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3/3/2011
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PCI Express Spec For SSDs Released

Solid-state drives will see significant performance gains by running on a PCIe platform rather than SATA, said the Non-Volatile Memory Host Controller Interface Work Group.

A working group has released an Intel-led specification for using PCI Express as the platform for solid-state drives instead of the slower performing SATA interface typically used today.

The Non-Volatile Memory Host Controller Interface (NVMCI) Work Group released the specification on Monday, with the goal of helping to enable the broad adoption of SSDs using the PCIe interface.

Advances in SSD technology have surpassed the older SATA interface, so a new platform infrastructure is needed "to keep pace and allow the system to realize the full potential of these devices," the NVMCI Work Group said in a statement.

The NVM Express 1.0 specification defines an optimized register interface, command set, and feature set for PCIe-based SSDs. The interface supports multi-core architectures found in most CPUs today. Within enterprise computing environments, the spec supports end-to-end data protection, security, and encryption, as well as having error reporting and management capabilities.

NVM Express offers a number of benefits as a standard interface through the interoperability it offers for multiple products, the workgroup said. For example, an operating system vendor can write one driver that works for SSDs from multiple vendors. Device makers can purchase SSDs from different suppliers and be confident that all will implement a consistent feature set.

In addition, device makers can use the same test suite across SSDs using NVM Express, thereby reducing time to market. Companies that say they are supporting the new spec include Dell, EMC, and Cisco.

"The NVM Express interface is an essential enabler for future generations of non-volatile memory storage solutions," Tom Macdonald, VP of the Intel architecture group, said in a statement.

A standard Linux driver for NVM Express is available and ready for download from Intel. A standard driver for Windows is under development, with an alpha release expected in the third quarter. The spec itself is also available through Intel's site.

The NVMHCI Work Group includes more than 70 companies. Core contributors include Cadence, Cisco, Dell, EMC, Fujitsu Technology Solutions, IDT, Intel, Marvell, Micron, Microsoft, NVELO, Oracle, Pliant, PLX, Samsung, SanDisk, SandForce, STEC, and Violin Memory.

Implementation of NVM Express requires a license from Intel. Members of the workgroup are entitled to a royalty-free license from Intel. A white paper on the spec is available on Intel's site.

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