Intel Proposes New Hard Drive Interface

PALM SPRINGS, CALIF. (02/15/2000) - Intel Corp. and six partners including hard drive and system vendors announced here Tuesday the creation of the Serial ATA Working group, which will work to replace the current hard drive interface in desktops and entry-level raid servers.

Upon introduction, the new interface will perform at 1.6Gbps as opposed to the current ATA standard, which is just under 1Gbps, according to an Intel spokesperson. The Serial ATA interface is expected to eventually scale to 6Gbps. First demonstrations of the product are expected this fall.

Intel called the current standard a bottleneck to performance and said that Serial ATA is expected to improve hard drive access times as storage device capacity increases. Future storage devices may even go to 4GB and higher with rewritable DVD products, officials said. Such devices would not be a viable storage solutions without faster access times.

Other benefits for both IT organizations and individuals will be the elimination of the hard-to-handle wide-ribbon cable that is currently used, officials said. The Serial ATA cable will reduce the number of pins required in the cable from 24 to four pins.

Unlike the IEEE 1394 high-speed interface, Serial ATA will have a "non-royalty bearing" license that may also speed adoption by the industry, according to Steve Spina, a spokesperson for Intel's Scalable Platforms Initiative. The technology is expected to have cost parity with the current ATA standard. In addition, Spina said that the thinner cable will reduce manufacturing costs and integration costs on the assembly line.

By adding a small piece of silicon technology as they are manufactured, hard drives could be compatible with either the old or new standard, said Spina.

Other vendors in the working group include system vendors Dell Computer and IBM, and hard drive manufacturers Maxtor, Quantum, and Seagate Technology.

Intel Corp., in Santa Clara, Calif., can be reached at

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