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Seagate showcased the first hard disk drive connected to a computer using the PCIe interface. This experimental hard drive uses the NVMe protocol to work seamlessly with SSDs. Using a single protocol for different types of storage devices can make things much easier in data centers.

The experimental drive is based on Seagate’s proprietary controller that supports all three major protocols, including SAS, SATA, and NVMe via the native NVMe port, and does not require any bridges. The HDD was demonstrated in a 2U JBOD enclosure using a relatively simple PCIe switch that connects to 12 3.5-inch drives using the PCIe interface.

Modern HDDs can barely fill even a single PCIe 2.0 link, but future multi-actuator HDDs will be much faster. Therefore, 6 Gbps provided by SATA or 12 Gbps provided by SAS may not be sufficient at some point. The industry needs to consider new interfaces for connecting hard drives, and PCIe is now a proven choice. Also, the NVMe protocol is spreading as SSDs become more common in data centers.

On the other hand, adoption of PCIe-connected HDDs will take quite some time. Seagate states that the first samples of PCIe/NVMe HDDs will be available to a number of key customers in September 2022, almost a year later. Commercial PCIe/NVMe hard drives will be available in mid-2024. These HDDs were apparently made primarily for data centers. But the move to a brand new interface and protocol may make sense for the PC market as it improves performance and simplifies architecture.


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Michael Lewis

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