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flash and other nvm
what's RAM really?
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Surviving SSD sudden power loss
are we ready for infinitely faster RAM?
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hold up capacitors in 2.5" MIL SSDs

do you really need them?
image shows Megabyte's hot air balloon - click to read the article SSD power down architectures and acharacteristics
0 to 3S
Editor:- I've been looking at different aspects of power hold up schemes in mission critical non volatile memory systems for over 30 years.

But every time I revisit this vast topic and compare fresh examples from the market - I learn something a little bit new.

My blog - Zero to three seconds - demonstrates the extreme range of hold up times now in the market inside leading edge 2.5" military flash SSDs. the article

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What's the best way to design a flash SSD?
and other questions which divide SSD opinion

More than 10 key areas of fundamental disagreement within the SSD industry are discussed in an article here on called the the SSD Heresies.
click to read the article - the SSD Heresies ... Why can't SSD's true believers agree upon a single coherent vision for the future of solid state storage? the article
flash wars in the enterprise - MLC brand X
First you learned about SLC (good flash).

Then you learned about MLC (naughty flash when it played in the enterprise - but good enough for the short attention span of consumers).

Then MLC SSDs learned how to be good.

Now some MLC is much nicer than others. - When it's preceded by an "e" (extra-good). But it costs more.

But other people say you don't need the expensive "e" - because their controllers empathize better with naughty flash. (They really care about naughty flash being sent to bad block jail too soon.)

Is your head ready to explode yet?

It's going to get even more complicated.

......from sugaring MLC for the enterprise
flash SSD capacity - the iceberg syndrome
Have you ever wondered how the amount of flash inside a flash SSD compares to the capacity shown on the invoice?

What you see isn't always what you get.
nothing surprised the penguins - click to read  the article There can be huge variations in different designs as vendors leverage invisible internal capacity to tweak key performance and reliability parameters. the article
How big was the thinking in this SSD's design?
Does size really does matter in SSD design?

By that I mean how big was the mental map? - not how many inches wide is the SSD.

The novel and the short story both have their place in literature and the pages look exactly the same. But you know from experience which works best in different situations and why.

When it comes to SSDs - Big versus Small SSD architecture - is something which was in the designer's mind. Even if they didn't think about it that way at the time.
click to read the article - Big versus Small SSD  architectures For designers, integrators, end users and investors alike - understanding what follows from these simple choices predicts a lot of important consequences. the article
3 things that could have killed flash SSDs
The emerging size of the flash SSD market as you see it today was by no means inevitable. It owes a lot to 3 competing storage media competitors which failed to evolve fast enough in the Darwinian jungle of the storage market in the past decade.

One of these 3 contenders is definitely on the road to extinction - but could one of the other 2 still emerge to threaten flash SSDs?

The article - SSD's past phantom demons explores the latent market threats which hovered around the flash SSD market in the past decade. They seemed real and solid enough at the time.
SSD past phantom demons image - click to read the article Getting a realistic perspective of flash SSD's past demons (which seemed very threatening at the time) may help you better judge the so-called "new" generation of nv memory contenders - which are also discussed in the article. the article
this way to the Petabyte SSD
In 2016 there will be just 3 types of SSD in the datacenter.

One of them doesn't exist yet - the bulk storage SSD.

It will replace the last remaining strongholds of hard drives in the datacenter due to its unique combination of characteristics, low running costs and operational advantages.
click to read the article -  reaching for the petabyte SSD - not as scary as you may think ... The new model of the datacenter - how we get from here to there - and the technical problems which will need to be solved - are just some of the ideas explored in this visionary article.
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storage glue chips and IP sauce - news

Marvell samples first NVMe-oF SSD Converter Controller

Editor:- August 7, 2018 - Marvell today announced it is sampling a new controller to simplify the design of Ethernet connected NVMe-oF SSDs.

The 88SN2400 - which is aimed at a EBOF (Ethernet Bunch of Flash) applications - utilizes a simple, low-power and compute-less Ethernet fabric instead of a traditional PCIe fabric controlled and managed by an enterprise-class server SoC with integrated 100GE controllers.

As an indicator of performance Marvell says that a typical 2U24 shelf with populated with 88SN2400 attached SSDs can support up to 18M IOPS. Utilizing a Marvell Ethernet switch that supports 2Tb/s and the Marvell 88SN2400, data center operators will be able to benefit from a 150GB/s pipe of pooled storage, and better power consumption per IO compared to general purpose architectures. The SSD converter controller is optimized for a small footprint and can be attached to existing backplanes providing ease of service and eliminating single point of failure. The technology can also be designed into future Marvell SSD and emerging SCM controllers.

See also:- PCIe SSDs, SSD controllers

Micron hints at AI assisted porting of compute intensive models to FPGA-inside memory array accelerators

Editor:- March 30, 2018 - A new blog - Why Memory Matters in Machine Learning for IoT - by Brad Spiers - Principal Solutions Architect, Advanced Storage at Micron reveals significant progress in software tools development which is intended to reduce the time and complexity of porting machine learning models onto in-situ memory accelerators implemented by FPGAs embedded into DRAM arrays. The blog makes specific reference to applications with Micron's PCIe connected Advanced Computing Solutions (pdf) - which provide FGAs integrated with either DDR-3 or HMC and a design, simulation and runtime support tools.

Among other things - Brad Spiers says... "Micron is engaged with machine learning experts, like FWDNXT, to enable seamless transfer of machine learning models onto FPGAs. Models are first created in the normal way, using the same software that data scientists use every day—Caffe, PyTorch or Tensorflow. The models output by these frameworks are then compiled onto FPGAs by FWDNXT's Snowflake compiler." the article

Editor's comments:- creating AI based software productivity tools which could cut many months off the design time to create FPGA based in-situ memory based application accelerators is an extreme case of Memory Defined Software. Such developments could become as significant for startups creating blue sky HPC based knowledge enabling tools as was the availability of microprocessor development systems for the democratization of digital electronics in the 1970s.

IntelliProp demonstrates Gen-Z memory controller

Editor:- November 13, 2017 - IntelliProp today announced its was demonstrating a memory controller for the emerging Gen-Z memory interface.

IntelliProp's Gen-Z IPA-PM185-CT "COBRA" controller combines DRAM and NAND and sits on the Gen-Z fabric, not the memory bus. COBRA has the ability to support byte addressability to DRAM cache and Block addressability to NAND flash. COBRA-based Gen-Z memory modules provide low latency, persistent, shared memory access to multiple processors and accelerators on the Gen-Z fabric supporting up to 32GB of DRAM and 3TB of NAND.

Embedded NVM - à la mode in September

Editor:- July 28, 2017 - The South of France isn't a location which would have sprung to my mind as the most obvious place to look for an event related to non volatile memories and embedded designs. But in that respect I was wrong. The Leading Edge Embedded NVM Workshop will take place September 25 to 27, 2017, in Gardanne (Aix en Provence area, France).

The 3 day program of presentations (pdf) includes speakers from around the world. Here are some of the titles of the papers to give you an idea of the spread of topics.
  • "Inkjet - Printed Flexible Conductive Bridge RAM"
  • "Secure Characterisation of the OxRAM Technology."
  • "Voltage Compatibility of ReRAM operation with CMOS"
  • "Scaling and Demonstration of a 28nm Logic-Process-Compatible Split-Gate Flash Memory Technology"

the value of 5 microseconds latency for Excelero

Editor:- May 24, 2017 - 10 microseconds is the latency advantage of Excelero's proprietary NVMesh compared to simple NVMeoF when managing fabrics of dispersed NVMe SSDs in a PCIe connected network. More details like this appear in a new blog on InfoWorld - cloud storage architecture for the enterprise - by Yaniv Romem CTO and Tom Leyden VP of corporate marketing at Excelero. the article

Editor's comments:- when Excelero emerged from stealth in March 2017 the low latency overhead of their software was a big deal - at just 5µS compared to accessing a similar SSD in the same rack.

This is an industry magic ballpark number which has been quoted as a worst case response in earlier years by several pioneers in big memory architectures - including A3CUBE and Diablo. (Although details may have changed or been refined since.)

SCM DIMM wars watchers know that if you can get inside that curve for most of your worst case latencies then (with enough memory and cache) you can run popular memory hogging applications with better performance than using traditional DRAM in traditionally networked servers. PCIe fabrics compete and collaborate in the same intelligent memory systems market. Latency lessons learned from one of these contexts can be used to guide initial expectations (subject to verification) in the other.

IP-Maker elevates performance ceiling of low power embedded systems with "no server CPU" NVMe SSD FPGA IP

Editor:- April 19, 2017 - A dilemma for designers of embedded systems which require high SSD performance is how can you get the benefits of enterprise class NVMe SSDs for simple applications - which integrate video for example - without at the same time escalating the wattage footprint of the entire attached micro server?

A new paper published today by IP-Maker - Allowing server-class storage in embedded applications (pdf) discusses the problem and how their new FPGA based IP enables any NVMe PCIe SSD to be used in embedded systems to provide sub-microsecond latency using "20x better power efficiency, and 20x lower cost compared to a CPU-based system."

image shows where the FPGA IP fits in the context of an embedded low power system using fast NVMe SSDs

The company says the NVMe host IP - which is now available - can be used in an FPGA connected between the PCIe root port and the cache memory, internal SRAM or external DRAM. It fully controls the NVMe protocol by setting and managing the NVMe commands. No CPU is required. It supports PCIe gen 3 x 8 interface.

Michael Guyard, Marketing Director said that - among other things - applications include:-
  • military recorders
  • portable medical imaging
  • mobile vision products - in robots and drones the article (pdf)

Editor's comments:- Now Cinderella embedded systems with low cost budgets and low wattage footprints can go to the enterprise NVMe performance ball. The new magic - in the form of the FPGA IP released today by IP Maker - has the potential to change the demographics of the class of SSDs seen in future industrial systems.

a new name in SSD fabric software

Editor:- March 8, 2017 - A new SSD software company - Excelero - has emerged from stealth today.

Excelero which describes itself as - "a disruptor in software-defined block storage" announced version 1.1 of its NVMesh® Server SAN software "for exceptional Flash performance for web and enterprise applications at any scale."

The company was funded in part by Fusion-io's founder David Flynn.

Editor's comments:- An easy way to understand what this kind of software can do for you is to see how Excelero created a petabyte-scale shared NVMe pool for exploratory computing for an early customer - NASA/Ames. The mitigation of latency and bandwidth penalties enabled by the new environment enabled "compute nodes to access data anywhere within a data set without worrying about locality" and helped to change the way that researchers could interact with the data sets which previously had been constrained in many small islands of low latency. the white paper (pdf).

A3CUBE and memory fabrics....

Editor:- January 10, 2017 - When A3CUBE started talking about supporting big memory fabrics with PCIe (in 2014) there weren't too many other choices out there.

Now in 2017 the SSD and SCM news pages are awash with announcements about big memory systems. And growing industry support for NVMe over Fabric was one of the big market developments in 2016.

We're already seeing signs of clear fragmentation in the memory fabric market (mostly via server based interface expansion preferences such as PCIe, IB and GbE but some of the memory applications are also being cannibalized by tiered memory, new semiconductor memory solutions and DIMM wars.)
A3cube and NVMe
In this context it was interesting to see a recent video (January 2017) from A3CUBE which shows how their PCIe connected shared memory fabric can work with NVMe components too. ...see the video

Mobiveil's Universal NOR Controller Allows SoC Designers to Leverage Adesto's EcoXiP Flash Memory

Editor:- November 30, 2016 - Mobiveil today announced it is working with Adesto Technologies to enhance the memory in low capacity intelligent IoT systems.

Incorporating Mobiveil's U-NFC controller to control the new Adesto EcoXiP flash will provide SoC designers an eXecute-in-Place solution that more than doubles the performance of alternative approaches using standalone NOR-Flash memory.

Rambus and Xilinx partner on FPGA in DRAM array technology

Editor:- October 4, 2016 - Rambus recently announced a license agreement with Xilinx that covers Rambus' patented memory controller, SerDes and security technologies.

Rambus is also exploring the use of Xilinx FPGAs in its Smart Data Acceleration research program. The SDA - powered by an FPGA paired with 24 DIMMS - offers high DRAM memory densities and has potential uses as a CPU offload agent (in-situ memory computing).

IDT discloses design win in Diablo's Memory1

Editor:- September 27, 2016 - IDT today announced that Diablo Technologies has selected IDT's DDR4 LRDIMM chipset as the preferred interface solution for its Memory1 128GB system memory module.

"(Our) chipset is an essential enabler of cutting-edge NVDIMM applications, such as Memory1," said Sean Fan, VP and GM of IDT's Computing and Communications Division. "Such solutions have the potential to change the entire landscape of in-memory computing, and it's an exciting place for us to demonstrate our industry leadership."

See also:- what's RAM really? - RAM in an SSD context

eMemory Receives TSMC IP Partner Award

Editor:- September 23, 2016 - eMemory today disclosed that over 260 of its silicon IPs have been deployed on TSMC's Open Innovation Platform.

new memories? new security risks?

Editor:- August 4, 2016 - Is remanence a security risk in persistent memory? That's the topic of my new blog here on

If you aren't yet ready to evaluate these new SCM style NVDIMMs you might think you can skip this article.

That's OK as long as you already were aware that that data recovery has always been feasible in old style DRAM too. the article

new paper discusses how to deploy same core DRAM controller IP across diverse markets to increase reliability without prejudice to cost

Editor:- July 30, 2016 - in a new paper - Emergence of a Segment-Specific DDRn Memory Controller and PHY IP Solution (pdf) which looks at the thinking behind a new DRAM controller IP by Cadence (which is designed to satisfy many different markets) - the author, Eric Esteve, founder of IP-nest, notes that it is desirable to support different clock speeds for different markets and this will require trade-offs in data integrity.

The dilemmas of how to satisfy the cost budgets of diverse markets with low chip footprints while offering the promise that higher volumes will result in better reliability for all the SoCs which use the same DRAM controller IP are explored in this paper.

Among other things Eric says - It may look strange to see a higher data rate for mobile than for infrastructure… until you realize that the end user expects to benefit from good entertainment experience, and is not necessarily linked with the maximum possible data integrity. When watching a video, this high data rate guarantees good image quality, but when/if a wrong pixel (due to one data bit in error) is inserted in the movie or video, it doesn't impact the user experience."

This is the same argument which was used historically to justify worse data integrity in consumer SSDs (compared to enterprise SSDs) although nowadays the cushioning impact of array level software enables a greater degree of freedom for rackmount system designers.

Seeing the feature specific trade-offs at the DRAM controller IP level being discussed makes for interesting reading. the article (pdf)

SST qualifies NOR SuperFlash on mixed signal platform

Flash Memory
flash & nvm
Editor:- July 12, 2016 - SST today announced qualification and availability of its low-mask-count embedded SuperFlash NOR NVM on GLOBALFOUNDRIES' 130 nm BCDLite advanced analog, mixed-signal and RF technology platform.

SST's embedded SuperFlash memory solution requires the addition of only 4 masking steps to enable cost-effective, high-endurance embedded flash for demanding battery-powered applications such as drones, intelligent motor control, and normally-off mobile computing.

Altera paper - FPGA offload in cohabiting memory arrays

Editor:- June 8, 2016 - a recent white paper from Altera - Stratix 10 MX Devices Solve the Memory Bandwidth Challenge (pdf) - discusses the role of more intelligent FPGA usage in next generation DRAM architecture.

Noting the design challenges from power budgets and bandwidth constraints on chip pins from legacy logic and memory approaches - Altera says its memory cohabiting FPGA architecture - HBM2 - unlocks new applications.

"One of the key functions for FPGA offload involves data extraction and comparison with in-memory data structures. For these access patterns, the increased bandwidth, channel count (from 4 interfaces to 64 channels), and increased open bank count (from 64 banks to 512 banks) have positive impacts on memory subsystem performance. The extra channel count and bank pool count allows more accesses to hit successfully on open DRAM banks. Because operations can avoid the bank activation penalty, this implementation increases performance." ... read the article (pdf)

what do today's prototype kits tell us about IoT's future?

Editor:- May 9, 2016 - An interesting preview of raw technology ingredients in the future IoT mix is - 10 DIY Development Boards for IoT Prototyping written by Janakiram MSV, Founder Janakiram & Associates - published in the New Stack.

Janakiram's blog includes prices and capabilities for a range of prototyping boards. the article

smoking renicesmoking data wipe-out video

Editor:- April 29, 2016 - Usually the last thing you want to see as an SSD designer is your hot new product going up in smoke - but autonomous self destruct of SSD data takes many forms and this is one of them.

Fast Purge flash SSDs directory & articles
Fast Purge SSDs
A new video from Renice Technology shows a verification test rig for this functionality. Renice says it uses a specially designed electric circuit, which ensures that all NAND flash chips in the SSD will be burned through. the video

Editor's comments:- I've asked Renice if they've analyzed the composition of the smoke - but this kind of fast purge is aimed at military applications rather than civilian offices - so smoke fumes are the lesser of two evils (compared to data capture by a foe).

PCIe 4.0 Multi-Lane PHY milestone

Editor:- March 14, 2016 - Signs of onwards and upwards progress towards future PCIe SSD speeds emerged today in an announcement that Cadence and Mellanox have demonstrated electrical interoperability for PCIe 4.0 with "robust signal integrity" (BER below 10-15) at 16Gbps with 4 lanes running traffic concurrently.

new blog looks at DRAM latency creep

Editor: March 3, 2016 - We've got used to the fact the performance and characteristics of fast flash SSDs owe more to the interface, controller design and software than to the intrinsic timing and reliability of a nand cell. But what about DRAM? Isn't that much closer to the raw, organic memory ingredients?

In a new blog on - DRAM's indeterminate latencies and the virtual memory slider mix - I look at the growing gap between server memory performance and the capabilities of raw, organic DRAM cells.

As enterprise RAM performance is progressively bounded more by controller traffic analysis needs and power consumption rather than DRAM cell capability - there's an argument for saying if the statistical distribution of DRAM latencies is so wide - maybe no one would notice if you slipped in a different kind of memory in the virtual slider mix.

And that - of course - was precisely the open barn door - which ushered in the explosion of DRAM lookalike alt nvm announcements in 2015. the new article

memory tiers for datacenters and ultra high endurance flash for automotive market to be discussed at ISSCC

editor:- January 14, 2016 - ISSCC (International Solid-State Circuits Conference) will start January 31 (in San Francisco, cost $1,030 or less for IEEE members) so I looked at their program (pdf) to see papers relevant to SSDs. Among others things:-
  • Basics of Memory Tiers in Compute Systems and a server TCO model - by Rob Sprinkle Technical Lead - Platforms Advanced Technology Team - Google
  • Rethinking Memory Architecture - by Dean Klein VP Memory System Development - Micron
  • 256Gb 3b/Cell V-NAND Flash Memory with 48 Stacked WL Layers by a team from Samsung
  • A 90nm Embedded 1T-MONOS Flash Macro for Automotive Applications with 0.07mJ/8kB Rewrite Energy and Endurance over 100 million cycles by a team from Renesas

IDT samples power management chip for enterprise SSDs

Editor:- November 19, 2015 - IDT today announced it is sampling a new multi-channel power management IC (PMIC) optimized for enterprise SSDs.

The P8300 ($5.20 each, 1,000 unit price point ) is a flexible, programmable PMIC which can shorten time to market by enabling the reuse of power management subsystems across multiple protocols - SAS, SATA and PCIe - and form factors. Its design delivers an effective power backup system that's been proven in the field, as well as stability proven in earlier generation SSD products.

2.5 to 3D architectures point the way to DDR4's successor says new blog on

Editor:- July 12, 2015 - "DDR4 will be the last version of the DDR interface route for RAM, don't ever expect to see DDR5" - says Eric Esteve , in his blog - Which High Bandwidth Memory to Select after DDR4? - on - in which - as part of getting us to contemplate the big architecture picture - he also says - "DDR4 is not only the last DDR, it's also the last protocol based on 2D (layers) only." the article, SSD glue chips, RAM in an SSD context

IP-Maker's NVMe IP passes UNH-IOL's compatibility

pcie  SSDs - click to read article
Editor:- May 22, 2015 - IP-Maker - which is represented in the US by Fides Sales - today announced that its NVMe data transfer manager design has passed the UNH-IOL compatibility tests and is now listed on their NVMe compatibility integrator's list.

IP-Maker's IP supports performance in the range of 350K IOPS and 10µs latency in a Gen2 x4 configuration.

"We are pleased to announce this important milestone", said Mickael Guyard, co-founder of IP-Maker. "We are now able to provide a compliant and high performance NVMe solution, helping storage companies to develop PCIe SSD in a reduced design time."

Northwest Logic has FPGA support for Everspin's MRAM

Editor:- February 9, 2015 - Northwest Logic today announced controller support for Everspin's ST-MRAM - with interoperability proven on a Xilinx Virtex-7 FPGA platform.

MRAM's core IP also supports traditional volatile DDR3 SDRAM - so the new support for MRAM will simplifiy the design of power fail protected low latency caches.

Mobiveil supports Spansion's HyperBus NOR

Editor:- February 3, 2015 - Mobiveil today announced it will provide authorized controller support for Spansion's HyperBus flash memories.

HyperBus flash interface
HyperBus flash chips are low capacity, low pin count, faster (5x) NOR flash (BGAs) suited for some applications in the automotive electronics market.

Mobiveils HyperBus flash interface IP (pdf) delivers upto 333MB/s using this 12-pin interface.

Microsem licenses DPA countermeasures from Rambus

Editor:- January 29, 2015 - Rambus today announced that Microsemi will serve as reseller in the government and military sectors for certain differential power analysis (DPA) technologies developed by Rambus's cryptography research division.

As the first major FPGA company to license DPA countermeasures, Microsemi has identified DPA as a significant vulnerability in chip security, specifically for the mission-critical applications found in government and military settings.

GUC announces new low power SSD IP portfolio

Editor:- September 25, 2014 - Global Unichip today rolled out an expanded interconnect low power IP portfolio for ASICs targeting SSD applications.

The expansion covers ultra low power PCIe 3/4 PHY, DDR3/4, LPDDR3/4 CTRL/PHY and ONFi4.0 IO/PHY. IP based on the 28HPM/HPC processes in the expanded portfolio are available now, while 16nm macros will be available in Q4 of this year.

Among all NAND applications Global Unichip says SSD is the fastest growing with the Data Center and Enterprise segments showing the greatest potential. GUC is meeting that demand with a complete low power IP portfolio for SSD controllers, including NAND I/O (ONFI, Toggle), DDR I/F (DDR3/4, LPDDR3/4) and Serdes I/F (PCIe-3/4, SATA3/SAS3).

is it time for the SSD market to reconsider RapidIO?

Editor:- May 14, 2014 - You'd think that with all the interfaces already in use within the enterprise SSD market - there wouldn't be enough of a market gap to justify introducing yet another one. - Particularly when that interface strays across low latency server-storage territory which is dominated by PCIe SSDs, under attack by memory channel SSDs and has been flanked historically by InfiniBand.

I thought so too.

But a recent article - Do You Really Know RapidIO? - by Eric Esteve , founder of IPnest says - "Maybe it's time for the server/storage industry to give a second chance for the RapidIO protocol."

Editor's comments:- That's a bold statement - coming as it does from someone who was involved in designing one of the first generation PCIe controllers 10 years ago. Eric argues that the intrinsic fabric architecture and routing support in RapidIO - would make many of the things which architects are trying to do today - such as interconnecting large numbers of servers and SSDs for example - easier and faster.

See also:- Comparing RapidIO, PCIe and Ethernet as sub microsecond CPU interconnects - view from RapidIO (ORG)
SSD glue chips
Megabyte 's SSD glue was a sticky paste of Phy IP,
FPGA and ASIC granular chips stirred in a charge
trapping dielectric suspension and topped with a
quick setting, sweet tasting, firmware emulsifier.
"While NVMe over PCIe shaves off about 10us relative to SAS, NVMf can shave off about 100us from the roundtrip latency between two hosts relative to protocols such as iSCSI. It also saves CPU usage from TCP/IP processing.

This can be particularly beneficial in scale-out systems for transferring data between hosts. It does require RDMA-capable NICs and DCB-capable switches, so it will take some time for mass adoption."
Umesh Maheshwari, founder and CTO, Nimble Storage in his blog - NVMe and NVMs - What to Expect (December 28, 2016).

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failures in time, reliability and abstraction levels in modeling SSDs

Advanced decoding schemes employing soft decoding use the NAND statistics and soft information to determine the most probable read signal that corresponds to the actual stored data. This allows you to obtain readable data even when the memory cell is severely degraded or there is a lot of 'noise' in cell data.
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