by Zsolt Kerekes,
SSD Controllers and IP define the personality of the SSD.
Controller architecture and effective implementation processes
(including manufacturing, logistics and software) transform unreliable me-too
memory chips into the
diverse range of application optimized (or not) SSDs which you can see in the
This dedicated SSD controller page - which started in
April 2009 -
includes a list of 30 or so SSD flash controller IP companies which sell
(or used to sell) their controllers in the merchant market. But our coverage
of SSD controller IP elsewhere on the pages of
StorageSearch.com also includes
analysis of controller architectures inside arrays and SSD drives which were
designed originally only to support a single vendor's own SSD product line. As
we've seen in the market - if the controller IP is good enough - this key IP
asset can lead on to market
and it also plays a central role in
agreements, acquisition etc.
SSDs on a chip
SSD glue chips and IP
sugaring MLC for the
Cache Ratios in flash SSDs
management in flash SSDs
my SSD cell care scheme is
better than yours
Why size matters in
SSD design architecture
Challenges in flash SSD Design
Challenges in SSD Controller Development
and DSP ECC IP for use in flash SSDs
factors which influence
and limit flash SSD performance characteristics
|SSD reliability is tools
Editor:- November 26, 2013 - Although we often talk about
SSD controllers and
flash memory chips as
being "hardware" - none of these devices would exist if it weren't
for a rich software ecosystem of design automation and verfification tools
which have evolved to enable semiconductor system design
in the past 30
years or so.
reliability of SSDs
depends not just on the interplay of physics, architecture, electronic
factors and firmware - but just as importantly - reliability or more
accurately the dependability and determinability of any SSD design begins with
the verification and integration of all the design abstractions - in
A salutary reminder of the importance of this came today in
about its use of such tools from Synopsys
in its design process for controllers aimed at the
SD 3.0 and eMMC 4.4 industrial flash memory card controller is designed to
deliver the highest level of reliability and data retention when using
innovative sub-20nm MLC flash technologies" said Axel Mehnert, VP of
Marketing at Hyperstone. "Our mission is enabling future NAND flash and
advanced technologies to be fit for use, especially within industrial,
ruggedized applications. This requires the robust verification and analysis
provided to us uniquely by Synopsys' VCS functional verification solution. No
other technology had the capacity, performance, advanced verification features
and reliability to verify such complex designs."
comments:- in reality it's never as simple as - we used these tools -
turned the handles - and the design popped out. May work for simple devices like
CPUs or DRAM - but not for real complicated stuff like SSDs. Imagination, true
grit, magic spells and serendipity are essential elements in SSD alchemy too.
LSI integrates "SSD market on a chip"
November 18, 2013 - LSI
its 3rd generation SandForce SSD controller family - the SF3700 which - based
around a single chip design - spans a wide spectrum of SSD market
applications (from consumer to enterprise) - includes native jumper-selectable
SATA or gen 2 PCIe interfaces - and incorporates adaptive R/W DSP ECC
Editor's comments:- The SF3700 (now sampling) is
the most ambitious design of a single chip
SSD controller in
Its 14 core design integrates many impressive design and
architectural features including:-
- the ability to efficiently configure as either
architecture or big architecture SSD controller.
design can be configured with as little as 3 flash chips in entry level
consumer SSDs - or as many as 129 chips when maximally configured in a 9 channel
enterprise design which can recover from the complete failure of a memory chip
as well as partial failures in other memory chips in the array.
recently spoke to Kent
Smith at LSI about this new product.
- dynamically adjusted power islands within the chip - enable a single
silicon design to support both the low requirements of deep sleep mode in SATA
notebooks as well as the performance requirements of entry level PCIe SSDs.
Our conversations about
SandForce SSD controllers go back more than 4 years - so we skipped a lot of
One of the first things I said to Kent - was - I've been
nagging you for years and asking - when are you going to do a native PCIe SSD
controller?- and for nearly 2 years it's been clear that another big hole in
LSI's SSD IP bag has been
- and now you've finally done both at the same time in a single product.
was also really impressed by the quality of LSI's
document on the LSI SandForce SF3700 (pdf) - which explains just about
everything you need to know. So I asked Kent - why does he need to waste time
talking to editor's like me? - why doesn't LSI just publish the document on the
web and let it speak for itself?
I said a lot of publications will
simply copy some of your pictures without attribution - and I think readers
would find it valuable seeing them too - but I think it would be fairer to the
work you've done if I could just make the whole document available - so there
was no doubt who had done the hard work of communicating what the design was all
He agreed to that - and you can click on the link above to see
the original info which I got from LSI.
Some other things I learned
from this conversations were:-
- The SF3700 is a completely new design. - It leverages all the flash
related design concepts related to endurance and array level fault management
which have been proven in earlier designs and extends them too.
example RAISE has been enhanced so that for high-end configurations it can
protect against a full memory chip failure as well as multiple block faults -
whereas entry level SSDs which need some RAID like features but can't afford an
extra memory chip can use fractional RAISE.
I think the SF3700 is a very ambitious and outstanding SSD controller design -
which will elevate LSI's reputation within the SSD industry.
- One of the reference designs which LSI offers for this controller is for an
M.2 form factor - which is goiing to be the game changing SSD for the
next year. The card design is the same whether the SSD is being used as a
SATA or PCIe SSD. A single jumper sets the configuration at assembly time.
LSI's 2.5" reference design will also make it easier for oems to
produce products for enterprise arrays in the
2.5" PCIe SSD market.
past year or so I had been wondering if the glory days of LSI's SSD controller
technology lay mostly in the past. But I can now understand why it took them
so long to integrate this new design - which is almost at the integration level
of "SSD market in a chip".
A design which integrates so many
architectural features which are optimized for so many markets wouldn't have
been feasible for a small SSD start up.
Below you can see one of the
many pictures I spoke about in LSI's paper. If you click on it you'll see the
|PS - I almost forgot to mention
one funny marketing thing I learned. |
Kent told me that they used to
call the SandForce products "SSD processors" but then found that
didn't show up too well in web searches - because people were looking for "SSD
controllers" instead. So LSI has changed its parlance and is now calling
them "SSD controllers" too.
As I said above - Kent draws
some great pictures which illustrate the functional blocks within SSDs.
He also writes a lot of SSD
blogs too. So I was relieved to hear that he gets paid on an SSD
marketer's pay grade rather than that of a writer. That means SSD editors
and bloggers don't need to worry that he'll be tempted to come and replace us.
Phison controller inside Chromebook
14, 2013 - Phison
that its PS3109
controller is being used in an SSD inside the
Chromebook launched recently by Acer.
Toshiba will design new SSDs using DensBits' flash controller IP
October 21, 2013 - DensBits
that it has licensed its advanced Memory Modem technology (a variety of
and DSP flash controller IP) to Toshiba for use in new
designs of SSDs.
MOSAID resumes the conversation about licensing HLNAND
September 23, 2013 - Growing market demands for capacity and performance in
the enterprise SSD market is highlighting the intrinsic weaknesses in standard
flash memory interfaces.
That's the theme of a recent blog -
HyperLink NAND technology and scalability by Peter Gillingham, VP
and CTO Conversant
(the new name for MOSAID Technologies) who writes - "In the
space, where PCIe is
often used to connect storage hardware, SSDs require as many as 25 to 50
channels to provide the throughput demanded by the system interface... but even
2nd generation flash interfaces such as ONFi and toggle mode are not up to the
Editor's comments:- MOSAID - which will legally
its name to Conversant in January 2014 - first started talking about its
HLNAND architecture in
May 2007. But the
company - which recently changed its name - has been licensing its patents in
fast memory systems design since
Among the many reasons - why the company says its
simplifies the design of ultra high bandwidth scalable SSDs (pdf) are the
low loading on each device which means that latency is not degraded to the
same extent by capacitive bus load as in traditional memory topologies.
LSI says getting 2nd opinion from LDPC reduces premature cell
Editor:- August 13, 2013 - LSI explained why it
thinks that reserving the use of LDPC to deal mostly with read error retries
(and also later in the operating life of flash cells) can be a pragmatic
design choice - in a presentation -
Nibbles and Bits of SSD Data Integrity (pdf) - today at the Flash Memory Summit.
instead of applying different strengths of
ECC for fixed
physical block sizes - the company says another approach is to have variable
sized virtual blocks - which effectively means that better cells carry lower ECC
Proton Digital launches new controller platform
August 12, 2013 - Proton
Digital Systems today
details of its new LDPC based FlashPro (a
controller ) platform
which will be demonstrated this week at the Flash Memory Summit.
says its error
recovery technology enables reliable deployment of next generation
1y-nm/1z-nm MLC, TLC and 3D Flash memory from all major NAND Flash
manufacturers. FlashPro also features a micro-programmable sequencer that
supports Toggle and ONFi interfaces and addresses all flash commands, including
FlashPro has upto 8 flash channels each
supporting 533MBps and up to 32 Chip Enables per channel. Each media manager can
support data transfer rates from 50MBps up to 4.27GBps and multiple
instantiations can be integrated to achieve the desired capacity and
Silicon Motion samples fast low power SATA 3 SSD controller
August 12, 2013 - Silicon
it has begun sampling a low power consumption, fast
regular RAM cache
SSD controller which supports MLC, TLC and SLC NAND flash from all the major
supports 4 channels of NAND flash devices with up to 8 CEs per channel and can
enable sequential reads upto 540MB/s and writes upto 410MB/s. Random IOPS
performance is upto 80,000 read IOPS and 75,000 write IOPS. Average power
consumption is 60mW. Security
features include AES 128/256, TCG and Opal full-drive encryption compliance.
comments:- in a paper this week at the
Flash Memory Summit -
Efficient LDPC DSP System for SSD (pdf) - Jeff Yang Principle
Engineer, Silicon Motion discussed how its adaptive LPDC DSP techniques which
supports variable parity lengths provides 3x better
than traditional BCH.
Seagate invests in eASIC
Editor:- August 5, 2013 -
it has got a strategic investment from Seagate.
eASIC has demonstrated innovative custom silicon technology with our... solid
state hybrid drives said Rocky Pimentel,
chief sales and marketing officer at Seagate. eASICs ability to quickly develop
custom solutions while meeting stringent cost, power and performance
requirements will enable us to rapidly improve our product position in both
SSD and SSHDs.
Overview of PCIe topologies for enterprise SSDs
July 17, 2013 - PLX
Technology recently published a white paper -
and PCI Express - which gives an overview of past, current and future PCIe
SSD connection topologies along with a list of detailed reference articles.
recent years we've seen the start of a growing
diversity in both
the type and functionality of
PCIe SSDs. PLX's new
article provides a good introduction to what can be done with PCIe in an SSD
context - and may make you rethink your ideas about the roles of this interface
Hyperstone reports controller revenue
11, 2013 - Hyperstone's
parent company today
that its flash controller revenue for the recent year was approximately $18
million, an increase of 6.5% compared to the year ago period and 46% of total
why do I think LSI's new notebook technologies could hasten the
boot up of the petabyte SSD shelf? - (although that's still 3-4 years way)
June 4, 2013 -
LSI did a
really good job leveraging their
the impression I got when I was talking last week to Kent Smith, Sr. Director of
Product Marketing who wanted to talk about the
controllers aimed at the
market. These are:- Opal compliant
DevSleep technology (a very low power sleep mode for
data I latched onto in LSI's presentation was that according to
3rd party analyst reports
LSI's SSD controllers were used in approximately 1/3 of all the flash memory
deployed in SSDs in the client and enterprise markets in 2012. LSI says that
even before the start of the current quarter - the SSD world had consumed over
21 million SF controllers.
Now the likely productivity advantages of enterprises using SSD based notebooks
were already known
the SSD notebook market began. And the benefits of having encrypted drives
to reduce the cost of exposure to data loss - when a pc goes astray in an
airport or is stolen - are exactly the same for SSDs as they were for hard
drives - and therefore need no repetition here.
thing for me about LSI's new consumer market controllers - as I said to
Kent - was the new possibilities that they could open up in really high
capacity enterprise arrays used in solid state archives which will eventually
replace disk backup and VTLs.
my roadmap to the
petabyte SSD article (March 2010) I observed that one of the missing IPs in
the SSD market (at that time) which would be needed to implement petabyte scale
physical flash storage in 1U or less - was fast boot SSDs with very low sleep
power consumption. That will enable bulk storage SSD architects to pack an SSD
array into the smallest possible physical volume - and leverage a
tape library type access
architecture at a lower cost
of ownership than tape or hard disk. But to be useful in a solid state world
- the worst case access time would need to be much faster than the 1 to 2
seconds which was the power on ready time for flash SSDs at the time of writing
LSI's implementation of DevSleep already gives a 400x
power reduction in the not needed mode - and Kent told me their power up ready
time is about 250 milli-seconds. In my view that's a good enough figure for
software architects to start planning around - and it doesn't take much of a
stretch to see how that may evolve to get shorter in the next couple of years
- if the market puts a premium on this feature.
The target for the
bulk storage SSD should be to get 5 to 10 petabytes of virtualized flash into
1U of rack height - at a power consumption level which means that every shelf
can have an identical storage density. I had a gut feel it should be do-able -
and an attractive market proposition in the 2016 to 2020 timeframe - based on
the model I published back in 2010. In some ways it should be easier now -
because I didn't anticipate just how good the
technologies for MLC and TLC would get - in particular due to the benefits
So - if you have shares in a company which makes tape libraries or
disk to disk backup - you've already had many years advance warning that those
products will cease to be commercially attractive when the solid state library
market gets going.
Skyera increments SSD brainiacs headcount
May 14, 2013 - Skyera
today announced it's new chief architect is Andy Tomlin -
who was formerly VP of SSD Development at WD and before that
was VP of firmware and software at SandForce.
the challenges facing ULL SSDs
April 29, 2013 - StorageSearch.com today published
a new article - Memory
Channel Storage SSDs - will the new ultra low latency SSD concept fly? -
should you book a seat yet?
OCZ will exit SandForce driven consumer SSD market
April 17, 2013 - OCZ
it will move the majority of its consumer SSDs to its own Barefoot 3SSD
controller technology (Barefoot 3) in the next few quarters. Effectively
exiting the very competitive
controller driven consumer
SSD market should make it easier for OCZ to differentiate its products
and get better profit margins.
Intels oems LSI's RAID caching SSD technology
April 8, 2013 - Intel
- which already uses LSI's
SandForce controllers in some SSDs - will oem LSI's dual-core RAID-on-Chip
flash caching technology it was announced today.
LSI says their
caching technology can double the number of VDI sessions supported in the same
sever and flash environment.
Intels selection of
Nytro MegaRAID technology is another significant validation of our strategic
focus and investments in flash-based server acceleration technology, said
senior VP and GM, Accelerated Solutions, LSI.
SSD performance characteristics and limitations
March 15, 2013 - published today - the new home page blog on StorageSearch.com is -
a toolkit for
understanding flash SSD performance characteristics and limitations. It
brings together in one place many of the tools I use every day when thinking
about and assessing SSDs.
significant upside for SandForce inside LSI
March 14, 2013 - For many years SandForce was the
best known brand of SSD controller. What happened after it was acquired by
LSI at the
beginning of last year?
An insider's view was published in a new blog
post-acquisition employee attrition - written by Kent Smith - who explains
why he thinks things are better now for SandForce customers.
other things he says - "Enterprise storage manufacturers have...
their reputation at stake when they select new and emerging technologies like
flash memory to provide storage for their customers. There is always a level of
concern when these companies work with smaller startup organizations." ...read
Violin migrates controller implementations to eASIC
February 27, 2013 - Violin
has selected ASICs from eASIC's
Nextreme-2T range to replace
high density FPGAs and implement fast flash controller functions more
its 6000 series SSD rackmounts it was
There is tremendous innovation going on in the enterprise
storage market and we are thrilled to be working with Violin, one of the fastest
growing leaders in this space, said Ronnie Vasishta,
President and CEO, eASIC. OEMs need to continuously innovate and quickly ramp to
volume production. We are starting to see a tipping point where FPGAs cannot be
used in mission critical, power sensitive, volume applications and the ASIC
alternatives do not meet the requirements. Traditional cell-based ASICs just
take too long to design and ASSPs have limited flexibility for the NAND FLASH
updated SSD controller line from Hyperstone
February 21, 2013 - Hyperstone
is presenting their updated line-up of low power consumption high reliability
Flash controllers at the Embedded
World trade show next week in Nuremberg, Germany.
Silicon Motion's new mobile devices TLC SSD controller
February 21, 2013 - Silicon Motion
announced imminent sampling of a new
controller - for consumer handheld products.
The SM2703 is a
single-channel, SD 3.0 UHS-I (Ultra High Speed Phase I) card controller with
superior support for the vast majority of NAND flash, including 2y-nm, 1x-nm and
1y-nm TLC and MLC which delivers up to 95MB/s and enables full HD video
recording capability by digital cameras, smartphones and other mobile devices on
both Class 4 and Class 6 SD flash memory cards using cost-effective TLC NAND
"We've already had tremendous success in the UHS-I
market since we introduced our first UHS-I controller 2 years ago - which was
used by most of the world's leading flash card brands" said Wallace Kou,
President and CEO of Silicon Motion. "Our solution was widely adopted
because it was high performance, cost-effective, and supported the vast majority
of available NAND components. Our new 55nm based SM2703 controller is
firmware compatible and is a cost-effective, flexible quick way to market for
customers who want to use the latest MLC and TLC NAND flash."
Proton gets funds to rejuvenate prospects for flash
February 7, 2013 - Proton
Digital Systems today announced
the completion of its $2 million seed round to support continued development
and expansion of its LDPC-based flash read channel IP products that increase
and longevity of
Protons IP is currently licensed for enterprise and consumer applications and
has already been adopted by some of the worlds largest flash memory companies.
and DSP IP in SSDs, flash
SSD management care schemes
RunCore is 1st to announce BiTMICRO OnBoard
January 29, 2013 - today announced that
Talino controllers in its new
Kylin III MAX
family (fast PCIe SSDs).
Over-provisioning flash capacity in SSDs - article by LSI
January 8, 2013 -
SSD over-provisioning - is the title of a new article published in EDN and written by Kent Smith, Sr. Director of
Product Marketing at the SSD controller part of LSI.
article describes the trade-offs between performance, the percentage of
over-provisioned flash capacity and the useful impact of compressible data -
which inside SandForce controllers is leveraged to create additional
over-provisioning. The interaction between write amplification counter-measures
and the benefits of using TRIM commands on performance are also noted. ...read
Editor's comments:- there wasn't anything
new for me in this article - which covers similar ground to my 2011 article -
capacity - the iceberg syndrome - which shows how SSD makers leverage
capacity to tweak reliability and performance.
But - having said that -
I learned about over-provisioning by 10 years of talking about it - with
many SSD companies. And some of the things I put in my own article had been
gleaned from past conversations with Kent Smith himself when he was at
SandForce - as well as various other people in
Texas Memory Systems
guessing that what Kent would have liked to say on OP may have been "trimmed"
by a word count limit in his latest EDN article.
So here are some
other suggestions for more substantial and ideas packed articles I recommend
- which Kent Smith has written in the past for other publications, and which
cover SSD controllers from other angles:-
Marvell aims at SSD on a chip market
January 2, 2013 - Marvell
it has made a strategic investment in Memoright.
part of the new collaborative agreements Memoright will write firmware
for Marvell's eMMC controllers - which will speed Marvell's entry into the
tiny SSD market for
use in smartphones and tablets.
Proton's 9x endurance, 2x speed enterprise flash IP now available
December 17, 2012 - Proton
Digital Systems today
the immediate availability of an
( Low Density Parity Check) NAND FLASH read channel for enterprise storage
applications compatible with implementation using
enables enterprise storage vendors to double the throughput performance at
approximately half the power that can be achieved using state-ofthe art FPGAs.
The Proton Digital Systems LDPC read channel enables enterprise
FLASH storage system companies to leverage low cost MLC flash devices and
increase its longevity
to 45,000 program/erase cycles, compared to only 5,000 program/erase cycles
We were keen to work with eASIC as we are
increasingly seeing eASIC devices being selected as platforms for enterprise
grade customized flash controllers, said Dr. Andrei Vityaev, CEO at
Proton Digital. In enterprise storage systems, production volumes are often not
high enough and the market changes are too dynamic to justify cell-based ASICs
but performance and low power requirements are beyond the capability of FPGAs.
This makes an eASIC
solution ideal for this space.
Editor's comments:- this
flash DSP technology enables oems to do the kind of things which
STEC already do in
SAS SSDs, and which
Skyera does in its
rackmounts. This type of technology will become essential for fast-enough SSD
makers to remain efficient
and competitive in the next few years. The only other game in town for
licensing something similar right now - is
experimental technique eliminates flash endurance limit
December 2, 2012 - An article in IEEE
Memory Survives 100 Million Cycles - summarizes a recent research paper by
which described an experimental technique to redesign flash cells to improve
technique - which StorageSearch.com does not think is feasible to scale for
commercially competitive memory densities - involves designing addressable
heaters in the memory array which can pulse upto 800 degrees C for a few
milliseconds. This thermal "refreshing cycle" anneals the chip
material and heals common wear-out defects while also enabling the cells to be
Afterward, we realized that there was no new physics
principle invented here, and we could have done this 10 years ago said
the project director at Macronix
sources power holdup technology for NVDIMMs
14, 2012 - Micron
has signed an
agreement with AgigA Tech to
collaborate to develop and offer nonvolatile DIMM (NVDIMM) products using
AgigA's PowerGEM (sudden power loss
controller and holdup modules).
Crocus will sample secure fast MRAM controllers in January
November 5, 2012 - Crocus
that in January 2013 it will sample 1.2MByte high speed SIMs and small secure
fast R/W speeds will enable optimized personalization and over-the-air updates
The CT32MLU product family breaks the barrier of traditional
non-volatile memory that
will provide smartcard makers with best-in-class secure element microcontrollers
with a 20 to 30% smaller footprint, said Alain Faburel,
VP security business unit at Crocus Technology.
the next big SSD idea?
Editor:- October 3, 2012 -
published a new blog
the advantages of
comparative differences in SSD design efficiency.
Intel paper - Data Integrity on 20nm flash SSDs
August 22, 2012 - "Avoid skepticism and seek understanding" - is one
of the calls to action in
paper - Data Integrity on 20nm SSDs (pdf) - presented today at the Flash Memory Summit
a bold move at the start, the author - Robert Frickey - brings to the
fore the subject of flaky
SSDs and firmware bugs and recalls - naming several SSD vendors in this
context - including Intel.
He says "Despite datasheet metrics,
it's not easy to predict behavior of SSDs in the field. Validation should be
considered as part of data integrity."
Even if you've already read
many other articles on SSD data integrity - this paper clearly communicates
some fundamentals about flash cells and the variety of different types of
disturb errors which makes it a useful educational document.
tone with what some other leading SSD companies are saying too - the author
urges you to "Understand your
usage model and
requirements. Innovate around application needs." ...read
the article (pdf)
IDT samples controllers for NVMe compatible 2.5" PCIe SSDs
August 21, 2012 - IDT
it's sampling single chip NVMe
compatible flash SSD
controllers for designers in the
PCIe SSD market.
models are available:- a 16-channel with PCIe x4 Gen 3 (89HF16P04AG3
for smaller footprints such as the
2.5" PCIe SSD
market - supports upto 2TB capacity) and 32-channel with PCIe x8 Gen 3 (89HF32P08AG3
for the conventional size cards upto 4TB capacity) - in 27 x 27 mm and 40 x 40
mm FCBGA packages respectively.
Both products support connection to 2
hosts and failover for
comments:- for those of you who like videos - I suggest you see
video which starts with an introduction to acceleration SSDs, explains the
advantages of having a standard such as NVMe - which means that oems can have a
single common set of drivers which work with SSDs from multiple vendors and
describes more features of the products - including hot pluggability.
DensBits acclaimed with "most innovative flash memory
Editor:- August 27, 2012 - at the recent
Flash Memory Summit
last week DensBits
acclaimed Best of Show award winner in the category of most innovative flash
memory technology for its 3 bits/cell
IP controller technology (which the company brands as its
comments:- as I said here in
April when the
company exited stealth mode - it was clear that this was a company which would
make waves in the SSD market. It shot straight into the
top 20 SSD companies
list in the same quarter. The recent award from Flash Memory Summit -
which is based on a panel of industry experts - is well deserved.
LSI ships 1 million SandForce controllers / month
July 31, 2012 - LSI
has announced enhanced support for the
market in its SandForce
SF-2200/2100 controllers:- enabling lower SSD power consumption, faster
boot and support for "virtually all MLC flash product families".
has shipped well over 10 million
and we anticipate our shipment volumes will continue to increase, driven by the
exploding demand and lowering price points for NAND flash technology, said
VP of marketing, Flash Components Division, LSI.
comments:- last week I asked LSI if the power saving feature was related in
any way to adaptive
DSP care. I haven't got an answer yet - so it may be the answer is No.
On the other hand maybe they're waiting for the
Flash Memory Summit (in 3 weeks
time) before they say more about their adaptive write DSP IP roadmap.
have shipped over 10 million SSD controllers - since
2010 - and
they're currently shipping over 1 million per month.
Important update to DSP IP in SSD ECC article
June 28, 2012 - after publishing my article about
techniques inside MLC SSDs - I realized that some of you would want to know
a lot more about the subject than I know or have time to write about about.
So yesterday I asked Gregory Wong founder of
Insights if he could add anything for our readers - and also which of
his many reports would be appropriate for someone who needs to dive deeply into
this subject? You can see what he said in this important update on the
home page of StorageSearch.com
Seagate chooses DensBits for TLC and 1Xnm
June 25, 2012 - Seagate
announced today it will use DensBits's flash care
technology in the design of forthcoming consumer and enterprise SSDs.
has also made an equity investment in DensBits.
comments:- I've already written more than enough about about this technology
trend recently on the home page.
Hynix acquires DSP SSD IP company LAMD
20, 2012 -SK Hynix
it has entered into an agreement to acquire California-based storage solution
The reason for the acquisition should be clear if you
read the article on my home page yesterday about the new generations of
adaptive SSD controllers. The
roadmap for flash memory
is dependent on these technologies to enable workable SSDs.
what's the role of social media in electronics design?
June 20, 2012 -
Times is running a survey to see whether electronics engineers consider
social media useful in their work.
new article - adaptive flash care IP (including DSP)
Editor:- June 19,
2012 - A few months ago I promised readers that I would publish a tentative list
of SSD companies who use what I loosely called "adaptive DSP technologies
in SSD IP" in their new designs. Here
Skyera claims 100x gain in system level SSD endurance
June 19, 2012 - In a new positioning
video launched today - Skyera's founder
claims that his company's vertically integrated technology - which includes
both a new SSD controller and supporting SSD software - achieves effectively a
100x gain in
using new consumer grade flash. The result will be
SSD bulk storage
systems which cost less than
hard drive arrays. ...see the video
does ReRAM have role in hybrid enterprise SSDs?
June 15, 2012 - A research group led by Professor Ken Takeuchi
at Chuo University in Japan has published results of using
ReRAM in a
with flash which can reduce power consumption by an order of magnitude and
increase the operating life by 7x according to -an article
in Nikkeibp.co.jp. The research is looking at implications for enterprise
LAMD launches 90K IOPS SATA SSD controller
June 11, 2012 -Link_A_Media
a fast new
SSD controller aimed
at the SATA SSD market.
LM87800 can deliver 90K sustained random
R/W IOPS and
550 MB/s sustained sequential throughput using a 6Gb/s
SATA host interface.
The company says its eBoost SSD technology uses proprietary adaptive
DSP techniques coupled with powerful on-the-fly error correction technology.
With 8 NAND channels supporting the high-speed ONFi 2.3 and Toggle 1
flash interfaces, the LM87800 can access up to 1TB of commodity NAND flash while
also cost-effectively supporting lower capacities.
SandForce SSD controllers demonstrated with 19nm flash
June 6, 2012 - LSI
demonstrations of its SandForce
SF-2000 flash controllers working with Toshiba 19nm and Intel 20nm NAND
flash memory at Computex 2012
taking place this week in Taipei, Taiwan.
Working with all 6
leading manufacturers of NAND flash technology enables LSI to optimize our flash
processors for ever-shrinking silicon geometries, said Michael Raam, VP
and GM, Flash Components Division, LSI.
over 7 million SandForce controllers had been shipped upto the start of Q2 2012
- and 20% of all the flash capacity in computing today is controlled
by a SandForce controller according to company sources.
IDC says shipments of SSDs
in client and enterprise markets are expected to exceed 100 million units
LSI says that its multi-generation roadmaps are a key reason
that oems (currently 50 companies) like its way of doing things. The 1st
generation SandForce controller supported 4 flash generations from 5Xnm down to
2Xnm and its current generation started at 3Xnm geometries and already supports
3 generations of flash down to 20nm.
LSI says that one of the reasons
it can support so many generations of flash from the same generation controller
design is that it uses firmware as part of the flash management IP.
BiTMICRO acquires mixed signal IP assets from QualCore
June 5, 2012 - BiTMICRO
obtained over 600 IP assets from QualCore
whose portfolio includes analog, digital, and mixed-signal IC design.
The acquisition also brings BiTMICRO closer to its goal of bringing the entire
development cycle in-house, from ASIC design to characterization testing.
Buffalo puts MRAM into SSD cache
Editor:- May 21,
2012 - Buffalo
Technology is using a
nvm approach in a new
design of SSD - according to a report in Tom's
Hardware - which says the company will use
in its cache.
Editor's comments:- this was anticipated in my
2008 article - the Flash
SSD Performance Roadmap.
RAM cache flash
ratio in SSDs varies from close to zero (skinny) upto
RAM makes it easier for designers to meet
which are desireable in some applications - but it also creates additional
cost and complexity in the
loss management subsystem.
RAMlike NVMs such as MRAM aren't a
golden bullet either - but by compressing the time window required to maintain
holdup for critical save operations from milli-seconds to microsends (and
cleaning up the state on the next restart) such chips can enable a smaller
footprint than other approaches.
At the other end of the spectrum -
designers of skinny cache controller architecture can achieve the same
in-system apps results with virtually no RAM. So - as usual in SSDs - you will
see a diversity of
approaches in competing SSDs. They aren't all going down the same path -
even if the destination looks the same.
"mixed earnings results" for flash controllers -
Editor:- May 3, 2012 - today
a report in DIGITIMES
provides a snapshot of business activity at 5 of the 30 plus merchant market
nand flash SSD
controller IP companies (listed on this page).
DensBits samples new TLC flash controller
April 30, 2012 - DensBits
today released a new SSD controller - the
which supports the latest 2Xnm and 1Xnm TLC (3 bits/cell ) MLC flash with an
figure of more than 10K P/E cycles and R/W performance of up to 95MB/s / 65MB/s
and 4,000 / 1,100 R/W
for sequential and random operations, respectively.
Modem technology (adaptive DSP in SSD IP) which enables a native TLC
solution with more than double the endurance of 2 bits/cell (MLC), and near-MLC
Editor's comments:- It's easy to miss the
significance of new SSD products and technologies. And you might think from
looking at the text and numbers above - this is a consumer style
SSD controller - and
it's not for me.
But I think DensBits may become one of the
top 20 SSD companies
real soon - unless it gets acquired before that happens. Its flash technology
has very high roadmap
symmetry and the potential to impact competitiveness in the consumer,
embedded and fast-enough enterprise SSD markets with a splash that's as big as
when it emerged on the scene 3 years ago. You can read more in
Who's who in SSD? -
SandForce driven SSDs get 5x SMARTer
26, 2012 - I recently learned that SMART has figured
out a way to get 5x more endurance from consumer flash when using
unmodified industry standard controllers from LSI/SandForce. This
is discussed in more detail in SSD
how fast can your SSD run backwards?
20, 2012 - StorageSearch.com
today published a new article which looks at the
11 key symmetries in
Whether you're a
investor in SSDs -
this new conceptual framework will help you to comparatively evaluate any SSD
compared to competitive offerings. It's helpful whether you're looking at raw
SSD IP and controller chips right up to the most complex
SSDs are complex devices and there's a lot of mysterious
behavior which isn't fully revealed by
vendor's product datasheets and whitepapers. Underlying all the important
aspects of SSD behavior are asymmetries which arise from the intrinsic
technologies and architecture inside the SSD.
Which symmetries are
most important in an SSD? - That depends on your application. But knowing
that these symmetries exist, what they are, and judging how your selected SSD
compares will give you new insights into SSD
no such thing as a perfect SSD in the market today - but the SSD
symmetry list helps you to understand where any SSD in any memory technology
stands relative to the ideal. And it explains why deviations from the ideal can
The new article unifies all SSD architectures and
technologies in a simple to understand way. Now that I've spent
20 years thinking about
it - it all seems really obvious now. This is the most important article
about SSDs that I've written in the past few years. But I couldn't have written
it before. I hope you like it.
...click to read
Dataram monetizes SSD ASAP IP
Editor:- April 4, 2012
- Dataram today
it has sold its patents portfolio related to solid state storage and
SSD ASAPs for
$5 million to Phan Tia Group.
Dataram retains a license to
continue to use the patents in current and future Dataram products including
XcelaSAN with limited
rights to transfer its license. ipCapital Group
assisted in patent valuation, and supported Dataram on the negotiation and
successful close of this transaction.
Editor's comments:- this
is a good deal for Dataram. This way they retain their stake in the
RAM end of the
SSD ASAP market -
and get some cash to pursue growth ideas. The XcelaSAN has been aimed at
niche segments in the enterprise
SSD market - but could take off in new directions with the appropriate
the top 10 microcontroller companies - Databeans report
March 29, 2012 -Databeans
this month published a
on the microntroller market ($3,600 132 pages).
published a free giveaway in their newsletter which ranks the
top 10 microcontroller
companies by revenue. Although these reports are cumulative across all
markets and not just SSD - I thought you might be interested.
new Marvell SSD controllers will accelerate Ultrabook masses
March 14, 2012 - Marvell
mass design wins for its new high speed 6Gbps SATA
SSD controller - the
88SS9187 which supports
regular RAM cache
(upto 1GB) and upto 500MB/s R/W even at dirty drive conditions.
supports on-chip RAID
technology for the NAND device with flexible customer firmware based algorithms
to optimize retiring
of defective NAND block,
die or device and has the
power consumption of any controller in this performance class.
NeoMagic demos FPGA simulation of USB MagicVault controller
February 27, 2012 - NeoMagic
that the company is ready to demonstrate MagicVault, its USB 3.0 based UFD USB
Flash Drive Controller solution on an FPGA platform.
SMART-inside SAS SSDs - offer credible competitive alternative
Editor:- February 22, 2012 - SMART Storage Systems
Ultra (a 1.2TB 2.5" 100K/60K IOPS, 500MB/s R/W
SAS SSD) which uses
the company's new, in-house developed, high reliability enterprise SSD
controller IP - which includes DSP and adaptive programming techniques to
deliver industry leading SSD data integrity and upto 25x / day full disk
writes for 5 years endurance - while using low cost consumer grade MLC.
- "The new controller learns from each chip the best way to handle it
- and can even use different parameters in different parts of the chip and at
different points in time too." - from
Who's who in SSD - talking to SMART's
President - John Scaramuzzo (Feb 28, 2012)
VIA chooses Tensilica core for new SSD controller
February 15, 2012 - Tensilica
that VIA has
selected Tensilica's Xtensa dataplane processors (DPUs) for a new design of SSD
After conducting a technical evaluation, VIA determined
that Tensilica's DPUs provide over 4x the performance of competing processors on
key algorithms used to benchmark competitive alternatives.
With conventional processors, increasing the clock speed is the
common way to increase SSD IOPS. However this increases energy consumption
and die size, especially as speeds increase so much that designers are forced to
move to more complex multi-core solutions.
Tensilica says its DPUs
allow designers to customize the IP core, mix both control and signal
processing, and add high-bandwidth connectivity to increase performance without
increasing the clock speed.
For example, designers can use
single-cycle bit field manipulation and arithmetic instructions along with
multiple simultaneous single-cycle table lookups to achieve over 10x the
efficiency of other processors. This not only increases IOPS, but also
significantly reduces the energy consumed and the complexity of the SOC design
Editor's comments:- There's a good precedent for
this. When SandForce
came to market in April
2009 - their CEO (at that time) Alex Naqvi
told me their controller
used the dataplane processors from Tensilica.
Rambus gets into the nv memory IP market
February 6, 2012 -Rambus
it has acquired Unity
Semiconductor for an aggregate of $35 million in cash.
part of this acquisition, the Unity team members have joined Rambus to continue
developing innovations and solutions for next-generation
"At Rambus, we are creating disruptive technologies
to enable future electronic products," said Sharon Holt,
senior VP and GMof the Semiconductor Business Group at Rambus. "With the
addition of Unity, we can develop non-volatile memory solutions that will
advance semiconductor scaling beyond the limits of today's NAND technology. This
will enable new memory architectures that help meet ever-increasing consumer
Intel's fastest SSD uses SandForce inside
February 6, 2012 - Intel
it has used SandForce
controllers for the first time in its new (and fastest) SATA 3 2.5"
SSD - the
SSD 520 - which (with upto 80K R/W IOPS peak - 4KB) is aimed at gaming, CAD
and graphics content creation markets.
"We worked closely with
Intel to leverage their deep understanding of the NAND flash, ultimately
providing a unique and optimized solution for client computing applications with
the LSI SandForce Flash Storage Processor," said Michael Raam, VP
and GM of LSI's Flash Components Division.
Violin video re visibility advantages of home grown controllers
January 23, 2012 - I commented recently that the
top 10 SSD companies in
Q4 2011 all had one thing in common (apart from the fact they make SSDs) -
they all had their own proprietary
architecture which they could use to optimize products for some application
markets (even if some of them also used other controllers too).
video - Violin's,
CTO Software Jonathan Goldick
talks about the benefits they get from having their own controller.
like it because it also echoes themes I discussed last year in my
big versus small
SSD architecture article - and also because it's short - less than 250
Violin's SSD video
BiTMICRO's new SSD controller nearly ready
January 17, 2012 - BiTMICRO
has named its new SSD
controller - which has just gone through
It's called TALINO-DE
- Translation and Linking of I/O Nodes -Device Edition. - Not very catchy - but
all the best SSD
names have gone.
The multi-core TALINO-DE is
architecture (manages hundreds of flash chips) and includes full data path
embedded AES engines for data
security, embedded XOR engines for delivering faster transaction processing
in RAID configurations,
management, and other resource optimization.
comments:- the new controller appears to be in a similar conceptual class
to those which have been shipping in some
PCIe SSDs from
example - although these in turn are very different - starting at the
basics (TMS designs range from regular to fat, whereas Virident is skinny.)
the new BiTMICRO controller lives up to its promise - and if it's marketed as a
merchant chip set - it could lead to a commoditization of PCIe and rackmount
SSDs similar to the effect
SandForce had on the
enterprise 2.5" SSD
OCZ turns to Marvell controller for newest PCIe SSD
January 9, 2012 - at the Storage
Visions 2012 Conference
today OCZ is
PCIe SSDs - which use
jointly developed with Marvell
(instead of - as in previous models - controllers from SandForce).
comments:- if anyone wondered how OCZ would retain its positioning in the
PCIe SSD market - relative to competitor
LSI - following the
latter's acquisition of SandForce - this anouncement is the answer. OCZ
also has its own controller line - acquired from
are plenty of SSD controller designs in the market - and SSD designers have a
lot of freedom to choose what works best for particular markets at different
NVMe compliant IP core aims at PCIe SSD designers
January 6, 2012 - IP-Maker
transfer manager core - for use in
PCIe SSD designs
fitting between the media and the
flash controller. The
design is compliant with the NVM
PCIe SSD manufacturers will benefit from a
performance increase thanks to the IP-Maker NVMe IP core says Mickaël Guyard, Product
Marketing Director at IP-Maker. This efficient DMA manager ensures the data flow
up to the NandFlash, therefore off-loading the motherboard CPU.
SandForce joins LSI's new Flash Components Division
January 4, 2012 - LSI
it has completed the acquisition of SandForce.
comments:- most of the leading companies in the earth shaking
PCIe SSD market use
architecture controllers or software - which provides cost and efficiency
advantages when you compare usable capacities with maximun fault protection
That puts competitors who use small SSD architecture (such as
Seagate - who use
- and STEC which has yet
to establish a stronghold in this market with its own ASIC) at a potential
disadvantage as capacities scale up.
One of the design challenges for
LSI will be to see if they can extract the proven flash management features in
past SandForce controllers and scale them up to support bigger capacities and
faster throughput without adding latency penalties (which currently accrue with
arrays of SFPs) or which uses a new processor core or split controller
architecture to better support larger flash chip populations.
Apple acquires Anobit
Editor:- December 21, 2011 -
acquired Anobit for a sum
thought to be in the range $400 to $500 million.
SandForce enables enterprise oems to tweak the flash capacity
Editor:- December 12, 2011 -SandForce today
it is sampling a new SSD controller - the SF-2481 - which provides increased
data security and
features compared to earlier models from the company.
comments:- the new SandForce controllers are aimed at enterprise bulk
storage applications / cloud
storage. Performance is about the same as before - and the encryption
strength is better - but the 2 main differences are:-
The over provisioning feature is a key parameter which
directly impacts the competitiveness of the oems who deploy SSDs with SF
controllers - who can now decide for themselves how they want to adjust the
flash in their systems between reliability - coping for
high IOPS -
or cost effectiveness in lower IOPS systems - where the SSD is being used in a
large storage array to
replace HDD storage.
- New improved media health test
Previous models of SF controllers hard coded this
parameter - which meant that arrays of (small architecture) SF inside SSDs were
uncompetitive compared to
SSD systems from Violin
or Texas Memory Systems.
you're selling a controller which can go into such a diverse range of apps -
it's impossible for the controller designer to choose a single set up which is
best for all apps. Fusion-io
has always enabled its oem partners to tweak this paramater in its PCIe SSDs. My
headline comes from the article
capacity - the iceberg syndrome which discusses these tradeoffs in more
new article compares SSD controllers to SSD ASAPs
December 8, 2011 - continuing the series -
Who's who in SSD? - I've written a
new article today about FlashSoft.
are analagies between the SSD controller and auto-tiering IP market - in
addition to the obvious technical overlaps already seen in some products.
STEC vs OCZ's new SAS SSDs
Editor:- November 29, 2011
- STEC and OCZ both announced
today they are sampling new fast
SAS SSDs using
How can you compare such superficially similar
- but in reality quite different - products?
Just be glad if it's
not you doing the comparing. ...more on SSD news
BiTMICRO nurtures microchip design training in Philippines
October 25, 2011 - the Bruce Institute
of Technology is a new training institute in the Philippines - focused
on microchip design - which has been set up in a collaborated effort led by
partnership with Synopsys,
The name celebrates the family name of the Bruce
brothers - who founded BiTMICRO in
an ASIC design consultancy - before embarking on their pioneering market
developments in flash SSDs.
Viking ships nv 8GB DDR3 DIMM
Editor:- October 18,
Viking said it
extension of their nv module range.
ArxCis-NV plugs into standard
RAM sockets and provides
2GB to 8GB RAM which is backed up to SLC flash in the
event of a
power failure - while the memory power is held up by an optional external
25F supercap pack. Viking says these new memory modules can eliminate the need
for battery backup units in servers and the maintenance logistics associated
with maintaining them. They are specified as being maintenance free for "5
years @ 60C".
Editor's comments:- will these new modules
replace batteries in
RAM SSDs? - I doubt it
- because of scalability issues - like managing a spiderweb of 100+ dangly
bits of wire when you have a terabyte of RAM. Having said that - there are many
applications which only use a small number of memory chips which could benefit
from such a product.
Hybrid Memory Cube will enable Petabyte SSDs
October 7, 2011 - Samsung
and Micron this
week launched an new industry initiative - the Hybrid Memory Cube Consortium
- which will standardize a new module architecture for memory chips -
enabling greater density, faster bandwidth and lower power.
is unlike anything currently on the radar," said Robert Feurle,
Micron's VP for DRAM Marketing. "HMC brings a new level of capability to
memory that provides exponential performance and efficiency gains that will
redefine the future of memory."
Editor's comments:- HMC
may enable SSD designers to pack 10x more
RAM capacity into the same
space with upto 15x the bandwidth, while using 1/3 the power due
to its integrated power management plane.
The same technology will
enable denser flash SSDs too - if flash is still around in 3 years' time and
hasn't been sucked into the obsolete market slime pit by the
lurking nv demons
which have been shadowing flash for the past 10 years and been waiting for each
"next generation" to stumble and be the last.
management architecture integrated in HMC and the density scaling it allows
for packing memory chips (without heat build-up) are key technology enablers
which were listed as some of the problems the SSD industry needed to solve
in my 2010 article -
this way to the
Hyperstone's new controller enables low power skinny SSDs
August 3, 2011 - Hyperstone
today introduced their new
family of SSD
controllers - designed to enable physically small, very low power
Features include:- upto 130MB/s sustained write performance and
600 4K random write IOPS, NCQ, power down detection for increased power cycling
robustness, typical active current consumption at 25C with 100% utilization
during stress test operating 4 x 3.3V NAND Flashes of about 250mA, SATA
partial/slumber (about 150mA) and CFast PHYSLP (about 5mA) power modes
"Our A2 available in a 9x9x1.2mm TFBGA 201 is probably
the smallest and most power efficient 4-channel SATA controller in the market,"
Gunyuzlu, President of Hyperstone Inc., USA. "We can now provide
SATA performance, industrial reliability and ruggedness for smaller form factor
systems without requiring any volatile memory prone to
issues. We also expect we are delivering the best possible random read/write
performance without relying on a DRAM, which is ideal for embedded applications."
comments:- this is the other end of the performance scale from the
fastest SSDs which
enterprise users are used to reading about. Low power embedded systems can't
afford the luxury of the low slew rate (fat caps) power supplies you see in
datacenters. And many commercial SSDs can get trashed and corrupted in less
than an hour if they're mistakenly deployed in such systems. Putting the power
fail detection inside the SSD and having no external RAM is just one of many
patented design techniques which specialist companies like Hyperstone use in
their quest to provide failsafe protection against power line induced data
OCZ elevates performance of Indilinx SSD controllers
July 21, 2011 - OCZ
is now sampling a new dual core ARM based
SSD controller for
6Gbps SATA SSDs which
can deliver upto 500MB/s sequential throughput and 200 mega transfers per
platform supports up to 1x nm NAND Flash with 1, 2, or 3 bits per cell,
has 70 bits of BCH ECC
per sector, end to end data protection, fast boot options (50% faster than
competing SSDs) and enhanced
protection. The new platform - supports 1TB flash capacity and has a
400MHz DDR3 DRAM
cache interface with support for up to 512MB.
comments:- ever since I wrote my
Petabyte SSD roadmap
article in March 2010 I've been waiting for controller manufacturers to
start mentioning faster boot times in their press releases. There's a long way
to go from what we have now - and the 20 milli-second range boot times needed
to support what I call SSD
library devices - but any step in electronic system design away from the
mechanical inertial corsets of
hard drives towards the
freer flowing boundaries set by
semiconductors is progress.
Why will the SSD industry need
ultra-fast faster boot times? They don't need to boot that fast for netbooks.
But the power consumption of a 1U multi-petabyte archive storage rack will be
too high (and too hot) unless 90% of the SSDs are normally unpowered.
is STEC better placed for 1X nm nand SSDs than those relying
Editor:- July 20, 2011 - STEC held a conference
call earlier this week hosted by financial analyst
Stifel Nicolaus. Here are some higlights:-
- shrinks from 34nm to 1X nm - STEC will get early physical models
and samples of 1X nm nand flash at the the end of this year.
- ECC - STEC says traditional
BCH error codes aren't
viable for future MLC flash generations because they would need 100 / 300 bit
codes for consumer / server apps. In the server case - the error codes could
useup 30-40% of the original capacity
...more highlights from the
- eMLC vs STEC MLC. STEC said it has 2 dozen pending patents on its
MLC protection technology (called Cellcare) - which works with consumer MLC.
STEC says its MLC technology provides better operating life and more even
performance in SSDs than higher priced enterprise MLC. STEC says that the
tweaks and selections done by flash memory makers to produce eMLC won't scale to
STEC also said that eMLC doesn't guarantee an
operating life which is as long as its Cellcare - and some SSD makers may find
they don't have a long term future in the market - due to a combination of
wear-out / performance degradation that will affect customers - and due to the
fact that eMLC isn't scalable. You can be sure this is going to develop into a
marketing claims pissing war - which will make anything you previoulsy heard
about MLC vs SLC seem much simpler and tamer in comparision.
How big was the thinking in the SSD design?
July 5, 2011 -
Why size really
does matter in SSD design architecture is a new article recently
published on StorageSearch.com
designers, integrators, end users and investors - understanding what follows
from simple Big versus Small architectural choices predicts a lot of
important consequences. ...read the article
flash SSD capacity - the iceberg syndrome
June 22, 2011 - have you ever wondered how the amount of flash inside a
flash SSD compares to the capacity shown on the invoice?
published a new article -
capacity - the iceberg syndrome .
What you see isn't always what
you get. There can be huge variations in different designs as vendors leverage
capacity to tweak key
parameters. ...read the
optimizing SSD design to cope with flash plane errors
May 26, 2011 - a new slant on
architectures is revealed today by Texas Memory Systems
who explained how their patented Variable Stripe RAID technology is used in
their recently launched PCIe SSD card - the
does a 1 month burn-in of flash memory prior to shipment. (One of the
reasons cited for its use
of SLC rather than
Through its QA processes the company has acquired real-world failure data
for several generations of flash
memory and used this to model and characterize the failure modes which
occur in high IOPs SSDs.
...click to read
SanDisk pays $300 million for Lightning SSD controller
May 16, 2011 - SanDisk
agreement to acquire Pliant Technology
for approximately $327 million.
Editor's comments:- I had some
time ago made these strong comments in the profile pages of the respective
"As I see it Pliant's current business model is not
sustainable as it has a very narrow channel into the enterprise SSD market
which can easily be choked off by slot substitution." and
occasional talk about "enterprise SSDs" - SanDisk is culturally
rooted in the consumer electronics market. That's a very competitive market in
which few companies are making profits."
theoretically fixes complimentary strategic weaknesses for both companies:-
Pliant (no customers) and SanDisk (no enterprise IP).
STEC shifts from FPGAs to ASICs in ZeusIOPS
May 10, 2011 - STEC
announced it will transition the hardware used in its high performance
ZeusIOPS (2.5" and
3.5") SSDs from a
dependence on FPGAs to ASICs. And the same ASIC design will be used in
new PCIe SSDs later
STEC also announced that its revenue in the most recent
quarter was back in alignment with the growth rates for the enterprise SSD
market - following a decline in the preceding year attributed to over
stocking by its biggest customer
Anobit sources vital analog IP for SSDs
April 12, 2011 -
announced it has licensed IP cores from Cosmic
Circuits for several of its SoCs.
The analog IPs which consisted of linear regulators, a
and a silicon oscillator (with integrated clock multiplier) were implemented in
65nm CMOS process. These IPs were integrated into Anobit's
flash memory controllers
to enhance reliability
Blechman, VP R&D at Anobit said, "We had a need for a diverse
set of IPs, and were looking for a supplier who had proven expertise in each of
these areas. Cosmic fit the bill perfectly. With the strong support provided by
their team, we were also able to quickly address any integration issues, making
the process smooth and seamless."
comments:- although this press release only gives partial details of the
IP supplied (which relate to managing
power loss) I'm also guessing that Cosmic's ADC technology might also be in
Anobit uses DSP techniques to get better discrimination of
the state represented by stored charge in MLC flash. Sampling that charge itself
is an error prone process - but the "disturbance noise" filtering by
DSP can produce more reliable results if you can improve the ADC's resolution
or repeatability. Even a small incremental improvement or tweak in design at
this end can produce dramatic increases in
OCZ acquires Indilinx
Editor:- March 14, 2011 - OCZ today announced it has
signed a definitive agreement to acquire Indilinx for for
approximately $32 million of OCZ common stock.
have been deployed within OCZ's SSD products since December 2008, and are
currently featured in the Z-Drive series of
Indilinx's technology is expected to enable OCZ to expand its presence into the
embedded, hybrid storage, and industrial markets. OCZ will gain substantial
intellectual property from Indilinx including approximately 20 patents and
patent applications related exclusively to the business as part of the
Following its acquisition by OCZ, Indilinx will continue
to produce and supply its line of controller products to
SSD manufacturers and OEMs
on a global basis. The Indilinx controller business, and its 45 employees, will
remain intact under the leadership of Bumsoo Kim, the
founder and President of Indilinx, and Hyunmo Chung, Indilinx's CTO. OCZ
will continue its own R&D program to develop new proprietary technologies
and products to expand its own solid state drive offerings. The Indilinx
acquisition notwithstanding, OCZ plans to continue utilizing controllers from
other manufacturers including long-term partner
currently supplies SSD processors for a wide range of the Company's SSD products
including the Vertex 2, Agility 2, RevoDrive, customizable Deneva enterprise
drives, and the upcoming Vertex
3 family of SSDs.
"This transaction is an important step in OCZ's strategy and
significantly enhances our ability to capitalize on the worldwide demand for
Solid State Drives," said Ryan
Petersen, CEO of OCZ Technology Group. "This combination brings
together 2 organizations that are committed to advancing solid state drive
design, and provides a unique opportunity for OCZ to increase both customer and
shareholder value as well as expand our reach into embedded markets."
Editor's comments:- this announcement will send ripples
throughout the SSD industry. OCZ has been one of the most successful SSD
companies at growing sales revenue by filling the gap in the mid market for
fast (but not too insanely
fast) and affordable
I had previously said that the most significant gap in OCZ's
profile (given its revenue and comparing it to its peers in the
top SSD companies list)
was IP. Acquiring an SSD
controller company is an astute move. In the medium term it will enable OCZ
to influence product features to maximize the fit to user market needs which
OCZ has been so adept at spotting. The newly acquired patent base will also
provide horse trading and licensing revenue opportunities in the long term.See
also:- 3 Easy
Ways to Enter the SSD Market
Anobit ships new 3-bits-per-cell flash SSD controller
March 8, 2011 -
announced today that it has commenced high volume production of its
flash memory controller in cooperation with Hynix Semiconductor.
MSP2020 controller enables the use of commercial-grade 2-bits-per-cell and
3-bits-per-cell NAND flash across all of the latest process nodes, within
endurance- and performance-intensive embedded computing applications. MSP2020
controllers support up to 2 ONFI-compliant NAND interfaces to a host processor,
and can support product configurations from 4GBs to 128GBs.
span of just 5 years, the endurance of mainstream NAND flash has plummeted from
100,000 program/erase cycles to approximately 3,000 cycles, and the industry
push toward 3-bit-per-cell MLC NAND will place further downward pressure on NAND
In parallel, mobile computing devices will continue to fuel demand for higher
NAND endurance and performance, said Gregory Wong, founder and principal
innovative MSP technology is well positioned to close the NAND endurance
gap, and in so doing, help fuel the proliferation of NAND flash memory into a
variety of consumer electronics and computing markets.
Intel launches Marvell inside SSD
28, 2011 -Intel
the SSD 510 - a 2.5"
SATA 3 MLC SSD with
250GB capacity and upto 315MB/s sequential write performance which used an
SSD controller from
Atypically this product launch was not followed (a week later) by the
traditional recall / firmware upgrades which had accompanied previous Intel
new SandForce SSD controller has adaptive consumer features
February 25, 2011 - SandForce
today announced availability of its 2nd generation SF-2200 processors
optimized for SSDs deployed in client computing applications.
enables SSD makers to deliver 500MB/s R/W throughput (6Gbps SATA) and 20K
sustained and 60K burst
IOPS - and
are compatible with newly available ONFi2 and toggle flash memory from all
Editor's comments:- enterprise SSD designers
were able to get this type of performance from SandForce driven SSDs last year.
But the new SSD controllers are lower cost and include many oem adaptable
features which are particularly suited for consumer applications - as I learned
from talking to SandForce's Product Marketing Director Kent Smith yesterday.
first interesting thing is the IOPS. You can get the random IOPS performance
even when connected to a 3Gbps SATA host. So that makes it a worthwhile upgrade
to many existing designs. The way the burst IOPS works is interesting too. In
the enterprise chip the 60K IOPS is sustainable - but in the consumer product
SandForce has tuned the design so that users can get upto 60K IOPS for about 30
to 40 seconds - then performance drops down to 20K. But after another 40 seconds
the burst rate comes back again. This cycling can continue indefinitely. For
many applications - which are peaky in nature - this will be good enough - and
cheaper than alternatives.
The next new feature in this controller is
that the SSD designer can control the power consumption of the chip - by
presetting a single code. The SF processor is clever enough to optimize its
performance upto the set wattage. That make it easier to design battery operated
products which stay within a specified battery operating time - yet still give
Another new feature is the ability for SSD designers
who want to get good performance in cost sensitive consumer apps - is the
ability to remove the RAISE (RAID
for chips) feature. In entry level SSDs this provides significantly more usable
checking etc remains unchanged - in fact it has been improved in the 2nd
generation chips - but the SSD won't survive the failure of a whole memory
chip as it can do with the feature enabled.
what happens in SSDs when power goes down? - and why you should
Editor:- February 24, 2011 - StorageSearch.com today published
a new article -
SSD power is
going down! - which surveys power down management design factors in
Why should you care what happens in an SSD when the power goes
This important design feature - which barely rates a mention in
most SSD datasheets and press releases - is really important in determining SSD
data integrity and operational reliability.
This article will help
you understand why some SSDs which work perfectly well in one type of
application might fail in others... even when the changes in the operational
environment appear to be negligible. If you thought
was the end of the SSD
reliability story - think again. ...read the
will Micron's enhanced flash memory really eliminate error
Editor:- December 3, 2010 - Micron recently
announced availability of enhanced 16GB to 64GB 25nm
flash memory chips with integrated error management - which the company
says - removes the burden of ECC from the host and simplifies the use of flash
in enterpise apps.
"The pace of NAND scaling is largely
responsible for the incredible growth and success the industry has seen to date,
and for helping to create new flash-based storage solutions," said Glen
Hawk, VP of Micron's NAND Solutions Group. "While the advantages in NAND
scaling are evident, so are the challenges with the technology becoming
increasingly more difficult to manage. Micron's ClearNAND products remove this
management burden for our customers and extend the life of this all-important
Editor's comments:- as discussed in my recent article -
management in flash SSDs good blocks and less good blocks have always
coexisted in flash memory. But as device geometries shrink (to increase
capacity and speed) the margin of error between usable and non usable cells has
shrunk too. In practical terms this means that the raw media quaility of new
flash chips has declined in the past decade from under 1% defects, then 2%, 5%
and I've seen projections as high as 10% for emerging MLC.
these defects (which in theory are isolated and can be quarantined by vrtual
address management techniques) is just one of the many
challenges which SSD
controller designers have to work with.
What is not generally
appreciated is that it takes a lot of work and experience with the raw
flash to create a model
which you think represents how these bad bits will be distributed inside the
chip population over time. The ECC designer's job is to create a correction
model which gives the best data outcomes - given the raw material with which
they have to work. Different designers may choose different strategies based on
their intellectual understanding of the problem, patent portfolio, the market
the SSD is designed for and other constraints.
If you could clone
a bunch of flash chips and place them in 3 different SSD designs - the
lifetime of those 3 SSDs would vary significantly - even running the same
application and identical data. The difference would be due to how well the
controller designers matched their management techniques to the decaying
processes in the flash array.
By burying some of the ECC stuff inside
the flash chip - Micron makes it easier for SSD designers to create an SSD which
looks good when it is new. But it also introduces another risk factor - because
if Micron get their models wrong - then many SSD designs may fail much earlier
than predicted. That's always been true in the past too. In 5 years time we'll
know better which designers got it right and which didn't.
distant past I
used to design measuring instruments which pushed technology boundaries - and
an important part of making them work was creating and testing error budget
models - over time. Then in the process control world as now in SSDs - physics
and chemistry are the realities which can rudely interrupt all your carefully
contrived plans. Sometimes you're lucky it happens in the lab, or the test
sites, but when there's a disagreement between the concept and the real world -
reality always wins - reality is not a compliant servant and doesn't always fit
snugly within the urgency of marketing plans.
new book - Inside NAND Flash
Editor:- November 17,
2010 - Forward
Insights (an SSD
analyst company) is one of the contributers to a new book called -
NAND Flash Memories.
The publishers say that
SSD designers must
understand flash technology in order to exploit its benefits and countermeasure
its weaknesses. The new book is a comprehensive guide to the NAND world -
from circuits design (analog and digital) to
Intel invests in SSD controller company
November 16, 2010 - Anobit
announced that it closed a new funding round of $32 million led by Intel
Capital - bringing Anobit's total funding to over $70 million.
Editor's comments:- unlike another well known
SSD controller company
- Anobit is a company which until today has been known by a very small number
of analysts - and competitors and maybe even some
SSD companies who might be
using their products. I'm sure that - as a result of today's announcement -
they will get better known too.
pushing the SSD testing rock farther up the hill
August 25, 2010 - I'm mostly resistant to the idea of rehashing recent news
stories - but yesterday while talking about new SSD technologies a reader
asked me to take another look at
performance testing guidelines - which I reported on
a month ago.
said I had been surprised it took
SNIA so long to look at
these issues - because I had been aware of "Halo effects" in
flash SSD benchymarks for years - and commented - "But I guess member
led ORGs have a built in lag factor and only move at the speed of the
slowest exec members."
The reader - Neal Ekker -
whom I knew from his time at
Texas Memory Systems -
put up a spirited defense for this particular ORG opus and said...
all known about the fishy-ness of SSD performance claims for years. But I'd like
to draw attention to what an impressive accomplishment the SNIA SSS PTS
represents, no matter its technical merits or ramifications. I watched it
happen, and I can tell you it was an amazing POLITICAL achievement. And
I don't mean that in a negative way. Any time there's more than one person in a
room, there's politics. For a collection of engineers representing both their
own egos and the interests of their employers to finally agree on even this
rather bare-bones beginning standard was just remarkable to observe. I can't
begin to give enough credit to some of the chief movers and shakers.
Neal Ekker added - "This is why I want more attention focused on
the SSS PTS right now, so we don't lose momentum entirely. There's still plenty
of work to be done. We need additional companies and fresh faces and energies to
step up and push this rock a little farther up the hill."
Editor's comments:- During the majority of the SSS PTS development Neal
Ekker served as the SNIA SSSI Education Committee Chair. He's now a for-hire
independent SSD marketing consultant. ...Neal's bio,
PTS (pdf), Storage
Samsung and Seagate to codevelop SSD controllers
August 13, 2010 - Samsung
and Seagate -
they will jointly develop
technologies to operate with Samsung's 30nm-class MLC NAND.
jointly developed controller will be utilized in
Editor's comments:- despite being a keen advocate for solid
state storage since 2005 - Samsung has never had the IP it takes to develop
best in breed enterprise SSDs. Seagate, a relative newbie in the SSD market,
doesn't have SSD IP either - but it does have
hard disk interface
own SSD IP has always been desirable for Seagate. The new agreement also helps
to explain why the company was not happy to confirm industry reports that its
1st SSD actually used SoCs from
the 2 companies be able to develop world beating SSD controller technology?
In my long experience of talking to people in companies which do have
strong and unique SSD architectures - I have got the impression that a
successful enterprise SSD design needs:- unity of purpose, very strong
technical leadership, good sense of market direction, and years of fine tuning
I don't think that an inter company collaboration
like Samsung and Seagate can achieve the NO-COMPROMISE design
decisions which are needed to develop world beating enterprise SSD
architectures - no matter how talented individuals in the engineering pool may
|reset the reference SSD design
sudden power loss|
|Why should you care
what happens in an SSD when the power goes down? |
This important design
feature - which barely rates a mention in most SSD datasheets and press releases
- has a strong impact on
SSD data integrity
This article will help you understand why some
SSDs which (work perfectly well in one type of application) might fail in
others... even when the changes in the operational environment appear to be
|"While RAM can be
made insensible to soft errors in many different ways (by design or by
software) NVMs are also susceptible to irradiation errors... The lack of any
refresh cycle of the stored information make flash memories vulnerable to data
loss at each exposure to ionizing radiation even at the amounts which occur at
sea level and in terrestrial environments."|
Verrelli and Dimitris
Tsoukalas, in their chapter called Radiation Hardness of Flash and
Nanoparticle Memories - in the multi-author free online book Flash Memories
- published in September 2011 by InTech
Editor's comments:- that's another reason you need to run
a data healing process in the SSD controller task list BTW - not just to fix