Serial ATA (SATA) standard protocol was introduced in 2001 by the Serial ATA International Organization, organizing the compliance workshop (Plug fest), maintaining the list of compliant products and so on.

SATA is a differential serial, dual simplex, point to point protocol. The transfer rate will depend on the SATA revision:
  • SATA revision 1.0 is defined at 1.5 Gbps; this gives a bandwidth of 1.2 Gb/s (8b/10b encoding), or 150 MB/s
  • SATA revision 2.0 is defined at 3 Gbps and SATA revision 3.0 is defined at 6 Gbps allowing a bandwidth of 4.8 Gb/s (8b/10b encoding), or 300 MB/s

The main difference with PCIe is the use of Spread Spectrum Clocking (SSC) to provide the clock to the SerDes, in order to minimize the EMI. Taking this difference into account, it is possible to use the same SerDes architecture than the PCIe one, and build a “Multi Standard SerDes” supporting various protocols (PCIe, SATA, USB 3.0…). Another SATA specific, but optional, feature is the Native Command Queuing (NCQ), a technique allowing reordering the command set coming from the host (active on up to 32 commands) to minimize the storage device access time and energy spent to read/write the data. NCQ was defined to minimize the magnetic drive metric (see picture) and can also be used with the new family of storage devices, Solid State Device (SSD), allowing to strongly increase the performances (IOPS).

Attachment 1214

SATA technology has gained tremendous ground since its introduction in 2001.In 2008, SATA captured more than 98 percent of internal hard disk drive shipments, demonstrating that SATA technology is now used in the vast majority of desktop and mobile PCs. (Source: IDC Doc #215614, "Economic Crisis Response: Worldwide 2008-2012 Forecast Update," December 2008.)

Beyond hard disks, what devices use SATA?
SATA supports all ATA and ATAPI devices, and is currently being used to provide solutions for: CDs, DVDs, tape devices, high capacity removable devices, SSDs (solid state drives), and Blu-ray Drives.
Serial Attached SCSI (SAS): SATA being a point-to-point connection and allows multiple ports to be aggregated into a single controller that is typically located either on the motherboard or as an add-in RAID card. Through backplanes and external enclosures, SATA is deployed in high-capacity server and networked-storage environments.

What is eSATA?
External SATA (eSATA) is an external version of SATA that uses slightly different connectors that withstand wear and tear and static electricity. eSATA offers faster speed and better performance than existing external storage formats such as USB 2.0 and FireWire (IEEE 1394).

What is the future of the SATA standard?
SATA is not at risk, in none of the targeted markets: Storage, PC peripheral and Consumer:
· In Storage, not only SATA has replaced PATA on the pure storage (HDD), but also SATA has gain market share in the NAS sub segment, where SAS has only partly replaced SCSI. FC loosing market share at the benefice of NAS, SATA is not a risk. Furthermore, SSD, which are seen as the future storage devices, are supporting SATA, at least the SSD for consumer segment (SSD for professional segment tend to use PCI Express interface to benefit from higher bandwidth and increase IOPS).
· In PC and PC Peripherals, even if PCI Express and USB are more suited to connect peripherals, internally, SATA is simply keeping his current position of a native standard for storage, and will keep it in the future, In the mean term, even if the way to connect an external Storage device will be based on USB 3.0 or PCIe, the way to manage the storage equipment should stay based on ATAPI protocol. eSATA is supported by numerous PC chipset, but the technology never take off at the end user, so we expect USB 3.0 to be the preferred cabling interface… when it will be available.
· In Consumer/Multimedia segment, the applications where there is a need for data storage, like Digital Set Top Box, CDs, DVDs, tape devices, high capacity removable devices, and Blu-ray Drives use SATA. As for PC peripheral segment, the ease of use of USB for end user, will not give a chance to eSATA to penetrate this market.
· SATA is emerging in Wireless segment: the latest Application Processor from TI, OMAP5 platform, is supporting SATA. No doubt that the competition will follow this trend!
· Differentiation between Protocol Standard and associated connector & cable: the last remark indicates that a confusion could occur between the IP linked to a protocol standard (like SATA), and the associated cabling and connection (like eSATA and SATA connector). Because the SATA is the most efficient way to manage a storage device, there is no technical reason for SATA to be replaced by PCIe or USB for such a task. But, because the USB cable is the most widely used in the PC and Consumer market, this is a good reason to select USB as the unique cabling technology, and not eSATA. We expect SATA to coexist with the USB in peripheral devices.

SATA IP Function

Attachment 1215

SATA IP Market

The SATA market is relatively narrow: it is made of low cost (high volumes) ASSP devices, like HDD (or CD, DVD, Blu-Ray) Controllers or SATA bridges to USB 2.0, USB 3.0, PCIe, or even PATA. SATA can also be integrated as one of the various Interface protocol in a SoC in the Multimedia (STB) or Wireless segment. This explains why the SATA IP market is relatively , modest, compared with USB, PCIe HDMI or DDRn market. The number of Fabless ASSP makers for storage applications is by nature pretty small (less than a dozen) and the number of IDM developing large SoC for STB or CDs, DVDs, tape devices, high capacity removable devices, and Blu-ray is as well not extensible. Emerging use of SATA for Wireless Application processor will help the SATA IP market to grow, as the chip makers will tend to buy this peripheral function which is out of their primary focus. But this will not drive SATA IP market at the level of one of the other above mentioned interface. Nevertheless, if the IP market for ASIC or ASSP is served by only a few vendors, we can see that the IP market for FPGA is pretty busy.

Looking at the SATA IP market size, we have to deeply investigate the behavior of Silicon Image: the IP revenue in 2007 extracted from Silicon Image annual report is very different from which was communicated to Gartner. We have now reworked the table, using only Silicon Image’s annual report:

Attachment 1216
And the SATA IP Results for 2004-2009
Attachment 1217

SATA IP forecast compared with PCIe, USB, DDRn and HDMI

Attachment 1218

IP vendors


The company has been founded in April 2007, is located in Shanghai, China, and provides ASIC design services, and IP soft cores. They claim to work with a network of foundry and test partners in Asia-Pacific and China.


Provide a SATA Controller Device IP supporting SATA Revision 1, 2 and 3, with SAPIS Interface to the PHY and Wishbone slave Interface to the Application, for ASIC and Xilinx FPGA devices.


The company is well known for the DSP IP core family, used in particular in HDD Control. After their 2nd position for the 2006 SATA IP business (Gartner in 2007), they have constantly declined in SATA, focusing on DSP market. Nevertheless, they still support SATA and SAS Controller.


Faraday, a spin-off of UMC, positioned as an ASIC design services provider, and providing IP functions has spin off the IP business, named Innopower.

Innopower is selling the PHY plus the Controller as an integrated solution, on UMC technology (PHY) only.


The company is providing SAS/SATA/RAID IP for FPGA as well as ASSP products

Silicon Image

Silicon Image was very strong on the SATA IP segment, one of their main advantage is not only to sell an integrated solution (PHY + Controller) but also to support a wide range of ASSP, the SteelVine products line:
  • SATA Controllers (includes SATA bridges to PCIe, PCI-X or PCI and USB)
  • SATA Port Multipliers
  • RAID storage processors based on SATA
Nevertheless, the company seems to have defocus from the IP market since 2009.


Snowbush PHY is supporting a long list of foundries and technology node, through a multi standard SerDes family:
o SBSER3000 support SATA 3 Gbps on 90, 80 and 65 nm
o SBSER4000 support SATA up to 6 Gbps on 65 and 45/40 nm
On various foundries: TSMC, UMC and GlobalFoundries.

Snowbush also offers SATA Controller IP coming from the acquisition of Asic Architect in 2008.


If you consider that the SATA IP business of Synopsys was only $0.2M in 2005 (when Silicon Image was making $7.5M), they have since made a breakthrough and are leading this segment. Synopsys can benefit of two very important strengths: as they offer the Design Ware family of IP products, the market is aware of their methodology for IP management; their World Wide sales force is accessing almost all the ASIC or ASSP design teams, as they also sell a set of EDA tools. And, because the business they are making with the EDA sales is already wealthy, they can adjust the IP pricing if needed to make a design-in, if they consider a specific customer to be strategic enough to justify a discount on the pricing.

Verification IP vendors


Avery is supporting SATA VIP for several years. The list of VIP from Avery:
· SATA 1,2,3
Avery does not propose design IP, neither design services.


Their verification tool, Incisive ABA VIP uses assertion-based verification (ABV) techniques. Incisive VIP is compliant with the Open Verification Methodology (OVM), and supports multiple languages including SystemVerilog, e, Verilog®, and VHDL.

The existing portfolio of Cadence UVCs supporting storage includes: ATAPI, SAS, CE-ATA, SATA, Fibre Channel

ExpertIO, Inc

The list of VIP supported by ExpertIO, Inc for storage:
· Fibre Channel, SATA, SAS
The company is also delivering design services in verification.


nVS, nSys’s verification IP, consists of Bus Functional Model (BFM), Monitors, Assertions-based Checker and Test Suites. They offer the option of Source code in SystemVerilog both for OVM and VMM to comply with Assertion Based Methodology.

The list of nSys BFM supporting Storage includes SAS 3.0, SATA 3, and ATAPI.
The company is also delivering design services in verification.


PerfectVIP deliver a SystemVerilog-based OVM compliant VIP. Their Verification IP products include storage:

Storage VIP
· Fibre Channel

PerfectVIP offers full-service support for SOC and ASIC designs, from customer’s specification to GDSII with full verification in ASIC, FPGA, board design and Software and Firmware development.

SmartDV technologies

The company offer the following BFM based VIP in storage segment:
· ONFI, NFC, eMMC, SDIO 1.0/2.0/3.0, Fibre Channel


The company offer VIP through DesignWare.
· Storage: SATA 1, 2, 3

Eric Esteve

Attachment 1219

For more information, see the "SATA IP Market Survey"