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PCIe Solid-State Drives: What’s the Hype About?

Although SATA is the most popular hard disk interface, it can't last forever. Some speculate that utilizing the PCIe bus could completely replace the need for SATA

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With the proliferation of SSD storage devices into every aspect of the PC and storage markets, many manufacturers are attempting to push the limits of data transfer and access speeds. The first break from existing storage media technology is the introduction of PCIe based SSDs. In the current crop of PCs and SSDs, storage drives use the connection protocol called SATA that transfers data at 3GB or 6GB speeds. The new PCIe SSDs will hope to double read and write times over the current technology.

What Are The Benefits Of Using PCIe SSD?

The best reason to use a PCI SSD is the speed advantage. The primary reason for this increased speed is that the PCIe SSD uses the PCIe bus. This provides nearly direct access to the computer’s CPU and all of the commands and requests that are running there. Compared to other SSD connection technologies, like SATA, access to the PCIe bus removes the need for protocol conversions that take time. This makes using the PCIe SSDs a must have when dealing with database queries, running video and large files from storage devices, and other buffering and caching applications.

Are There Drawbacks To The PCIe

Currently, there are several drawbacks to using PCIe in its current state. The first, and most significant, is the lack of specialization in the PCIe bus that makes programming storage device difficult. There are no industry standards for PCIe communication protocols opening the market to one-off or proprietary protocols on motherboard/SSD combos. In addition, there is the lack of storage controller standards. This will compound the interoperability issues between PCIe manufactures leading to products that will have issues operating on the same PCIe controller. The second issue with PCIe SSD effects database and server builds.

PCIe SSDs are not able to be scaled to support very large or vary small data sets. For example, if you are using a 200GB PCIe SSD to operate a 75GB database file, the remaining 125GB is wasted because the PCIe SSD cannot be shared. Lastly, PCIe bus connections take up a lot of space on a motherboard and in server configurations. This makes the design and building of systems capable of taking advantage of PCIe SSD technology difficult and in some cases, not cost effective.

Conclusion

PCIe SSD technology is exciting and very fast. With an unlimited budget and limited restrictions on system size, the PCIe SSD can make for a lightning fast home PC. In reality, the benefits of upgrading to a PCIe SSD are really only applicable to services and companies who cache and buffer large amounts of data or who operate large databases. Unfortunately, these same companies are the least able to make the change to PCIe SSD due to the PCIe bus and the size restrictions of the current crop of PCIe SSDs.

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