unlike mSATA, which uses a Mini PCIe connector, µSSD controller chips will hook directly into host systems via their ball-grid array—the bit that’s soldered to the circuit board. Eliminating the separate connector module should make µSSD devices particularly appealing for ultra-thin notebooks and tablets, says the SATA-IO press release. Intel’s new class of Ultrabook systems is expressly mentioned.
The document doesn’t provide specifics on supported speeds, but it looks like 6Gbps is a lock. SanDisk already has a 128GB µSSD device with a 6Gbps interface.