Storage manufacturers were quick to offer SSDs that nearly saturated the PCI Express 4.0 bus when connected to an x4 slot (as do all NVMe consumer drives). There is still some free space, but SSDs will come really faster with the adoption of PCI Express 5.0. As such, expect PCIe 5.0 SSDs to materialize by 2022.
More specifically, TrendForce analysts predict that next-generation SSDs will hit the ground running in the second or third quarter of next year. TrendForce looks at things from a data center angle and bases its prediction on the availability of new server interfaces, but as usual, consumer products should not lag behind.
"Intel and AMD are expected to begin mass production of Eagle Stream and Genoa CPUs in 1H22, respectively. In addition to being compatible with PCIe G5, these server processors will also support the Computer Express Link (CXL) interface." . TrendForce states.
"TrendForce research indicates that NAND Flash vendors have quickly followed the production of PCIe G5 SSDs in response to the upcoming mass production of Eagle Stream. As such, these SSDs are likely to see the release of the market between 2Q22 and 3Q22 ", adds TrendForce.
The research firm isn’t arguing what this means for consumer SSDs, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the main PCIe 5.0 SSDs arrived at the same time or even earlier. Because? Intel is preparing to launch its first batch of Alder Lake CPUs this year, possibly in late October or November, and we already know that Alder Lake will support PCIe 5.0 (in addition to DDR5 memory).
This will be evident in Intel's upcoming 600 series chipset and on the motherboards built around it. So there will be consumer support in the very near future, we only need the PCIe 5.0 SSDs.
Here's what it takes: NVMe SSDs that take advantage of the PCIe 4.0 bus have access to about 8 GB / s of potential bandwidth. Some units are already very close to the maximum limit. PNY's XLR8 CS3140, for example, is rated to read data at 7.5 GB / s, while Adata's XPG Gammix S70 is not far behind at 7.4 GB / s.
This leaves not much room to take advantage of the units. As such, the companies that manufacture the driver hardware that help enable these incredible speeds are already looking forward to PCIe 5.0. To that end, Marvell introduced the Bravera SC5 SSD driver two months ago, at the time, saying it was ranked as the first in the industry to support PCIe 5.0 and NVMe 1.4b.
"Bravera SC5 doubles performance compared to PCIe 4.0 SSDs. This helps speed up workloads and reduce latency, dramatically improving the user experience," Marvell said.
This specific driver, which is capable of producing a staggering amount of 14 GB / s, is intended for data center products. Still, it shouldn’t make a big leap to bring basic functionality to the consumer.
Meanwhile, Silicon Motion said it plans to release PCIe 5.0 drivers next year, and of course we can expect Phison to be in play as well. Several high-performance consumer SSDs take advantage of Phison for its driver hardware, so it will be especially interesting to see what it is able to offer the company. Hopefully, we’ll find out sooner rather than later.