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Express Yourself
  • About

    This blog is all about PCI Express: the wonderful ways that it enhances the products around you, the challenges designers face in implementation, and how the specification is evolving to make PCIe Express an even more useful protocol. I'll also examine how the other specifications, such as NVM Express, SATA Express and SCSI-Over-PCI Express (SOP) are leveraging PCI Express. If there is a topic that is of interest to you, feel free to "Express Yourself" by offering your insights on this blog.
  • About the Author

    Scott Knowlton

    I started out my career as a chip designer in a variety of industries and it’s likely that a few, of the more than 30 designs I’ve been responsible for, are still floating around somewhere in outer space. My IP career started at Synopsys in 1997 and over the last 15 years, I have seen tremendous changes in the semiconductor industry’s perception and adoption of IP. I started working on PCI Express in 2003 when Synopsys was getting ready to launch our first PCI Express IP solution. Since then, I have been managing the DesignWare PCI Express IP product line through all of the changes in the specification and the industry as it moves towards becoming the de-facto interconnect standard. I received a B.S.E.E from the University of Michigan (M Go Blue!), am an avid red wine drinker (love California reds) and use English as a second language when my fluency in sarcasm just doesn’t get the job done.

    Richard Solomon

    I’ve been involved in the development of PCI chips dating back to the NCR 53C810 and pre-1.0 versions of the PCI spec so have definitely lived the evolution of PCI Express and PCI since the very beginning! Over the years I have worked on variations of PCI, eventually moving on to architecting and leading the development of the PCI Express and PCI-X interface cores used in LSI’s line of storage RAID controller chips. For the last ten plus years I've also had the honor of serving on the PCI-SIG Board of Directors and holding a variety of officer positions. I am still involved in PCI-SIG workgroups and I present at many PCI-SIG events around the world. Back before the dawn of PCI, I received my B.S.E.E. from Rice University, and hold over two dozen U.S. Patents, many of which relate to PCI technology.

Fires, Floods, and Form-Factors

Posted by Richard Solomon on September 20th, 2013

This has been one crazy summer for folks here in Colorado!  First we had the massive wildfires – including one that came entirely too near to me, the Black Forest Fire:
Black Forest fire near 8pm Tuesday
Most folks in Colorado either were affected directly by the fires or had friends/family who were, so it’s really hit home for all of us.

Just when we thought we could relax with fire season over, along came September’s record flooding:
Flooding in Westminser
just to remind us that Mother Nature is still in charge, no matter what we puny humans might think! 

Aside from being an alliterative fit with my IDF after-action theme of new form-factors, the foregoing serves as my blatantly obvious “the-dog-ate-my-homework” introduction to why this blog post comes so late after IDF…  While by no means as severely as many other Coloradoans, I too was directly affected by the recent record rainfall.  Consequently I’ve spent most of my “free” time this week cleaning up water intrusion into my basement.  Yes, the very basement I’ve written about previously as being home to entirely too many electronic devices…  Luckily we seem to be all dried out and one more pass of the old steam cleaner on the carpet will hopefully put things to rights.

Now that you’re just brimming with sympathy for my delayed blog, let’s talk about form-factors.  The big buzz at IDF was the “2 in 1″ – basically a powerful tablet convertible to an ultrabook:
2 in 1 devices at IDF13
The most popular form-factor seems to be the removable keyboard (ala Microsoft’s Surface) but some folks still have a preference for the screen-flipping single-piece units.

There was also a strong showing of pure tablets (7″-ish and 10″-ish) powered by modern x86-family CPUs:
Android and Windows Tablets at IDF13
which we’ve seen before here and there (with generally wimpy CPUs) but never in this kind of abundance.  (And not with Android certainly!)  I’m personally taking a wait-and-see approach to the x86 thin-and-light tablet.  It would definitely be cool to be able to run full-blown Windows on something the size of today’s Android/iOS tablets but I’m not sure how often I’d want to do that.  Not to mention burning 30GB or so of storage to hold Windows, Office, and a handful of other applications.  At which point then, the whole platform becomes less distinctive in my mind and becomes just another factor in the market price structure. 

Now those 2 in 1′s on the other hand…  I’m not going to lie: I got really excited about the Surface Pro when it first came out, but it was a little too thick, a little too slow, had a little too little storage space, and was a little too expensive to buy on impulse.  With this generation, Intel is making a big push to provide OEMs with the building blocks to do their own Surface Pro-like tablets but make them thinner, faster, and cheaper.  I’m psyched!  If these puppies come out around the same price as a high-end fruity or robotic tablet, I’m in for sure.

The other thing about the 2 in 1 form-factor that got me fired up is that they’re the perfect place to use M-PCIe.  When I describe M-PCIe to people for the first time, I often get a “yeah… but…” reaction: e.g. “Yeah that sounds neat, but who needs that kind of performance to play Angry Plants on their phone?”  Now that the thin-and-light tablet form-factor suddenly becomes practical for real work (I know, as a marketing guy I ought to say “content creation”) instead of goofing off (marketing speak: “content consumption”) by adding real keyboards (marketing speak: “real keyboards”), it’s obvious that this form-factor is clearly the sweet spot for M-PCIe.  I need real I/O performance for doing real work (and maybe playing Placid Pachyderms or whatever) and yet I don’t want to give up my 10hrs in 1.5lbs (660-something grams for metric folks).  M-PCIe gives the 2 in 1 designer exactly that kind of performance without power consumption non-compromise!

While I didn’t see any public announcements about M-PCIe 2 in 1s at IDF, I’d say it’s just a matter of time before we do.  At the rate things move these days, I’d guess that’s not years either…  Hmmm, Scott I’m gonna need to expense a new 2 in 1 for umm, M-PCIe market research, yeah that’s it!

As for the rest of IDF, I was a little saddened to see that the show has shifted more towards software developers, but I enjoyed talking with everyone who stopped by the booth.  (Well, ok, not that one guy who walked around me, grabbed the “special swag reserved for people who sat through Richard’s demo spiel” and grunted irritably while dodging my most pleasant “Can I tell you about M-PCIe?” blocking move!)  I will be curious to see how many of the 4,800* Thunderbolt bags show up on eBay somewhere.  Speaking of swag, nobody came by to claim the prize from my last posting.

Thanks again for reading Express Yourself , feel free to leave a comment with your favorite flavor of 2 in 1, or top 10 list of reasons I’m wrong (or even why I’m right).  Please also subscribe yourself, your friends and family, and even your pets if they have internet access like Carrie’s! 


*No kidding, I actually didn’t make that up – the lady at the Thunderbolt booth said she started the show with 4,800 bags.  She estimated maybe 8-900 were coming back with her!

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