PCI-SIG Completes CopprLink Cabling Standard: PCIe 5.0 & 6.0 Get Wired

PCI-SIG Completes CopprLink Cabling Standard: PCIe 5.0 & 6.0 Get Wired

PCI-SIG sends word this morning that a special interest group has completed its development efforts on the group's new PCI-Express cabling standard, CopprLink. Designed to go hand-in-hand with PCIe 5.0 and PCIe 6.0, CopprLink defines both internal and external copper cabling for the latest PCIe standards, allowing system vendors and assemblers to wire together devices within a system. , or even entire systems. .

The CopprLink standard is, in effect, a pair of standards sharing the same brand name under the PCI-SIG umbrella. The internal standard, “CopprLink internal cable”, is designed to allow a new generation of PCIe cables up to 1 meter in length that are capable of maintaining PCIe 5.0 and PCIe 6.0 signaling. Internal CopprLink effectively complements older internal PCIe cabling standards (including the abandoned OCuLink), which were originally designed for early generations of PCIe signaling.

At a high level, internal CopprLink is intended to provide not only host-to-device connectivity, but also more transparent backhaul applications such as motherboard-to-backplane connectivity, and unique applications such as chip-to-chip PCIe connections. In other words, CopprLink allows cabled PCIe to be used in almost any situation where a PCIe connection needs to be established within the system. Strictly speaking, CopprLink doesn't replace PCIe CEM connectors in any way – but relatively thick copper cables have less signal loss than PCB traces, making the cable quality extremely useful for internal connections as well. Is. PCI-SIG sees CopprLink cables taking hold in the storage and data center markets, product categories where we already see PCIe cabling in use today.

The companion connector standard for internal CopprLink is the SFF-TA-1016 connector developed by SNIA, which is more similar to the widely used SFF-8654 (SlimSAS) connector. The SFF-TA-1016 is available in x4, x8, and x16 configurations, and while PCI-SIG doesn't go as far as specifying widths within its standard, the available connectors paint a clear picture of the options at hand. Internal CopprLink should be especially popular with x4 storage, as we're already seeing today.

Above: The SFF-TA-1016 family of connectors (Figure 4-1, photo courtesy of SNIA)
Bottom: Sample SFF-TA-1016 x4 contact plug and receptacle (Figure 4-2, photo courtesy of SNIA)

Meanwhile, the group has also developed an external cabling standard to cover the same PCIe 5.0/6.0 data rates. External CopprLink cables can go up to 2 meters, allowing board-to-board connections within a rack, and even shorter rack-to-rack PCIe connections.

The external version of CopprLink also uses a more robust connector, relying on SNIA's SFF-TA-1032 standard. Like the internal/1016, it is available with x4, x8, and x16 configurations using 44, 68, and 120 positions/pins, respectively. PCI-SIG expects this version of the standard to be adopted primarily by the AI/machine learning markets, which need to move large amounts of data between systems. Notably, however, they don't expect the storage market to actually use this specification – instead, they'll be served by an updated version of the classic PCI Express external cabling standard.

SFF-TA-1032 x16 plug and connector (Figure 4-1, photo courtesy of SNIA)

Finally, a little further away from the group's roadmap, PIG-SIG is also reiterating that they are also working on a new optical cabling standard. A working group for this project was established in 2023., so the project is still in its early days. In particular, the upcoming optical standard is intended to be optical technology-agnostic, allowing PCIe to be paired with a variety of optical technologies.

In the meantime, with internal and external CopprLink standards completed, PCI-SIG hopes to move this cabling into production quickly. Because these are purely cabling standards — and thus don't require new controllers or such intensive development efforts — the group is hoping its members will have them in time for the group's developer conference this summer. Something will show up, or the Memory Summit in Flash August. After that, hardware vendors should be able to deploy new cables relatively quickly.

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