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Upgrade set for new hard-drive spec

Barely six months after the first version of Serial ATA was announced, work is under way on version 2, aimed at servers and network storage.

SAN FRANCISCO--Barely six months after the first version of the Serial ATA hard-drive interface was announced--and before products based on it are available--work is under way on version 2.

Fully compatible with version 1, the updated storage specification is aimed at servers and network storage, the Serial ATA Working Group announced Monday at the Intel Developer Forum here.

The new version will include more--as yet unspecified--features, and a faster transfer speed. The feature upgrade is planned to be finalized in the second half of the year, with products available in 2003. The speed increase will be defined by the end of 2003, with product availability for the year after that.

Serial ATA builds on the existing parallel hard-disk interface standard also known as IDE. It replaces multiple parallel connections with a much thinner cable and includes the ability to do hot-swapping. Many companies from the working group are announcing or demonstrating technology and future products at the Intel forum, including Adaptec with an interface adapter chip, and Maxtor and Seagate with hard disks.

Serial ATA promises speeds of 1.5 gigabits per second, nearly twice the 800 megabits per second supplied by the current version, ATA 100.

But with Serial ATA still some ways off, some companies are turning to other options. Chipmaker Via Technologies, for instance, last week launched its KT333 chipset with ATA-133 support, an alternative technology that keeps the parallel architecture of current ATA/IDE standards, but simply speeds up the interface. Of the hard-disk makers, only Maxtor is understood to be supporting ATA-133, but more may follow.

Meanwhile, Eurologic Systems said Tuesday it's showing prototype storage systems using serial ATA at the Intel Developer Forum. Eurologic is using Intel's Serial ATA components for the product.