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Serial ATA Explained - What's the big deal?

Today we begin our investigation into the relatively new and future orientated Serial ATA interface for our personal computing storage needs and discuss the benefits, as well as disadvantages, compared to the aging Parallel ATA standard which we've been using for around 15 years now.

| Editorials in Storage | Posted: Jan 15, 2004 5:00 am

 

Introduction

 

In 2003, Serial ATA (or SATA for short) stepped into the internal storage sector and set its sights on displacing the long standing Parallel ATA (or PATA for short). With every hard drive manufacturer producing SATA-compatible drives, chipset manufacturers updating their chipsets to support SATA, and Intel leading the way for users to change over to this new interface, the industry-wide opinion that SATA is the new standard interface for internal storage became clear. It also became apparent that PATA-based devices should start to see their end-of-life in the near future.

 

While everyone rushed around to bring native SATA to motherboards, we were stuck with SATA PCI cards and SATA drives with bridge chips that acted as "translators" that only made PATA drives compatible to SATA without a need for a converter clipped on to the back of each drive. The SATA PCI cards were noticeably limited by the ancient PCI bus and SATA drives could not see their full potential until hard drive manufacturers produced native SATA drives which did not have to deal with additional overhead of a bridge chip.

 

These issues were quickly alleviated with the introduction of newer chipsets that natively implemented SATA, allowing motherboards to have integrated SATA support and avoiding costly SATA RAID chips for the lower-end of the market. Around the same time, Seagate introduced their native SATA hard drive series, Barracuda V. These drives were the first to provide true SATA implementation. There was no additional cost of a bridge chip and gave the world a look at how SATA would truly perform.

 

To understand why there is a need for the new interface, you need only look at the situation and age of PATA. For nearly fifteen years, computers have relied on the Parallel interface. It is still in much the same form as it was when it first came into the personal computer. There have been updates every few years, but you can only update something so much before you lose compatibility. It is headed down the path of becoming the only bottleneck in the modern personal computer.

 

There are numerous technologies making their way into our computers later this year such as PCI Express and DDR-II. There is also BTX (a new form factor) that Intel will start to push heavily this year. All of these technologies will change the way the computer performs. PCI Express and DDR-II aim to alleviate possible and current bottlenecks that today's computers suffer from. BTX will change the way we manage the cooling in our computers and provide more reliability as all parts within the modern personal computer operate hotter and hotter with just about every release.

 

 

(Just to get you started, take a look at the differences in SATA and PATA connectors on both Hard Disk Drives)

 

What good will these technologies be if we must continue to rely on a standard, though trusted and tested well, that is older than (more than likely) any computer component you own or, at least, use regularly? It will create bottlenecks for these technologies and slow what would become a true masterpiece of the personal computer.

 

 

 

Find the lowest price on Serial ATA Hard Disk Drives!

 

Further Reading: Read and find more Storage content at our Storage reviews, guides and articles index page.

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