As hard drives get bigger and faster, the interface between the drive and your PC's motherboard must evolve to handle the increased speed. ATA/100 hard drives, announced last week by Quantum, should be up to the task.
The latest incarnation of the ubiquitous IDE interface, ATA/100 transfers data at burst rates of up to 100MB per second. Typically with IDE, sustained transfer rates are much slower. Quantum developed and patented the technology, as it did the earlier ATA/33 and ATA/66 interfaces. And as with prior versions, licences are free to hard drive and PC makers.
Also like earlier interfaces, the ATA/100 specification is likely to be called by several names by different vendors, including DMA-100 or Ultra-DMA 100.
Industry sources expect a quick ramp-up to ATA/100-based products, unlike ATA/66. Quantum introduced that interface in 1998, but it didn't become common until this year because of interoperability glitches. Quantum has worked closely with PC, drive and chip set manufacturers while developing ATA/100, says a company spokesperson. Also, the new interface is said to be easier for designers to work with than ATA/66.
ATA/100, however, will be yet another interim speed step. The SerialATA interface, now in development, will initially offer burst transfer rates in the 150MB-per-second range, and will eventually exceed 200MB per second. SerialATA products are expected to become available within the next two years.
Intel's new 820E chip set will support ATA/100, and some manufacturers expect to ship PCs with the interface as soon as next month. Supporters include Acer, Compaq, Dell, Fujitsu, Gateway, HP, IBM, and NEC, which all plan to offer ATA/100 systems. Add-in board makers such as Promise Technology are expected to offer after-market ATA/100 adapters for PCs with a chip set that doesn't support ATA/100.
Although Quantum doesn't expect to ship ATA/100 drives until the third quarter, other major drive makers have more immediate plans.
As from last week, Maxtor is shipping selected drives with built-in ATA/100 compatibility. They include the 7200-rotations-per-minute DiamondMax Plus drives and the 5400-rpm DiamondMax 60 and DiamondMax 30 VL, all available in capacities up to 60GB.