Solid-state drives with a PCIe 5.0 x4 interface for enthusiast-grade PCs are scheduled to hit the market later this year. Fortunately for enthusiasts, they will unleash some of the key features of Intel's 12th Gen Core 'Alder Lake' and AMD's 7th Gen Ryzen 'Raphael' processors, according to Silicon Motion, one of the leading developers of SSD controllers. However, the firm believes that large PC OEMs won't adopt PCIe Gen5 drives for mainstream systems until 2024.
Silicon Motion and its partners are on track to release enthusiast-grade SSDs based on the SM2508 controller towards the end of this year. These drives will feature a PCIe 5.0 x4 interface and deliver throughput of around 13 GB/s to provide blazing-fast storage for compliant desktop systems.
These next-generation SM2508-based PCIe Gen5 SSDs will compete against drives based on InnoGrit's IG5666 controller and products powered by Phison's PS5026-E26 controller offering similar capabilities. Without a doubt, these drives will be among the best SSDs when they are available. However, we do not know which controller will be the first to hit the market or which will guarantee the highest performance.
Given that three SSD solutions with a PCIe 5.0 x4 interface will be available in 2022, it is safe to say that enthusiasts will finally be able to take advantage of one of the key features of Intel's Alder Lake processor.
However, users of mainstream PCs from large brands will have to stick to SSDs featuring a PCIe 4.0 x4 interface in 2022 to 2023, as OEMs do not tend to adopt expensive leading-edge SSD platforms. In fact, mainstream PCs will adopt PCIe Gen4 drives only this year as companies like Silicon Motion and Phison (along with their manufacturing partners) will deliver inexpensive DRAM-less SSDs with a PCIe 4.0 interface.
"It is likely that PCIe Gen4 will last a few years since Intel, AMD both continue to bring new upgrade variant of CPU with PCIe Gen4 to the market," said Wallace Kou, chief executive of Silicon Motion, at last week's earnings call (via SeekingAlpha). "Similarly, we are preparing for the launch of our third-generation PCIe Gen4 controller next year before transitioning to PCIe Gen5 in the following year."
Silicon Motion is now working on its SM2507 controller featuring a PCIe 5.0 interface aimed at mainstream PCs and is suitable for notebooks (which outsell desktops 7 to 1 these days). At present, SMI plans to commercialize this platform sometime in 2024.
But before Silicon Motion makes PCIe Gen5 SSDs available to mainstream client PCs, it plans to release its highly anticipated SM8366 platform for enterprise-grade SSDs with a PCIe Gen 5 interface. As promised last year, SMI will begin sampling the SM8366 controller with partners in the second half of this year and expects actual products based on this chip to ship in 2023. The SM8366 will be the company's 3rd generation enterprise-grade SSD controller, so it will take into account everything that the company has learned about such drives so far. SMI naturally does not talk about exact feature set of the SM8366, but only says that it is aimed both at hyperscale and enterprise customers, so expect it to be quite advanced and configurable.
"We are on track to begin sampling our flagship SM8366 PCIe Gen5 SSD controller in the second half of this year," said Kou. "We believe our PCIe Gen5 is uniquely positioned with both very competitive operation performance and robust architecture and is also compellingly differentiated with future design desired by hyperscale and enterprise customers, such as a highly customization firmware, performance shaping capability and optimize data placement technologies."