Fall 2003 IDF

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A Diskourse on Drives

This IDF also marked the launch of Serial ATA, a new device interface. Intel had several presentations on the current and future state of Serial ATA. They started out by highlighting the fact that SATA has already outsold all other interfaces combined, including FibreChannel, 10Gb/s Ethernet and many others. Looking forward to the future, Intel appears to be focusing more on improving usability and standardizing the interface, rather than immediate improvements in transfer speeds. The main reason for this shift is illustrated by Figure 6.


Figure 6 – Disk Read Rates Over Time (Intel)

SATA handily exceeds the bandwidth needs of all modern mainstream drives, save the newest generation of 10,000 RPM drives, such as the Western Digital Raptors. Even in that case, it is likely that the seek time (5.3ms) and rotational speed are too low to saturate the interface. There is almost no performance benefit to increasing the speed of the SATA interface, without a corresponding increase in the speed of the attached hard drives. Hence, SATA 3Gb/s will not be introduced till mid 2004. The 3Gb/s interface will use the same cables and both standards incorporate auto-negotiation allowing two devices to operate at the highest mutually agreeable speed.


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