Seagate throttles up to 6 Gbps throughput, with some help from AMD

At the Everything Channel Xchange Conference in New Orleans today, Seagate and AMD are delivering the world's first public demo of 6 gigabit-per-second Serial ATA, an ultra-speedy interface between the host bus adapters used in PCs and storage drives such as hard disk drives, solid-state drives, and optical devices.

A replacement for older and slower ATA technology, Serial ATA supported throughput of 1.5 Gbps in its first generation and operates at 3 Gbps in much of the hardware sold today, said Mark Noblitt, Seagate's senior marketing manager for I/O (input/output) development, in an interview with Betanews.

"Customers want bigger drives to store more data, [and] more data needs a faster I/O," according to Noblitt. The Seagate exec foresees strong demand for 6 Gbps Serial ATA across both low-end servers and high-end PCs for applications such as streaming video graphics, and gaming.

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The third generation Serial ATA specification first debuted at the Intel Developer Forum in August of last year. Beyond doubling the data transfer speed of second generation Serial ATA, the spec has been enhanced with advanced data streaming and improved power management.

Although 6 Gbps speeds won't be commonplace in storage media until about 2011, history shows that the industry needs to get out in front with a new host bus storage interface a year or two in advance, he contended.

"If the interface data rate was slower than the media data rate, performance would suffer due to missed revs," according to Noblitt. But cache sizes are already growing larger now, anyway. "So you will see a larger performance boost improvement right out of the box," he predicted.

Seagate will sell its initial crop of 6 Gbps technology through the channel, according to the senior marketing manager.

"Today we are conducting a technology demo. We are not announcing products. But that said, the first 6 Gbps products will probably appear at the end of this year," Betanews was told.

AMD assisted Seagate in assembling a demo comparing a top-of-the-line one-terabyte 7200.12 hard drive using the current SATA 3 Gbps interface, against a prototype Barracuda using the new interface. According to Seagate, the demo prototype achieved a maximum transfer rate of 5.5 Gbps over the new interface, versus 2.5 Gbps for the current commercial premium.

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