The Evolution of PCIe: Paving the Way for USB Type-C

In our ever-evolving landscape of technology, advancement remains central to defining how we connect and communicate. In computing applications, the Peripheral Component Interconnect Express (PCIe) standard is among the most significant examples of this progress. PCIe, the main data transfer bus in the majority of computer systems and devices, facilitates the high-speed interconnectivity of peripheral devices and the transfer of vast amounts of data between them.

PCIe’s evolution has played a pivotal role in quenching the thirst for systems that provide increased data, shorter processing and transfer times, and immediate decision-making. It has enabled the success of high-speed device interfaces such as USB Type-C and others.

The PCIe Evolution: 1.0 to 6.0

Introduced in 2003, PCIe was a groundbreaking innovation. It provided a data transfer rate of 2.5 gigatransfers per second (GT/s) per lane. PCIe 2.0 followed in 2007, doubling speed to 5 GT/s. In 2010 we saw PCIe 3.0 make its introduction, offering backward compatibility with previous versions and pushing the per-lane performance to 8 GT/s.

Appetite for data-intensive applications encouraged further improvements in the PCIe performance curve, with PCIe 4.0 debuting in 2017 at double the data rate of its predecessor. The trend of doubling bandwidth has continued, with the current version, PCIe 6.0 (announced in 2021), offering 64 GT/s per lane. In more common terms, across 16 lanes this represents 1,024 GT/s per second per direction, or 256 GB/s of bidirectional bandwidth capability.

What Does This Mean for IoT Devices?

The Internet of Things (IoT) has resulted in mass interconnectivity of everyday objects and devices using sensors and software, enabling them to collect, process, and exchange data. IoT devices benefit from the evolution of PCIe in several ways:

Higher Bandwidth for Data-Intensive Applications: IoT devices often transmit and receive large amounts of data from multiple sources. The major increases in transfer rates offered with PCIe 4.0, 5.0, and 6.0 enable these devices to manage that data more efficiently, opening the door to real-time decision-making and analytics.

Improved Responsiveness: Low latency is an important requirement for many IoT devices, and the improved data rates of modern PCIe interfaces help ensure that time-sensitive operations are performed with minimal latency, enhancing the user experience.

Power Efficiency: Many IoT devices are battery-powered or rely on limited power sources. PCIe offers optimized power management, enabling power efficiency without sacrificing performance.

Scalability: IoT-based systems continue to grow in complexity and size, and PCIe’s data rate supports that growth with the availability of vast resources for expansion.

Cloud Computing Benefits

Cloud computing has dramatically changed the way we access and manage data. For cloud-based systems to be beneficial, they must have reliable and robust interconnectivity and performance. PCIe helps make this possible with several advantages:

Improved Virtual Machine Migration: Providers of cloud-based systems rely on virtual machines and frequently migrate those across servers to balance processing loads. PCIe’s current data rates reduce the time required to migrate virtual machines, reducing downtime and increasing efficiency.

Faster Data Analytics: Analytics of Big Data go hand in hand with cloud computing. PCIe is ideally positioned to move data quickly between storage devices and processors, resulting in faster analytics and decision-making.

AI and Machine Learning: Deep leaning and machine learning consume significant processing resources to train models and build artificial intelligence. PCIe enables faster data access and transfer times, minimizing idle time and shortening inference and training times.

Enhancing External Devices

While PCIe is primarily internal to computer systems, its true performance ability can only be fully leveraged if it’s supplied with data. Many IoT and edge devices are small in form factor and make use of external peripherals such as hard drives and other data sources. USB Type-C is fast becoming an interface of choice for peripheral connectivity. Supporting USB as well as Thunderbolt, and with the ability to supply up to 240 W of power, the single-cable solution simplifies connectivity and uses up to 4 PCIe lanes. The result is an external interface that supports transfer rates of up to 40 Gbps per device (using Thunderbolt) and is cross-compatible with USB devices that make use of the Type-C interface.

PCIe’s evolution is the result of the relentless pursuit of performance and efficiency in computing. As IoT devices and cloud computing become more present in our daily lives, this technology is certain to remain a cornerstone of the architecture, fueling innovation and pushing the envelope of data transfer and processing.

To better understand how improvements in PCIe or other interconnectivity technology might improve your business efficiency, productivity, and performance, the advice of an industrial computing processional can be invaluable. CoastIPC has a team of experts ready to ensure that you select the right equipment to satisfy your application requirements.

For more information about PCIe, USB Type-C, or other interface technology, or for help selecting the right industrial computer configuration for your application, please contact our product experts at [email protected] or 866-412-6278.