Phison has announced its first controller platform featuring a PCIe Gen 5 interface with a 32 GT/s data transfer rate per lane. The first SSDs based on the E26-series platform will arrive in the second half of 2022 and will be aimed at high-end client PCs as well as enterprise-grade storage devices.
On the hardware side of matters, Phison’s E26 controller will be based around Arm Cortex-R5 cores that will be accompanied by special-purpose accelerators that belong to the company’s CoXProcessor 2.0 package. The controller will support all modern and upcoming types of 3D NAND memory featuring ONFI 5.x and Toggle 5.x interfaces at up to 2400 MT/s data transfer speeds. Being designed for enterprise-grade SSDs, Phison’s E26 will also support PCIe Dual Port connectivity for U.3 drives, single root input/output virtualization (SR-IOV), and zone namespaces (ZNS) functionality.
Considering that implementation of high-speed PCIe 5.0 interface is rather expensive, expect makers of SSDs to focus on primarily on enterprise-grade SSDs with PCIe Gen 5. Phison is not an exception with its E26 platform that is flexible enough to address M.2 drives for client PCs (that will probably be among the best SSDs when they are available) as well as entry-level servers, U.3 drives for mission-critical and high-availability machines, and E1.S/E3.S for high-density all-flash storage arrays.
Phison stresses that the E26 controller eliminates usage of some IP blocks (the company does not disclose which exactly) that are typically licensed from third parties, which naturally eliminates payments of licensing fees to developers of appropriate IP.
Phison has successfully taped out the E26 controller using a 12 nm-class process technology and will start sampling the platform with select motherboard partners to enable them to tune their electrical signal link-ups, command timing, and BIOS settings to ensure compatibility with the upcoming drives. Meanwhile, the company’s engineers are hard at work developing firmware for the E26, which now exists in an FPGA form.
PCIe 5.0-enabled platforms are harder to build when compared to PCIe 3.0 and 4.0 platforms due to higher data transfer speeds. At high data rates, interferences become a major problem over long distances, so signal strength gets crucially important. To build proper PCIe Gen5 platforms for the enterprise space, system developers are going to need to use multiple PCIe 5.0 redrivers (which Phison recently started to offer) to ensure signal integrity. To that end, it is crucial for system designers to get samples of PCIe 5.0 SSDs as soon as possible to ensure that their machines work with them.
Phison expects the first SSDs based on its E26-series controllers to be available in the second half of 2022. Keeping in mind that Phison yet has to start sampling of its E26-based SSDs with system makers, expect actual drives to arrive to the market sometimes in late 2022.