Intel says farewell to PCI bus
Soon another technology that in the past years dominated the always-changing universe of computer hardware will bite the dust. That’s the decision by Intel, the merciless executioner of standards which the company itself imposes on the market and that in the upcoming months will rule the end of official support for the PCI bus. Developed by the Californian chipmaker in 1993, the PCI Local Bus standard has been implemented on all the motherboards for x86 and compatible platforms until 2004, the year when it passed on the baton to the younger and faster PCI Express technology.
As already happened in 2006 with the communication standard for storage subsystems EIDE–Parallel ATA, the new chipsets for motherboards based on the Sandy Bridge microarchitecture – that Intel will introduce in the last part of 2010 – won’t have support for the old PCI bus also known as “Conventional PCI”, implementing all the communications between peripherals and subsystems inside the chipset via the PCI Express bus. The parallel PCI standard is too old and too slow compared to the bandwidth offered by the various PCIe versions, so Intel decided to get rid of yet another bottleneck restraining the PC hardware evolution.
Intel PCI-free chipsets expected to be unveiled are H67, P67 e H61, they will implement the new LGA1155 CPU socket (which would be a pin less than the current LGA1156), will support 8 independent PCIe 2.0 lanes, Serial ATA connections at 6 Gigabits and 14 USB 2.0 ports. Just to be clear, these chipset are targeted at the consumer market while the new chipsets designed for the enterprise market (Q67, Q65 e B65) will continue to support the PCI bus. Intel’s choice may seem drastic, yet it is justified by the fact that to this date, after 17 years since the technology appeared on the market, most of the expansion cards on sale snubs PCIe and is designed to be housed in a PCI slot.
Not that Intel alone, insofar as its monopolistic position on technology and x86(-64) PC hardware may be, can rule the definitive death of a standard so used and widespread in every kind of market: old technologies, the floppy disks recent example proves it, tend to survive within the wrinkles of the market until there is someone using or asking for them. Technology evolution didn’t kill Floppy Disk Drives or Parallel-ATA yet and surely it won’t make PCI bus and peripherals disappear so easily.
It’s similarly predictable that motherboards manufacturers, to remedy to Intel death decree on PCI, will do exactly what they are continuing to do nowadays to support the aforementioned FDDs and PATA ie they will pack additional chips and electronic logics next to the ones included in the Intel designs. The default circuitry will deal with the latest peripherals and subsystems, while the custom components will continue to pump electric power into the aged PCI cards.