CES '09: 500MB/sec. USB Blows Our Mind

USB technology had a good showing this year at CES 2009. The trend in technology clearly demonstrates where USB is headed in terms of the near future and beyond. Of course, we're talking about USB 3.0 or SuperSpeed USB.

We had the chance to speak to representatives behind the technology, and were told that prototypes were already here, but that full production and integration would take a bit more time. At this time, we had the chance to look at speeds and from what we saw, things looked really impressive. We were shown a demonstration of a PCI-E to USB 3.0 to HDD and the transfer benchmark maxed out the write capabilities of the HDD, which was roughly hitting a ceiling of 78 MB to 80 MB/sec. The HDD was using a SATA 2 to USB 3.0 interface.

At this time, the demonstration setup was a bit gruesome, consisting of several prototype breakout boards and signal translators. Internally, the USB 3.0 host was running on a PCI-E card, so at this time, we're still looking for an onboard, integrated motherboard solution.

USB 3.0 has a throughput ceiling of 500 MB/sec., that's megabytes per second. We witnessed a RAID 0 SSD demonstration of USB 3.0 in action and we can confirm that what we saw really impressed us. Clearly, this is some big headroom, and enough to run a bunch of fast SSD drives in RAID 0 without breaking a sweat--and you can do all of this externally.

  • eklipz330
    wow, 2010 should be a very nice year to upgrade... intel's 32nm, ssd's should be plentiful, ddr3 should lower to reasonable prices, usb 3.0, maybe oled monitors will be well into mass production... sounds like a good plan to me
  • kelfen
    nice to see some major advancements in the usb department
  • Seems to me now would be the best time to position USB 3.0 as the new standard interconnect for everything. DisplayLink is already a USB technology, and USB is already the default connection for every external device imaginable, and some that aren't!

    I 2-3 years, I envision tower computers with a scarcity of cabling. Hard drives will be gone; in their place will be multiple SSDs. All those SSDs will exist on their own USB3 channel, with power AND data handled over the single thin USB cable. Just 2 SSDs in a RAID 0, and the average user has access to 800 MB/sec of transfer to their 1 TB of storage. Power users with 4 SSDs in a RAID 0 will have 1.6 GB/sec of read and write to their 8 TB of storage capacity.

    And because of the bandwidth available, internal and external cards will both sport the same connector. PCI will be a memory, and PCI Express will be for 3D cards only. Add-on sound cards, network cards, TV and convergence technologies, and everything else will also be USB-based.

    In short, USB will take over the world, were it not for one salient fact: USB 3.0 is *still* a host-based technology, and as such will still require the CPU to do some of the processing work in moving the data.

    Long live Firewire 3200!
  • Tindytim
    Big whoop. It still has to use the host CPU for low level protocol processing, which will cut the performance down significantly.

    Firewire > USB
  • liemfukliang
    Can you show what the cpu utilitation at that time?
  • kschoche
    Zach -

    Aside from adding a few zeros to your numbers that I disagree with, you're totally correct on the fact that the host-based-edness of the usb protocol is going to eat cpu cycles, ESPECIALLY at rates 800MB/s. In two to three years, IMO, you wont see any single or double disk system that can push 800MB/s, and even then, good luck having affordable controllers to manage that kind of bandwidth.

    Who knows, its the future, surprise me world :D

  • zodiacfml
    nice prediction there.
    indeed, ssd's can be used with the new usb 3.0 standard, no need for power cable.
    the only problem there would be future scaling, by the time usb3.0 is popular, SSD drives will be much faster and cheaper, they can max usb throughput easily with a raid 0 config leaving no more bandwidth for other devices like multi megapixel webcams, digicams, and/or HD video cameras, printer, and scanners.
    anyways, SATA will be there for ssd's future.

    for now, USB is still the interface port for the masses.