USB 3.0 will support virtualization

At Intel Developer Forum (IDF) 2007 eWeek interviewed Justin Rattner, CTO at Intel, which revealed how upcoming USB 3.0 is being designed to support virtualization:

We think that virtualization is a great, powerful technology that is at its earliest stage of its application. We’d now like to get back to the security application, which is where we started. We are just bringing out this trusted execution technology, which we used to call “LaGrande,” which guarantees that the image you load in the virtual machine is the image that you wanted to load. So we have this notion of secure boot, and we’d like to get back to that. We have focused a lot on processor virtualization, and there’s a lot of work to be done on platform virtualization. How do we virtualize the platform so we have to do less in software and do more in the hardware? One of the things that we are doing with the USB 3.0 development is to develop the changes in USB architecture to support virtualization and then you have to look at what we are doing with PCI Express and USB and graphics. We have an eye toward supporting virtualized environments…

Read the whole article at the source.

ExtremeTech reports some specification details and tentative dates for market launch of 3.0 devices:

USB 3.0 is built upon, and is backwards-compatible with, the USB 2.0 “High Speed” spec. It would be generous to even call the specifications “early” at this stage, but the group still had lots of information about how USB 3.0 will work and what features it will provide. The spec should be finalized sometime in the middle of 2008, with initial devices available in ’09, and broad deployment by 2010.

The main two goals of SuperSpeed USB are to provide a 10X boost in transfer rate (from 480-Mbits/s in USB 2.0 to 4.8 Gbits/s in USB 3.0), while dramatically lowering power consumption. One example of their speed goals is to transfer a 27GB HD movie to a portable device in 70 seconds. The same thing would take 15 minutes or more with HighSpeed USB (2.0). The SuperSpeed devices will use the same connectors and the same programming and device models as existing devices.

Device virtualization will be an important part of the new USB spec as well. The Promotions Group wants to make sure that virtual machines can access USB 3.0 devices without software intervention. A final concern is over Mass Storage Device drivers. Currently, MSD drivers for USB 2.0 devices have enough overhead to limit performance to around 32 Mbytes/sec. The overhead in this driver model would just kill the great potential for SuperSpeed USB hard drives and flash storage performance, so a new, more efficient driver model is needed. This is out of the purview of the USB spec itself, but the teams involved want to work hand in hand with the driver specifications groups to make sure USB 3.0 Mass Storage Devices can live up to their potential.