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SATA-IO announces Universal Storage Module Slim

SATA-IO announces Universal Storage Module Slim

The next revision of the SATA standard, 3.2, will include the 9mm-thick Universal Storage Module (USM) Slim specification.

The Serial ATA International Organisation (SATA-IO) industry group has announced a revision to its Universal Storage Module standard, adding a new 9mm-thick version dubbed USM Slim.

The Universal Storage Module standard was designed as an extension to the Serial ATA (SATA) standard for external devices. The idea was simple: instead of carrying around USB-connected pen drives, devices compatible with USM would include a slot into which self-contained external storage modules featuring power and SATA connections could be inserted.

The benefits are obvious: a USM connected to a system over a SATA port has none of the CPU overhead of a USB-connected device, and allows full access to all the functionality of an internal SATA drive - including performance-boosting technology like Native Command Queueing (NCQ) and, for solid-state drives (SSDs), TRIM.

The existing USM standard calls for devices measuring 14.5mm in height. For most uses, that's fine - but if there's one thing that's clear in the industry today it's that things are getting slimmer. Almost every major laptop manufacturer now has at least one design based around Intel's Ultrabook programme, or variants thereof. While 14.5mm isn't all that thick, it's enough to preclude the use of USM in ultraportable devices.

Enter USM Slim. As the name suggests, the new standard takes the USM concept and trims off some fat, mandating a thickness of just 9mm. While still perhaps too large for the thinnest Ultrabook design, it's a good start - and with SATA 6.0Gb/s support, offers a high-speed alternative to other external storage systems.

'As mobile computing devices grow increasingly thinner, developers must make tradeoffs with regard to the amount of storage they can build in to their products,' claimed Mladen Luksic, SATA-IO president, at the announcement. 'The USM Slim specification lets manufacturers design solutions for increasing the storage capacity of mobile devices without hampering the portability consumers crave.'

The technology is already available on the market: storage giant Seagate has announced shipping of a USM Slim-based external 500GB hard drive, based on an early release of the standard made available to SATA-IO members. The industry group will also be making USM Slim an official part of the SATA Revision 3.2 standard later this year, at which point manufacturers who don't pay for SATA-IO membership will be allowed to have a play.

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