PCI-SIG® Compliance Program 101

PCI-SIG® Compliance Program 101
By Richard Solomon, PCI-SIG® Vice President and Compliance Group Co-Chair

The PCI-SIG Serial Enabling Workgroup (called the “SEG” for short) is the PCI-SIG workgroup charged with running the PCI Express® (PCIe®) compliance program. The goal of the program is to support a robust PCI Express ecosystem by ensuring that “PCIe-compliant devices” will all work together. The workgroup has put together a series of standard tests and methodologies which are executed against participating devices to assure proper implementation of PCIe specifications and eliminate interoperability issues. The testing takes place during the PCI-SIG Compliance Workshops which are currently held four to five times a year in the U.S. and Asia.

Compliance testing defined
PCI-SIG Compliance Workshops focus on two key areas: interoperability tests, which enable members to test their products against other members’ products, and compliance tests, which test against key electrical and protocol parameters defined by the PCI-SIG.

Both types of testing result in individual “pass” or “fail” results for each test area examined. For a product to be labeled as compliant, it must pass all required compliance tests, and at least 80 percent of its interoperability tests. (Requiring less than 100% interoperability reflects the reality that prototype and other early products may actually have issues that prevent their passing and should not penalize the devices testing with them.)

PCI-SIG member companies can test as many PCI Express systems and PCI Express Add-in Cards as they want, as often as they want. For more than two decades, PCI-SIG has offered this testing without charge. Participation in a compliance workshop can provide a valuable debug opportunity to find and fix problems so member company products meet standards and pass. This can save a company time and resources while also offering valuable networking and training opportunities other engineers. 

Why should I test my PCIe products?
PCI-SIG publishes a list of compliant products known as the Integrators List, which includes all products that have requested inclusion after successfully completing the rigorous testing procedures of the Compliance Workshop. For a PCI Express device to be placed on the Integrators List, the device must pass the interoperability and compliance testing as noted earlier, and the vendor must submit a Product Listing Request Form for each device tested.  

Inclusion on the list is only available to PCI-SIG member companies who have passed the testing during a Compliance Workshop. However, anyone can access the list through the PCI-SIG website, and many companies do refer to the list when making purchases.

What types of tests are performed?
Each PCI-SIG Compliance Workshop has different testing capabilities/focus depending on PCI Express specification revision, form-factor, and device-type, so please pay close attention to product details when registering to ensure proper scheduling. The entire workshop and results are defined as PCI-SIG Confidential to protect member privacy and product details.

The workshops include one-on-one private interoperability test sessions between an Add-in Card vendor and a System vendor. System vendors and Add-in Card vendors will test their products in as many combinations as time and capabilities permit. The results of these test sessions are recorded and will be used as one of the elements in determining PCI-SIG compliance.

The one-on-one test sessions are held in hotel suites as reserved and populated by the System vendors, while Add-in Card vendors bring their products from suite to suite to test with each scheduled system. The privacy of these sessions promotes willingness to test products that may not be fully “market ready.” Additionally, vendors are able to establish contacts, which enable a strong PCI Engineering community and encourage future cooperation for debugging and development.

Tests are available for multiple form factors, including CEM, PCI Express U.2™ Connector, and PCI Express M.2™ Connector.

Current Tested Specifications
Interoperability and compliance tests focus on the latest PCIe specifications, specifically:

  • PCI Express 3.0 – Official Testing
  • PCI Express 4.0 – FYI Testing Only (Preliminary FYI Testing began in early 2017)
  • PCI Express U.2™/SFF-8639 Connector (8 GT/s)  – Official Testing
  • PCI Express M.2™ (8 GT/s) – Preliminary FYI Testing Only

Test Areas
PCI Express compliance testing includes:

  • Electrical Testing - Examines platform and add-in card Transmitter and Receiver characteristics
  • Configuration Testing - Examines configuration space in PCIe devices
  • Link Protocol Testing - Examines device’s link-level protocol behavior
  • Transaction Protocol Testing - Examines devices transaction-level protocol behavior
  • Platform BIOS Testing - Examines BIOS ability to recognize and configure PCIe devices

Next testing date
The PCI-SIG Compliance Workshop open for registration is Workshop #108 which will be held December 4-7, 2018 at The Embassy Suites in Burlingame, CA. Please see complete requirements here. Official testing capabilities for Workshop #108 include PCI Express 3.0 and PCI Express U.2™ (8GT/s).

I invite you to view the recently posted PCI-SIG Compliance video overview as part of PCI-SIG’s new video series on the PCI-SIG YouTube channel. I also encourage you to learn more about PCIe technology at www.PCISIG.com, and to stay up to date on all the latest PCI-SIG developments by following us on Twitter and LinkedIn.