Linux Plans To Be First On The USB 3.0 Bandwagon - InformationWeek

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6/11/2009
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Linux Plans To Be First On The USB 3.0 Bandwagon

What should your business know about USB 3.0? It's almost ready for the mass market, it's extremely fast -- and Linux will be the first OS to support it.

What should your business know about USB 3.0? It's almost ready for the mass market, it's extremely fast -- and Linux will be the first OS to support it.Last November, the USB 3.0 Promoter Group finished work on its "Super Speed" standard. USB 3.0 has been a long time coming, but it will be worth the wait: The new spec will deliver bus speeds up to 5 Gbps, or more than 10 times the bandwidth of a USB 2.0 connection.

It will be a while before USB 3.0 motherboards hit the market, but hardware vendors are already on board. NEC will begin mass-producing USB 3.0 host controllers this summer, and vendors at CES 2009 last January were busy showing off storage devices using the new standard.

You can also bet that USB 3.0 PCI Express add-in cards will hit the market fairly soon. Those PCIe x1 slots that sit unused on so many modern motherboards have a bus speed of around 5Gpbs, making them perfect for add-in USB 3.0 cards.

USB 3.0 will clearly have a dramatic impact on the storage market. The new standard, unlike USB 2.0, delivers more bandwidth than most conventional hard drives are capable of using. Newer solid-state storage devices, however, are capable of far higher bus speeds, making both USB 3.0 and the new SATA 6 Gbps standard extremely important for solid-state disk performance.

So much for the hardware. What about USB 3.0 driver support?

Most USB 3.0 hardware vendors will, at least initially, have to supply their own drivers. NEC, for example, will include free Windows drivers with its new USB 3.0 host controllers. And by the time Windows 7 ships later this year, Microsoft will almost certainly have added native USB 3.0 support.

At this point, however, it looks like Linux will be the first operating system to include native USB 3.0 support. Developer Sarah Sharp, who works on Linux USB subsystem issues for Intel's Open Source Technology Center, says that USB 3.0 support is slated for the Linux 2.6.31 kernel in September 2009. Sharp is also working with individual Linux distributors, including Red Hat and Ubuntu, to ensure that they add USB 3.0 support as soon as possible.

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