The latest in industrial flash

June 16, 2016 OpenSystems Media

The raison d’être of the flash storage industry is arguably cross compatibility, thus strict adherence to industry specifications make it notoriously difficult for flash vendors to achieve real differentiation. There already exists a plethora of flash form factors, this overabundance for me means that I’m rarely excited about the latest wheeled in front of me. Hence, I’m always looking beyond mechanicals.

At Computex 2016, despite it lurking timidly at the rear of the booth, Innodisk’s new integrated RAID philosophy caught my eye. From my embedded vantage point, my experience is that we’ve always wanted the redundancy that RAID offers, but struggle to facilitate RAID arrays in their native form within our compact systems.

The E2SS-32RX delivers a fully functioning, self-managed RAID 0,1 array cleverly housed within a 2.5-in. SSD enclosure. This enables vast performance increases (RAID 0), or far more likely, redundancy capability (RAID 1) to be effortlessly deployed into off-the-shelf embedded products. The flexibility of a standalone SSD self-managing RAID 1 capability means this can be sold as an option, or injected into legacy applications to gain the redundancy if it’s needed.

Ten years ago, flash storage was easier to understand. A helpfully rationalised number of standardised form factors meant selection was easy and lifespan was (almost) dictated by whether flash was MLC or SLC, the latter on average offering 10x the write cycles. Today, with myriad form factors, vast improvements in flash controllers and subsets of MLC/SLC make it somewhat less clear.

I was privy to a demonstration of iAnalyser at the Innodisk booth, using advanced software and background algorithms to calculate flash life in-situ based on dynamic usage. To the layman, this software sits on your device and heavily monitors usage behaviour, using those inputs to calculate remaining lifespan. An array of devices can be monitored from the base via cloud connectivity and alerts can be set up to proactively inform manufacturers through triggered temperatures, health percentages, remaining capacity, and lifetime.

The iAnalyzer can also be used to allow OEMs to understand their application’s behaviour and therefore select the correct flash product before mass production, should they not desire in-situ monitoring at the individual device level.

Finally, the ubiquitous migration to SATA-based DiskOnModules from IDE has, to a degree, been hampered by lack of integrated power, necessitating a flying lead that for an industrial solution is an unpalatable weak link. Similar to the redesign of the 40-pin IDE connector to 44 pins, Innodisk first patented their Pin 7 VCC technology enabling a cable-less SATA DOM solution.

Innodisk’s latest Pin 8 VCC technology relocates those power pins external to the connector. This migration adds extra reliability to embedded system storage as those pins compress against the SATA connector when mated to create a robust physical connection that’s resistant to shock and vibration, increasing system reliability in extreme environments.

So whilst flash manufacturers have a difficult job achieving differentiation, the key to achieve those USPs, for me, is to better engage with customers. Sometimes I worry that new flash technology can be a solution looking for a problem. Approaching this the more traditional way remains best practise.

Rory Dear, European Editor/Technical Contributor
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