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Start trek, the next generation: PCie 4 flash controller demo flaunts speedy peripheral vision

Controller tech precedes NAND-tastic summer

An SSD controller company has demonstrated faster SSD access with a gen 4 PCIe controller that was twice as fast as gen 3 PCIe.

Fore! PCI Express 4.0 finally lands on Earth


Taiwanese flash controller firm Phison - which demo'ed the tech at trade show CES in Las Vegas last week - said desktops and notebooks could boot, load apps and access files almost instantly with the latest PCIe version - gen 4. Enterprise servers will support faster NVMe SSD access speeds as well as easier FPGA and GPU deployment.

The PCIe gen 4.0 standard is produced by the PCI-SIG consortium and specifies a 16Gbit/s data link speed with up to 16 links or lanes, delivering 64GB/sec, double PCIe gen 3’s 32GB/sec maximum.

PCISIG slide on bandwidth

PCIe standard progression

Currently shipping E12 PCIe gen 3 controllers, Phison’s PS5016-E16 is a 4-lane NVMe PCIe gen 4 implementation. Hooked up to a demo 2TB SSD, built with Toshiba TLC (3 bits/cell) 64-layer 3D NAND (BiCS3), it pumped out 4.1GB/sec sequential read bandwidth and 4.2GB/sec write bandwidth, and 600,000 - 700,000 random read IOPS.

The firm said it hoped to reach 4.8GB/sec sequential bandwidth and up to 900,000 IOPS as it refines the tech and moves to Toshiba BiCS4 flash, which has 96 layers.

Phison supplies controllers on an OEM basis to SSD manufacturers and a report predicted we should see the PS5016-E16 released in the third quarter with PCIe gen 4 SSDs hitting the streets in the fourth quarter onwards. However, the Phison has said the E16 is just for desktop and gaming systems. Hopefully the company, along with other SSD controller developers, will soon release enterprise SSDs using PCIe gen 4.

PCIe gen 4 implementations require CPUs, motherboards and devices with PCIe gen 4 support. We could expect to see 96-layer 3D NAND SSDs using Toshiba BiCS4 and equivalent Western Digital flash supporting gen 4 PCIe from the (northern hemisphere) summer of 2019 onwards.

AMD's 3-third generation Ryzen "Matisse" gaming and desktop CPU, an 8-core device fabricated with a 7nm process, will be shipping from mid-2019 and supports PCIe gen 4.0 x16 - 16 lanes - in its IO chiplet.

As we mentioned back in July 2017, IBM’s POWER9 CPU supports PCIe gen 4.

We understand Intel will support PCIe 4 in the second half of this year, with its Omni Path fabric.

A PCIe gen 5 standard should be released by the end of 2019 and provide for 128GB/sec from a 16-lane implementation. PCIe life just keeps on getting better, although device suppliers may be tempted to bypass v4.0 and go straight to v5. ®

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