PCIe 7.0 wants to quadruple the bandwidth of devices

PCI-SIG ends to announce that the next generation PCI Express 7.0 specification is already underway. Technical working groups are now starting the development of the PCIe Gen 7.0 specification, which is due to be released in 2025.

PCIe 7.0 it will double the data transfer speed compared to the previous generation, bringing it up to a staggering 128 gigatransfers per second (GT/s). Meanwhile, PCIe Gen 5.0 SSDs remain in very short supply.

PCI-SIG, the consortium that manages the PCI specifications and maintains them as open industry standards, released PCIe Gen 7.0, promising data transfer rates never before seen. Part of PCI-SIG’s mission is to double input/output bandwidth every three years, and so far, that has been the case.

The current generation, PCIe 5.0, is capped at 32GT/s. The next generation, PCIe 6.0, will max out at 64GT/s. Now, we know for a fact that the next generation, PCI Express 7.0, will reach previously unimagined heights by delivering a raw bit rate of 128GT/s, as well as 512GB/s bidirectionally via a x16 configuration.

While the 128GT/s bitrate is certainly impressive, PCI-SIG has thrown a few other updates into the mix. The seventh iteration of PCIe has some other goals to meet, such as the use of pulse width modulation with 4-level signaling (PAM4). This modulation scheme takes two bits and then combines them into a single symbol that is four levels wide, and as a result can double the data rate of a network. It is also the recommended modulation format for implementing 400-gigabit Ethernet interfaces.

In addition to implementing and optimizing PAM4, PCIe Gen 7.0 has to stay on point when it comes to maintaining low latency combined with high reliability. PCI-SIG also wants to improve its power efficiency, focus on channel parameters and scope, and lastly, maintain compatibility with all previous generations of PCI Express.

Not surprisingly, with this kind of expected performance, PCIe 7.0 isn’t aimed at the average consumer. According to the press release, the specification is being made to support emerging applications, such as 800G Ethernet, artificial intelligence and machine learning, as well as quantum and cloud computing. The new specification will also reach some of the most compute-intensive markets, such as hyperscale data centers, military/aerospace computing, and other types of high-performance computing (HPC).

That’s a hefty list of goals to accomplish, but there’s still plenty of time for all of this to come to life. As for the adoption of PCIe in the consumer market, it hasn’t been too fast. Although the current generation is theoretically PCIe 5.0, such SSDs are still rarely available. On the other hand, the few of them that have already hit the market are blisteringly fast, reaching read speeds of 13,000MBps.

Intel’s Alder Lake platform supports PCIe 5.0, but PCIe 4.0 is still the option. However, with AMD soon to release its next-gen Zen 4 processors with PCIe 5.0 support, we’re likely to see a lot more PCIe 5 options among the best SSDs.

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