Delays Hamper Deployment of PCIe 6.0 and 7.0

Forward-looking: As consumers and hardware manufacturers adapt to PCIe 5.0, the connection standard’s regulatory body is preparing its two successors, PCIe 6.0 and 7.0. Neither was expected to reach end users anytime soon, and new roadblocks have delayed their implementation by a year.

The PCI Special Interest Group (PCI-SIG) recently provided an update on the development of future PCIe protocols. Progress remains steady with the release of the 0.5 draft specification for PCIe 7.0, but the compliance programs for both PCIe 6.0 and 7.0 have been delayed.

Final specifications for PCIe 6.0 were released in early 2022. The following year, the PCI-SIG released version 0.3 draft specifications for PCIe 7.0, along with a projected launch schedule for the compliance programs for 6.0 and 7.0 – the point where real-world products begin emerging for each standard.

Release roadmaps for PCIe standards from 2023 (top) and 2024 (bottom)

Hardware supporting PCIe 6.0 was initially set to enter enterprise markets in March of this year, with PCIe 7.0 following in 2027. However, a recent presentation covering the release of the version 0.5 specs for PCIe 7.0 has pushed the schedule back.

Now, a preliminary live compliance program for PCIe 6.0 is set to begin in the second quarter of 2024 (which ends this month), with a more advanced launch scheduled for 2025. The final specs for PCIe 7.0 are still planned for 2025, but the corresponding live compliance program has been delayed to 2028.

These launches are initially intended for data centers, followed by industrial, automotive, aerospace, and military applications, with consumer electronics further down the line. A delay in one step could push the entire roadmap back.

The new PCI-SIG presentation also included an update regarding the standard’s upgrade to optical connections. Last month, new CopperLink standards were introduced, aiming to give data center builders more cabling options. However, ever-faster PCIe standards are pushing the limits of current cabling technology, and the PCI-SIG is looking to optical connections as a successor.

Plans for optical PCIe standards now include an Engineering Change Request (ECR), which will enhance but not replace current electrical layers. The ECR is set to be finalized in December 2024, and optical standards will support PCIe 6.0 and 7.0.

Most consumer PCs currently use either PCIe 3.0 or 4.0-compliant parts. The most notable PCIe 5.0 products thus far have been SSDs capable of reading at a blistering 14 GB/s, thanks to the standard’s 128 GB/s bandwidth.

PCIe 6.0 is designed to double that to 256 GB/s, and PCIe 7.0 aims to double it again to 512 GB/s on x16 lanes. Other enhancements coming with the new standards include Pulse Amplitude Modulation with four levels (PAM4), Lightweight Forward Error Correction (FEC), Cyclic Redundancy Check (CRC), and Flow Control Units (Flits).

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