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USB storage - by Zsolt Kerekes, editor

USB 3 is the first version of USB in 20 years which makes sense as a way to connect SSDs. All previous versions of USB were too slow to exploit the speed potential of SSDs - and relegated the role of USB flash drives to little more than high capacity sneakernet disks or personal backup media.

Consumer USB flash drives are not necessarily the same as USB flash SSDs.

The reliability differences (which mostly stem from controller complexity, memory type, power down architetcture and QA testing and verification processes) can be profound in some applications - such as embedded industrial designs. - Whereas the differences between cheaper and more expensive devices can be trivial if all you're doing is using the USB drive as one of many occasional consumer backup devices.

I've heard many stories about equipment designers - who designed USB drives into common products like point of sale display terminals - and who maybe qualified earlier generations of larger geometry flash. Then a few years later - their buyers switch to newer, cheaper consumer devices - thinking "newer must be better".

Result? - designs which worked OK in the lab, or with older memory - are failing in the field - due to the increasing specialization and "no-frills" aspects of most consumer designs.

Here are some articles, links and stories related to USB SSDs which you may find useful.
Consumer SSDs - a directory of publications - review of consumer flash drives
Thunderbolt 2, USB 3.0, and 10G USB – Who wins? - a design blog
USB storage page news - from storage history
269 million USB flash drives in 2013?

Annual USB flash drive shipments were anticipated to grow to 269 million units in 2013 - according to the USB Flash Tracker (pdf) - published by SCCG (Santa Clara Consulting Group) - in the final Q4 2012 edition of their publication for this segment of the market.

See also:- storage market research

Renice launches native USB 3 SSD with attached SCSI protocol support

Editor:- September 20, 2012 - Renice Technology launched a native USB 3 SSD (no bridge chips) using its own controller IP which supports the UAS (USB Attached SCSI) protocol, has SMART and power interruption data integrity protection and R/W speeds of 400MB/s and 320MB/s respectively.

SSDs and USB 3

Editor:- June 13, 2012 -Does my NAND flash need USB 3.0? - is a good summary of the value that USB 3 can bring to the SSD market - written by Eric Huang, at Synopsys

RunCore's video - phone to purge USB SSD

Editor:- May 22, 2012 - sometimes if I'm watching a movie I realize it's going to be bad - but in a way which is nevertheless all too fascinating to watch. How bad it will get? Look! - see it's getting worse - but still taking itself seriously. So - instead of zapping it like I should - I stay transfixed. Such bad movies are an artform.

What about promotional videos though? - on the subject of SSDs...

Mostly these are just time wasting. But today - in the "so dreadful I kept watching it nearly to the end" category was a new video on YouTube from RunCore about its Xapear SSD.

RunCore was the first company to haul "phone to purge capability" over the cost chasm which divides military SSDs over to the consumer SSD market - which it did 2 years ago - and the new video is simply about their latest model which combines RFID with the phone zap technology in an external USB connected SSD.

As a security concept I was convinced the idea had merit - when I first wrote about it 2 years ago. So I wasn't keen to see another new video about the same topic. But I'm glad I did - because it's an artform. to watch video

NeoMagic demos FPGA simulation of USB MagicVault controller

Editor:- February 27, 2012 - NeoMagic today announced that the company is ready to demonstrate MagicVault, its USB 3.0 based UFD USB Flash Drive Controller solution on an FPGA platform.

NeoMagic says FPGA platform test results for the MagicVault flash drive solution indicate a significant performance improvement over currently available products. In addition to testing, NeoMagic is discussing MagicVault and other new products in development with potential strategic partners and investors.

a new way to kill flash SSD data

Editor:- March 15, 2011 - Pangaea Media has recently entered the SSD backup market with a removable 2.5" SSD which integrates backup, encryption and a completely new (to me) patented fast purge technology.

Patriot launches native USB 3 flash drive

Editor:- December 9, 2010 - Patriot Memory launched a 64GB native USB 3 flash drive - which offers faster performance than other designs which use include a USB bridge chip.

"Patriot is one of the first companies to integrate a native single-chip USB 3.0 flash memory controller. By pairing the controller with our Quad-Channel technology, we're able to maximize performance with the Supersonic series," said Les Henry, Patriot Memory's VP of Engineering.

SSD Data Recovery Concepts

Editor:- December 1, 2010 - today published a new article - Introduction to SSD Data Recovery Concepts and Technologies - written by Jeremy Brock, President, A+ Perfect Computers.

It's hard enough understanding the design of any single SSD. And there are so many different designs in the market.

If you've ever wondered what it looks like at the other end of the SSD supply chain - when a user has a damaged SSD which contains priceless data with no usable backup - this article - written by one of a rare new breed of SSD recovery experts will give you some idea. I've waited more than 3 years to find someone to write an article on this subject for you. And now it's only a click away - read the article

USB3 faster than eSATA 2 for SMB disk backup

Editor:- November 8, 2010 - Idealstor announced today the release of a new rugged USB 3 removable HDD based backup product called the Bantam.

Editor's comments:- I asked marketing manager Ben Ginster about performance - and where the name of the product came from.

Re performance:- he said - "When we originally were testing the unit we were planning on having eSATA and USB3 on this drive but we found that USB3 speeds were faster than eSATA so we decided to just go with USB3. We have controllers for (customers with) systems that don't have USB3."

Re the Bantam (which for me having kept chickens - I had latched onto as a opportunity to add yet another inmate to my storage animal metaphors zoo / article) - I was wrong.

Ben Ginster told me " We came up with name after the Bantam Weight in boxing/wrestling. Small but powerful."

PhotoFast unveils USB 3 SSD for MacBook Air
Editor:- October 26, 2010 -PhotoFast said it will ship a 256GB USB SSD for the MacBook Air at the end of November.

Sustained R/W speeds are 250MB/s. Random R/W speeds are 50MB/s and 30MB/s respectively.

"Creating a whole new form factor SSD in the very limited time was quite a challenge" said PhotoFast's chief engineer Eddie Wang. "Thanks to support from SandForce, we finally made it".

upgrading old PCs with new SSDs

Editor:- July 9, 2010 - Upgrading Old PCs with SSDs is a cautionary tale published on Denali Software's blog.

I've often told readers who asked me about this subject - that they could be wasting their time trying to upgrade old notebooks with PATA or SATA SSDs - because most of the speedup benefits - if any - will be lost by the latency damping effects of cheap and slow bridge chips on the motherboard - and that - unlike in a server - notebooks have precious little CPU headroom.

It's nice to see these views are shared by the author of this article who works for an SSD IP vendor. the article

ioSafe Launches Disaster Proof Backup SSD

Editor:- January 5, 2010 - ioSafe launched the ioSafe Solo SSD - an ultra rugged USB / eSATA external flash SSD with upto 256GB capacity ($1,250) designed to provide data protection against disasters such as fire, flood, and building collapse.

ioSafe offers a "no questions asked" Data Recovery policy to help customers recover from any data disaster including accidental deletion, virus or physical disaster.

"The new ioSafe Solo SSD is the world's most rugged and versatile desktop external hard drive. It can be used alone or in conjunction with any offsite or online backup strategy to add real time, zero data loss, synchronous disaster protection to any data that sits vulnerable," said ioSafe CEO, Robb Moore.

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USB Storage Milestones from Storage History
The original USB (for Universal Serial Bus) was a low cost serial bus which, when shipped in 1996 (USB 1.0), provided upto 12Mb/S. That's about 100x faster than the RS-232 style serial interfaces used in earlier generations of computers which it replaced.

The USB is now widely used in Macs, PC's and even Linux systems. USB is typically used to connect devices such as printers, scanners, keyboards, digital cameras, MP3 players and external storage devices.

In June 2002, Intel and others started to demonstrate USB 2.0, which increases the speed of the peripheral to PC connection from 12 megabits per second (Mbps) on USB 1.1 to up to 480 Mbps on USB 2.0, or 40 times faster than with the older technology.

USB 3.0 - which at 5Gbps is 10x faster than USB 2.0 - was originally expected to be available in the summer of 2008. Instead shipments started in December 2009. It offers throughput similar to eSATA 2.0 - upto approx 300MB/s.

The article - USB 3.0 - A simple idea full of challenges - summarizes the problems facing chip designers hoping to achieve 5Gbps on cheap USB cables.

What if you're stuck with a USB 2 notebook and need fast cheap external storage now?

Some companies, such as Dane-Elec Memory, are marketing USB 3.0 adapters.

Another solution - for those who want to get more performance out of legacy USB 2.0 flash memory sticks is to look at USB SuperCharger Software from EasyCo which can apparently speed up writes by 2x to about 5x.

eSATA is another option - although for most notebooks it too - requires an adapter card.

Finally AoE storage provides a way for consumers to hook up a storage network using their inbuilt ethernet - which may be easier to set up than traditional NAS.
9 Years Ago - from SSD history

World's 1st dual interface USB+SATA SSD
Editor:- September 13, 2005 - STEC today announced the industry's first solid state drive with SATA and USB interfaces on one drive.

The Zeus Dual Interface SSD is the only available Flash drive that allows users to easily remove a single SSD from one system and use it in a 2nd system with different interface requirements. This makes it an optimal solution for applications that require that the SSD have a high-speed SATA interface for digital mission data storage in a combat system and an industry standard USB interface for direct connection to a debriefing station or other PC.

STEC is demonstrating the new Zeus drive this week at the Defence Systems & Equipment International 2005 Exhibition and Conference in London.

Since Zeus Dual Interface SSDs offer both SATA and USB connectivity, customers can work with an SSD design that is extremely flexible and optimized for use as a removable mass memory storage device. The product removes complexity from the design of host applications by eliminating the need to design interface adapters for the SSD.

Zeus Dual Interface SSDs have a 3.5-inch footprint and a 9.5 mm case height.and are available with capacities from 12 to 192 GB with sustained read/write rates of 60MBytes per second. Zeus SSDs are MIL-STD-810F compliant, and offer patented purge features.

...Later:- 2010 - this kind of dual interface technology has since become a popular way for SSD vendors to offer user installable SSD upgrades - in which the user transfers data from a rotating storage notebook onto an external SSD using USB - and then (hoping for the best) replaces the internal HDD with the SSD.
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SSD Pricing - where does all the money go?
SSDs are among the most expensive computer hardware products you will ever buy.

Understanding the factors which determine SSD costs is often a confusing and irritating process...
Clarifying SSD Pricing - where does all the money go? - click to read the article ...not made any easier when market prices for identical capacity SSDs can vary more than 100x to 1! Why is that? the article
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