There are a number of components within a computer motherboard. Peripheral Component Interconnect Express abbreviated as PCIe®, is the most common high speed interface that helps in connecting peripheral hardware to the motherboard and is considered as the standard internal interface. It can be used to connect components like graphics cards, sound cards, Ethernet and Wi-Fi adapters and even high speed SSDs. This point-to-point memory-oriented load/store protocol has stood the test of over two decades spanning six generations of bandwidth expansion, and has exceeded customer expectations of speed as well as economies of scale.
What makes PCIe® Special?
PCIe® is much advanced when compared to its predecessors in terms of increased bus throughput, reduced footprint, lower I/O pin counts, and enhanced performance. These are hot swappable and supports Advanced Error Reporting (AER). The interconnect speed is defined by the number of lanes, and its versions. Each lane consists of four wires or signal traces in two differential signaling pairs, one for receiving data and other for transmitting.
Evolution of PCIe®
PCIe® Gen1 was introduced in 2003 and supported a transfer rate of 2.5GT/s and a data rate of 250MB/s per lane. With technological improvements, people began searching for higher speed and performance which led to the introduction of PCIe® Gen 2 with 5.0GT/s per lane transfer speed and doubled the throughput to 500MB/s per lane along with several feature improvements. This version was backward-compatible with the earlier version.
Development of PCIe® 3.0
Later in 2010, the third generation of PCIe® was introduced as a revolutionary protocol with a bit rate of 8GT/s. This was an ideal solution for more complex applications that demanded enhanced power, speed, and data handling capacity. This was quite enough to transfer a 30GB HD movie in less than a second.
Amphenol Solutions for PCIe®
Learning that connectors are an integral part of the PCI Express ecosystem, Amphenol has developed solutions to meet the demands of these PCIe® standards. Our PCIe® connectors are designed to meet PCIe® specifications in terms of performance, adhering to features like impedance, insertion loss and return loss limits, alongside withstanding the weight of high performance GPU cards and sustaining through shock and vibration tests.
Our PCI Express® Gen 3 Card Edge Connectors are specially designed 8Gb/s sockets for low profile systems. These 1.00mm pitch, vertical card edge connectors enable (PCIe®) signaling from 2.5Gb/s supporting Gen 1 and 5Gb/s for Gen 2 up to 8Gb/s of Gen 3 per differential signal pair. The modular design of these connectors allows standard pin counts like 36, 64, 98, 164 and 280.
Basic Applications of PCIe® Connectors
The basic bandwidth (x1) version is typically used for I/O cards in desktop PCs as they support a single PCIe® lane, whereas the x4 and x8 connectors provide 64 and 98 contacts respectively for server I/O. The high bandwidth versions of x16 lanes and higher are suitable for higher bandwidth applications like graphics cards in PCs or riser cards in servers. In addition, it is also used in applications in data communications for Servers, workstations, Routers, industrial embedded systems, interface processing and data storage devices like storage servers.
PCIe Gen 4 and 5 for Artificial Intelligence
When Artificial Intelligence and Big Data started gaining momentum, the requirement for blinding speeds using dedicated graphic processing unit (GPU) started catching the trend, which led to the introduction of PCIe® 4.0 in 2017. Amphenol's PCIe 4.0 card edge connectors come with 16GT/s (PCIe lanes) and speeds to meet the demands of next-generation servers and Enterprise SSDs.
Advanced PCIe® Solutions
Amphenol is recognized as a leading supplier of connectors in the Server industry, with best-in-class signal integrity performance. We offer the widest range of card edge connectors to support the implementation of PCIe Gen 4/5 industry interfaces. Our expansive range of PCIe® Gen 4 and Gen 5 connectors are capable of 32GT/s per differential signal pair. This range of blind-mate connectors also meet a wide range of vertical and right angle configurations.
PCIe®M.2 connectors based on the NGFF standard promise similar Gen 4 performance over a compact form factor and are optimum for wireless connectivity in consumer devices and Artificial Intelligence processing in data centers. Our M.2 Gen 3 and Gen 4 connectors provide 67 contacts on 0.50mm pitch. With 16GT/s bit rates which is double the bandwidth offered by PCI Express 3.0, these connectors occupies lesser board space, offers more connector height options and supports higher bandwidth.
The Next Generation PCIe® 6.0
Now PCI-SIG has announced its sixth generation, the PCIe® 6.0, which is targeted to be released by 2021 and is designed to meet the evolving trends including Artificial Intelligence and Big Data. The new standards will be introduced with double the data rates i.e, it will leap to 64GT/s from the 32GT/s of PCIe® 5.0. The optimized series supports backwards mating and is footprint compatible with PCIe® 3/2/1. Apart from this, built-in proprietary systems like the Mini Cool Edge Connectors are an ideal choice for new generation EDSFF-based Data Center SSD and FPGA-based workload accelerators as they offer multi-protocol support like EDSFF and Gen-Z over PCIe®. When it comes to high speed data storage like Enterprise SSDs, Amphenol offers advanced solutions like the Mini SAS HD interconnects and PCIe® OCuLink.
With solid support for peripheral computing in the form of Gen 4/5 signaling and the upcoming Gen 6, PCI Express® has once again demonstrated its ability to stay ahead of its times and Amphenol will continue to provide industry leading solutions to perform to needs of diverse markets.