The PCI Special Interest Group (SIG) have taken a look at Thunderbolt, and have already started to get cracking on the development of a PCI Express 3.0 variant which ought to be able to hold a candle to the Thunderbolt format from Intel and Apple. The new format has yet to be named, but it is touted to be at least three times faster than the current one at 32Gbps, sporting eight billion (!) transfers per second, alongside the similar peak four lanes of data at distances of up to 10 feet. Apart from that, it will also be able to carry power on copper wires, with a rating of up to 20W, coupled with a flatter cable compared to the Thunderbolt wire which is small, but round.
There is a 4-year roadmap that will usher in optical and upgraded copper connections, and when completed, this might just translate into a doubling of transfers to 16 billion per second, while playing nice with PCIe 4.0 in the process. Work has just started, and the spec could see completion only nine to 18 months from now. As for products that are ready to ship, the ideal date would be before June a couple of years from now.
Sounds good on paper, but it must be noted that Intel isn’t going to rest on their laurels, and the semiconductor giant has already promised speeds that can go as high as 100Gbps within the next few years. Hopefully consumers will be the ones who win in the end as the 800lbs gorillas duke it out in our interest.
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