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Editor:- February 23, 2015 - Cactus Technologies today announced the release of a new military 2.5" SATA SSD - the - a military adapted variation of the company's proven 230S commercial grade family which Cactus describes as "the most reliable MLC based 2.5 inch SATA III SSD on the market."
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industrial SSDs

SSD pricing clarified
SSD endurance - the forever war
Surviving SSD sudden power loss
flash SSD capacity - the iceberg syndrome
Data Integrity Challenges in flash SSD Design
Efficiency - making the same SSD - with less flash
Adaptive flash care management & DSP IP inside SSDs
flash wars in the enterprise - SLC vs eMLC vs MLC vs TLC
...
industrial mSATA SSD
industrial grade mSATA SSDs
>2 million write cycles
per logical block.
...
Cactus 2.5" rugged SLC SSD
military grade 2.5" SATA SLC SSDs
>2 million endurance cycles per block
-45°C to 90°C / quick erase 512GB in <15S
...
industrial CF cards from Cactus
industrial grade Compact Flash cards
physical write protect switch option
custom solutions available
finding out more about industrial grade flash from Cactus Technologies
by Zsolt Kerekes, editor - StorageSearch.com

If you think experience matters when it comes to knowing what kind of stress factors can be encountered by an industrial flash SSD then it may reassure you to learn that the founders of Cactus Technologies (while working at other companies and before founding Cactus in 2005) were involved in some of the pioneering developments in this market including:-
  • working on the design of the world's first PATA SSD, and
  • designing the controller for the world's first CompactFlash card
And while memory technologies, interfaces and form factors have changed a lot since those earlier days (and are changing still ) some things in the embedded market have stayed the same such as:- the need for SSDs to work in demanding real world conditions which don't always conform neatly to the boundaries set by marketers.

This is one of the reasons that Cactus offers extended temperature operating versions of some of its products - which go beyond the so called standard "industrial temperature range".

With embedded flash now being used in so many different industries and spaces - it can be very confusing when looking at the web site of an SSD supplier like Cactus Technologies for the first time and being confronted by lists of products grouped by interface and form factor.

Where do you begin?

One of the things I liked - and something which I accidentally discovered when I was clicking around the Cactus site seriously in early 2014 - is that the company lists the 2 most popular products in each of the main markets in which its products have been used. That gives a solid starting point from which you can learn more about their products.

Value for money?

Even after firming up the technical specifications - there are still many factors which can be involved in the decision making process of deciding - how much an SSD should cost? And whether the cost of a particular product fits in with the viability of the budget for the project you're looking at.

These user value propositions involve different tradeoffs in different markets. And they are rarely as simple as being about the cost and speed of storage. If they were that simple - the SSD market as we know it - wouldn't exist.

Unlike typical datacenter array storage applications (in which if a single SSD fails - its role can almost immediately be replaced by another clone which is already sitting in the same array) the nature of deployments which characterize most embedded industrial market applications - is that a great deal does indeed depend on the ongoing health of every individual SSD.

And when the reliability of your system or maybe even your entire project mission - is so dependent on the health of every single SSD - then the choice of that SSD family really matters...

because years after the initial SSD was purchased and started earning its keep - an early end to that operational life due to a weakness which could have been easily predicted - isn't mitigated by the knowledge that this was the cheapest product which money could buy - based on a like for like comparison of specifications which only included the headline form factor, capacity, interface, speed and power consumption features and didn't take into account all the other important architectural design and validation factors which make an SSD what it is.

Every system designer has their own way of assessing this. And every vendor has their own story to tell (even if that part of the story - from low cost vendors is really a deafening silence - or ignorance - about what was missing in the budget to deliver that product at that price).

On that theme I hope you might be interested in this blog - by Cactus - Solid State Storage Total Cost of Ownership versus a Really Low Price Today
raw flash endurance vs scaling

The relationship between the type of nand flash (SLC, eMLC and MLC) on raw endurance at different geometries is shown in the graph above - which plots program erase endurance against node size (in nanometers).

This is from a classic white paper SLC vs MLC NAND and the Impact of Technology Scaling (pdf) written by Joseph Chang, VP of Engineering Cactus Technologies.

Although this educational paper is aimed at designers in the industrial SSD market it nevertheless includes many comments which are just as interesting for readers in the enterprise market.

For example Joseph Chang says...

"In order to address the issue of low endurance in MLC NAND, some manufacturers offer what is known as Enterprise MLC or eMLC for short. This type of flash is manufactured identically to standard MLC flash but has a different program/erase algorithm designed to trade off performance vs endurance. eMLC offers higher endurance than standard MLC flash at the expense of lower performance. The lower performance is a result of using a more precise programming algorithm to ensure sufficient voltage margins of the programmed states. It is worth noting, however, that (as shown in the table above) the endurance of eMLC is still less than half that of SLC NAND at the same technology node."

Cactus SSD products

some top level selections and links

case studies articles and white papers

Custom erase helped a military contractor

industrial grade versus commercial grade flash storage

SLC vs MLC NAND and the Impact of Technology Scaling (pdf)

A needs analysis can tell you if you've chosen the wrong memory solution

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