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Cactus Technologies

Cactus Technologies, founded in 2005 and headquartered in Hong Kong, is the designer, manufacturer and marketer of Industrial Flash card products using industry leading controller technology and industrial strength flash memory.
Cactus Technologies logo
Cactus 2.5" rugged SLC SSD
military grade 2.5" SATA SLC SSDs
-45°C to 90°C / quick erase 512GB in <15S
from Cactus Technologies
Cactus - addresses and links ....
Cactus corporate HQ

Cactus Technologies Limited
Suite C, 15/F, Capital Trade Center
62 Tsun Yip Street, Kwun Tong,
Kowloon, Hong Kong

Cactus USA

3112 Windsor Road, Suite A356
Austin, Texas 78703

tel:- +1 (512) 775-0746

worldwide distribution

see also:- Cactus - mentions on, Cactus's blog

Cactus Technologies and the Top SSD Companies List

Who's who in SSD? - Cactus Technologies

by Zsolt Kerekes, editor - April 8, 2014

Cactus Technologies - founded in 2005 - markets SSDs for industrial and embedded markets in a variety of form factors and interfaces.

The company's founders include:- Joseph Chang who - while previously at SanDisk - worked on the world's first PATA SSD and managed the design of the first single chip CF controller.

The company offers standard industrial temperature operation SSDs and also some extended operation devices (for example mSATA) which can operate from -45C upto 90 degrees C.

In April 2014 - I asked Steve Larrivee, VP Sales & Marketing at Cactus some questions about their controller technologies, market issues related to SLC and MLC, and customer awareness of SSD and reliability issues.

Often when I talk to an SSD company about their business I ask questions like
  • what's your best selling product?, and
  • what are your main markets?
I didn't have to ask Steve those questions - because the answers are already contained on their web site. Uniquely (as far as I can recall) they list the 2 best selling SSD types for each customer segment they operate in.

Here's what I did ask.

Zsolt - Can you tell me more about your controllers - who designs them? where they come from?

Steve - We work closely with Hyperstone (similar to how SiliconSystems/WD did it), but have custom firmware versions to meet our specific needs, including custom feature sets as well as additional circuitry for added for improved Industrial functionality (write abort handling, etc.). We also work with NovaChips and SMI on as well.

Zsolt - Are you seeing a difference in understanding about SSD concepts between the traditional industries (classical hard industrial, mil) and newer embedded markets?

Steve - My belief is many industrial and embedded markets which should be using SLC based SSD are using MLC products due completely to price.

Some are willing to spend $40-50 on a 4GB SLC part for reliability, but when they are looking for 64GB/128GB they are shocked by the $100s-$1K prices and opt for lower cost MLC.

I'm not saying every industrial/embedded application needs SLC... some may be OK with MLC.

I am saying many companies roll the dice on the reliability of their overall systems with MLC SSD in applications where failure can't be tolerated for 3-7 years. There will be some fallout.

Zsolt - Or does the SSD education tilt another way – with younger designers thinking they already know a lot about SSDs from their reading in other markets (computer) and not appreciating the subtle differences which life in a wild box can introduce to requirements?

Steve - This is absolutely an issue. The SLC vs MLC SSD market is similar to the Consumer vs Industrial flash cards.

For example, people look at retail ads for microSD cards and see a 4GB card for ~$5, whereas an industrial grade part is many times that amount.

Many, younger designers (and some older ones too) think you are trying to pull a fast one on them because the parts look identical and function in the same socket.

At the end of the day, SLC/Industrial flash gives you reliability and endurance that MLC/TLC will never touch.

Another key point from our SLC vs MLC White Paper (pdf) is the trace width of the NAND flash.

The older the technology, the more reliable – and costly.

The newest technology is less reliable and less costly.

MLC at <20nm is currently 2-3 generations ahead of the SLC we're using in many of our products (43nm Toshiba SLC) – this makes the MLC product much less costly, but much less reliable.

Zsolt - I like the threshold graphs in your SLC/MLC pdf. I know you published this paper some time ago - but I only saw it last week and I think it illustrates the concept well.
"Cactus Technologies believes that only SLC NAND provides the superior performance, endurance and long term reliability required for operation in an industrial environment. Hence we use SLC NAND exclusively in our industrial grade flash storage products.

Currently, Cactus uses 4X/3Xnm technology SLC NAND for our industrial grade products whereas mainstream MLC NAND is currently at 2Xnm or 1X/1Ynm."
Joseph Chang, VP of Engineering Cactus Technologies in his classic white paper SLC vs MLC NAND and the Impact of Technology Scaling (pdf)
click to read article
Cactus Technologies - selected mentions in SSD market history

In January 2010 - Cactus Technologies launched a rugged 32GByte industrial grade CF form factor PATA compatible SLC flash SSD in an extended height (6.4mm) form factor. The 303 Series offers high endurance (>2M write cycles per block), wear leveling, defect management and 4M hours MTBF.
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The big iconic saguaro cactuses which you see today - standing like tree statues - can be hundreds of years old. So you can see how that idea might work in the market today for an industrial SSD company - like Cactus Technologies.
Power, Speed and Strength Metaphors in SSD brands
"I thought this was an impressive retrospective story and for customers with applications where the reliability of each solo SSD is critical it's a more convincing positioning statement about the design and manufacturing capabilities of the SSD creator than any forward reaching promises can be."
Zsolt Kerekes, editor commenting on a customer story in the blog - Would Memory Failure be Catastrophic to your business? (July 19, 2017) - by Cactus Technologies.
Cactus clarifies role of pSLC etc in embedded SSDs
Editor:- June 22, 2017 - I had to read a new blog from Cactus Technologies twice just to make sure I grasped its meaning properly.

The blog is: - SLC, pSLC, MLC and TLC Differences - Does Your Flash Storage SSD Make the Grade?

My did they really say that? moment came when I got the distinct impression Cactus said something nice about Pseudo SLC.

I remember that in the past Cactus has been critical of competitors who offer pSLC for use in industrial SSDs - so did I misread something or is it the case that Cactus is now offering pSLC in its SSDs too?

Yes... to pSLC in Cactus SSDs.

No... this isn't a reversal of their previous statements.

pSLC is being offered as a memory option for oems who need a high reliability SSD but don't have the budget for SLC and don't need the full industrial temperature range either.

Cactus says its "OEM Grade products are based on pSLC NAND, which is the same MLC NAND as used in Commercial Grade. The difference is the MLC NAND is set in a mode which only the top and bottom states are used, thereby cutting the capacity in half but increase the endurance by 6x the MLC." the article
Cactus has been asked over the past few years for MLC NAND based Flash Storage Devices which could meet an Industrial Operating Temperature range of -40C to +85C. After significant efforts in R&D, weve developed a production screening process which allows us to offer extended temperature using MLC NAND on select products... for applications which do not have high write endurance requirements.

The Cactus proprietary production process involves a custom built burn-in chamber with many slots to screen large numbers of flash storage devices at a time.
Cactus Now Offering -40C to +85C MLC Flash Storage Products (May 9, 2016)
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SSD controllers
Editor:- March 16, 2016 - while there's often no single correct answer to SSD design questions (see the SSD design heresies for examples) a recent blog - Poor SSD Controller Design Compromises the Best NAND Memory by Cactus Technologies reveals an interesting insight into the design philosophy of its embedded SSD lines. Among other things:-

"On-the-fly Garbage Collection many flash products do garbage collection during IDLE time to maximize performance when the device is active; however, this increase the likelihood of write abort data corruption as the host system may remove power during IDLE time while the device is still doing program/erase operations internally. Cactus Technologies industrial grade products performs on-the-fly garbage collection; while this will reduce performance slightly, it ensures that the host can safely power down the device during IDLE time."

Editor's comments:- While SSD designs still have to mitigate against unexpected sudden power loss (which like most industrial SSDs - the Cactus products do) it's interesting for system designers to know that there can be multi-layered approaches to power protection designed into some SSDs. (Instead of single shot silver bullets.)

Actually the main point of the Cactus blog is something else entirely - the difference in correctable ECC in different geometries of SLC. Nice graphs if you're interested.

Cactus isn't a fan of pSLC for industrial uses saying - "There is not substantial data to back up pSLC as any more reliable than using the full capacity of the MLC component with 2x the cells to perform wear leveling." the blog
SSD Bookmarks - from Cactus Technologies
Editor:- January 20, 2016 - today published the start of a new educational series - the SSD Bookmarks ver 2.0 - which includes a set of SSD reading and viewing links suggested by Steve Larrivee, VP Sales & Marketing at Cactus.

click to see more SSD  Bookmarks During the next 2 years the series will include contributions from new and old SSD ecosystems companies in every significant part of the market. ...take a look at the links
"the most reliable 2.5 inch MLC SATA III SSD"
paves way to new budget military SSD - from Cactus
Editor:- February 23, 2015 - Cactus Technologies today announced the release of a new military 2.5 SATA SSD - the 230S PRO series - a military adapted variation of the company's proven 230S commercial grade family which Cactus describes as "the most reliable MLC based 2.5 SATA III SSD on the market."

Describing application roles Joseph Chang, VP of Engineering said that -it meets the price budget for applications where intense writing or extreme temperatures are not prevalent.

Features include:-
  • hardware AES256 Encryption
  • Jumper Triggered Write Protect,
  • NSA 9-12 or Quick Erase
  • 64GB to 640GB MLC capacities
  • Fixed BOM
  • Altitude spec of 100,000 feet
  • 3,000G Shock; 20G Vibration
  • Powerful Industrial ECC and Defect Management
Cactus SSDs helped over 100,000 drivers find home
Editor:- January 6, 2015 - Cactus Technologies today disclosed it has shipped over 100,000 units of its 210 Series (32GB MLC) - 2.5" PATA SSDs - to a German automotive OEM company for use in their infotainment (integrated audio entertainment and GPS navigation) systems.
Cactus looks at thorny issue of embedded flash TCO
Editor:- April 2, 2014 - Cactus Technologies today published a blog - Solid State Storage Total Cost of Ownership versus a Really Low Price Today - aimed at designers in industrial markets - which discusses 4 sources of cost they should consider when selecting an SSD.

When looking at eol considerations - the author Steve Larrivee - warns that although designers may be counting on being able to delay requalifications by mining obsolete SSDs as unsold inventory from channels and brokers "for a considerably higher price... this introduces the possibility of counterfeit parts as well." the article

Editor's comments:- Although these raw headline factors are the same for designers in all industries - the weightings are often different in embedded markets due to the smaller sizes of equipment production runs - which means that design-centric related requalification costs are more significant as a factor in each system shipped than is the case in higher volume markets.
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