eSATA: A doomed stopgap?
The kiss of USB 3.0 death
Comment The external SATA (eSATA) interconnect is merely an interim idea and the coming of USB 3.0 will kill it off, according to Verbatim's EMEA business development manager Hans Christoph Kaiser.
The background is that eSATA, running at 3Gbit/s (around 300MB/sec), is meant to connect external disk drives to PCs using the SATA protocol. Currently most external drives are connected by USB 2.0 running at a pedestrian 480Mbit/s. USB, the universal serial bus, is a general external device interconnect for PCs and notebooks, encompassing thumb drives, digital cameras, web cams and external hard drives.
Since USB was first mooted and made available, the capacities of external disk drives have rocketed and transferring multi-GB files between a PC and a 1TB SATA drive can take a long, long time. Speeding this up was the obvious eSATA benefit. It was first conceived of at SATA 1 speed, 1.5Gbit/s, and then developed to eSATA 2 running at SATA 2's 3.0Gbit/s.
In January 2008 the SATA-IO group said it would extend the specification to have the connecting Power Over eSATA cable deliver power to the external device as well as carry data. Such a POeSATA standard is still not here, meaning eSATA devices continue to need a separate power cable.
Seagate and AMD have just demonstrated a working 6Gbit/s SATA 3 interconnect, but there is no news yet of any corresponding eSATA 3 specification. Seagate sources suggest we won't see SATA 3 devices in much use before 2011, so that gives plenty of time for the SATA-IO group to react.
There's no question that eSATA is very much faster than USB 2.0. However, most PCs and laptops don't come with a built-in eSATA port and the internal electronics to connect it to the PC's bus. It costs money to do this, and keeping the cost of goods down in the cutthroat PC/notebook markets is crucial for supplier profitability.
High-end products, like Dell's Adamo, do boast an eSATA port. Solid State Drive suppliers like Transcend and Buffalo have added eSATA ports to some of their SSD products. Still, none of these are bread-and-butter products.
You can have a DIY eSATA setup by installing a special card in your PC which provides an eSATA port, such as the Promise SATA300 TX4302. Then you buy your external drive with an eSATA port, such as a Seagate FreeAgent Extreme, purchase an eSATA cable and away you go. It's just not convenient.
So along comes USB 3.0, rated at around 4.7Gbit/s, say 470MB/s, which will leapfrog SATA 2's speed and be backwards-compatible with current USB 2.0 and 1 devices. We can expect stand-alone USB 3.0 controllers by the end of the year and the first USB 3.0 products in 2010. It seems inevitable that product manufacturers will switch USB ports on their products to USB 3.0 very quickly.
Kaiser said that manufacturers switched from USB 1 to USB 2.0 virtually instantly, and Verbatim intends to switch to USB 3.0 with its own external hard drive products as soon as it's available.
By the end of 2010 there will be hundreds of products using the USB 3.0 interconnect as standard and very few using eSATA as standard. Isn't it likely that, to save component costs, manufacturers will ditch eSATA ports and rely just on USB 3.0?
FireWire's spread was severely cramped by USB 2.0, with Apple focusing on USB interconnects instead of FireWire. I think we can foresee a repeat of this pattern with USB 3.0 and eSATA taking FireWire's role. When USB 3.0 arrives who will need eSATA and how will its expense be justified? Ditto S3200 FireWire. That's a coming 3.2Gbit/s FireWire format due later this year. It's a niche play surely.
It looks as if Kaiser is right - eSATA is strictly an interim standard that will be blown away by USB 3.0. FireWire is a niche interconnect and eSATA is an interim one with both failing to achieve USB's universality because they don't have its widespread manufacturer and customer adoption, and have never achieved a sustainable competitive advantage. USB 3.0 will give both of them a lip-smacking kiss of death. ®
eSATA will stay
Been seeing more and more laptops appearing with eSATA on them recently. Mostly the HP's mind you, but then again why not? if your using SATA anyhow, whats an extra connection to add an extra feature to the spec sheet.
It is quiet sad there is such a huge lack of support from hardware vendors, but then again USB1 was as bad. Was almost 5 years before people started bothering with it much. But that is the thing, while eSATA currently maybe still in its infancy, its more about what is to come from it down the line. As SATA continues to advance for drives, so will eSATA due to its easy use. USB will continue as its so familiar to everyone for most things and is so cheap to impliment.
The big question is Firewire due to its relatively huge licensing charges which is why the majority of machines still lack it and its only added as a feature on the more premium products. Firewire should be wonderful for all kinds of kit, yet until its prices are lowered to support such an implementation and compete against USB it is just a premium addition and is the most likely to disappear. It won't due to it being a premium item, yet it won't become anywhere near as mass market as USB, or eSATA can become, until its excessive licensing is changed and more products adopt it.
esata here to stay
I disagree but not completely.
I have esata devices but currently frustrated by the vendor support of this
emerging device.esata is really good.Better than usb2.
It is more corporate politics and vested interest slowing this adoption
with big vendors sitting on the fence.
1. esata is here and now, performs faster than usb and is quick enough to last a decade.
2. all it needs is power with the port(esatav3) like usb to make it more popular and it will win.
3. Esata is just the external connector to sata controllers which have already
won in the mainstream hdd market. Sata is already mainstream and industry standard now.
So they just extend off existing present sata success which is popular.
SSD don't have the capacities of external sata drives for the price/ performance.
4. esata connector is as simple as usb to the user.
To be a success, esata needs driver support with vendors such as Microsoft, HP, Sun etc
There is room for both standards as they connect to different controllers.
eg. sata controller and usb controller.
There is already convergence of esata and USB.
There is room for both.
Both standards will survive IMHO.
Has the author experience with eSATA?
I WONDER Has the author had experience with eSATA?
Is he aware of the things you can do with esata devices which cannot be done with usb?
My experience is not many techies have real hands on experience with esata.
eg. i came back from Hk with an esata gadget and no one at the Computer market in London
had one or knew about esata and there was 40+ "IT techies" there.
esata needs more vendor support to be a real success.
If he had, I doubt he would reach his conclusion.
esata, usb & firewire ...all here to stay.
esata = sata
Esata will only fail if sata fails.
sata is the dominant hdd controller standard equally as popular as usb.
Anyone can add esata to a sata controller for the price of a $2 cable and knowledge
of using a screwdriver.
It might go the way of scsi...which is still here.
I think that as many people have said above, surely it comes down to device support...
even if it cost the same amount for a manufacturer to put in an esata port as it does a USB port the masses are always going to want a usb port.
why? because it supports all kind of devices, mouse/hdd/printers/cameras/phones/wifi adapters/serial adapters/wireed ethernet adapters/external displays the list goes on
and I truely believe that's why USB has beaten firewire for support as well, fire wire being useful for transfer to external hdds because of a greater speed and video cameras... but these are specific applications. e.g the supported device list is limited.
and with eSATA the supported device list falls to just 1 device.
I assume that USB3 will be backwardly compatible as well, meaning that I don't have to replace any devices regardless of their age.
it's not that eSATA is bad by any means, just that with space as a premuim, (either in laptop cases, or in regular motherboard backplane you're going to go with the one that the most people can use more.
and the select few that really want that eSATA adapter because they have an external disk that is eSATA capable are going to buy an extra adapter. and they'll consider this money well spent.
they few that don't want this are not going to buy that extra adapter, and would probably consider it a waste to have included such a thing to start with.