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Drive standard to pump data on the double

A group working to improve the Serial ATA communication standard for hard drives promises a spec to up its data-transfer rate to 3Gbps by the end of the year.

Speedier data transfers between disk drives and computers are in the pipeline, a standards-development group says.

The Serial ATA II Working Group, which is charged with improving the Serial ATA communication standard for hard drives, said Thursday it is on track to deliver a specification to double the interface's data-transfer rate to 3 gigabits per second (gbps) soon.

"We anticipate it will be out by the end of the year," said Knut Grimsrud, chairman of the working group. The announcement was made in addition to new specifications unveiled by the group this week.

Serial ATA, or SATA, is a relatively new high-speed interface standard for disk drives. Its development reflects a broader trend toward using serial connections in PCs, as they promise to cut down on wiring and so help shrink the overall size of machines.

Thanks to its higher-end features, SATA is encroaching on the SCSI hard-drive standard that prevails in servers today. But the SCSI group is working on a major overhaul of its own, called Serial Attached SCSI (SAS).

The new milestones announced by the working group include an upgraded specification for port multipliers and a specification for port selectors. The first allows port multipliers, which allow multiple hard drives to be connected to one computer, to notify the host computer if a SATA drive has been plugged into, or unplugged from, a port. The specification should lead to a reduction in cabling and improved airflow in storage devices with SATA technology, according to the working group.

The port-selector specification aims to let two different host computers connect to the same drive, in order to create a redundant path to the drive. The redundancy feature should allow continued access to data if one of the two computers fails, according to Grimsrud, who is also an Intel engineer.

The Serial ATA II Working Group is part of the Serial ATA Working Group.