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What does the future hold for PCI Express?

Details on PCIe 4.0 are still being hammered out, but early indications show it will have double the transfer rates of PCIe 3.0.

What is the future of PCI Express? Are faster iterations planned?

The peripheral devices that have prompted the increase in data rates to the PCI Express 3.0 standard will only continue to accelerate into the future in devices like graphics engines for VDI servers, PCIe-based network switches, InfiniBand adapters for server clusters and so on. This means there is a future roadmap for PCIe, which will take the interface beyond the current 3.0 standard.

In November of 2012, the Peripheral Component Interconnect Special Interest Group (PCI-SIG) began developing PCI Express (PCIe) 4.0. Early notes suggest the 4.0 standard will deal with power management and use 16 GT/s transfer rates, effectively doubling the 8 GT/s data bandwidth used with PCIe 3.0. The interface will also continue to use copper connections, and may be the last major iteration to use copper before a move to optical connections thereafter.

The PCI-SIG expects to release the final specification in late 2015, and actual systems and devices that use PCIe 4.0 would likely appear sometime in 2016.

PCIe has emerged as the predominate interface for peripheral devices. While desktop systems have relied on high-performance PCIe for years, servers are only now reaping the benefits of PCIe for data-intensive tasks like cluster connectivity and graphics/math engines. IT professionals can deploy PCIe 3.0 now, and PCIe 4.0 is on the horizon. As with any technological move, deployment should be preceded by a period of careful testing and evaluation -- not just for the PCIe device(s), but for the host server as well -- to ensure system performance and availability remain acceptable.

This was first published in April 2013

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