Changes Afoot in IIoT Storage

January 25, 2019 Scott Philips, Virtium Solid State Storage and Memory

Changes are coming to Industrial IoT storage; garden-variety storage is giving way to full, integrated solutions dedicated not just to storing but also to computing, controlling, connecting, and protecting critical information.

This new IIoT storage approach, first and foremost, has little in common with consumer IoT. Yes, it does rely on internet connections and devices do “talk” directly to one another without a human intermediary, but the similarities essentially end there. IoT centers on simple, relatively low-risk tasks whereas IIoT assigns an ultra-high priority on system reliability and data security in applications ranging from industrial automation and transportation to Smart Cities and energy exploration.

With such clear delineation between IoT and IIoT, you’d think the distinction between their respective storage requirements would be equally clear. I wish I could tell you that’s the case, but alas I can’t. You’d be surprised by how lightly some IIoT-system designers take storage, specifically solid-state drives (SSDs), in their designs.

SSDs commonly found in consumer applications are simple and therefore, lack the reliability of industrial-grade SSDs. They’re fine for PCs, consumer electronics and other pedestrian uses, but try to convince a seasoned engineer they can work reliably in IIoT and you’ll get a head-tilt look that conveys, “Are you nuts?!”

IIoT endpoints are usually deployed in remote, often harsh and demanding environments with extreme temperatures, the likelihood of shock and vibration, and a high number of read/write cycles. Set-it-and-forget-it dependability is the objective for IIoT hardware, one that realistically can be achieved only with devices designed specifically for that certainty. The data the IIoT system collects and stores are too critical to be compromised.

In other words, there’s a lot more at stake in IIoT data collection and storage applications than there is for basic IoT; the consequences of cutting corners are severe. In addition to risking that critical data, the budget-friendliness of low-grade storage is more than offset by the total cost of ownership and shorter life of the design.

IIoT storage demands a range of SSD characteristics.

As mentioned above, they have to be industrial-grade. A ruggedize drive mitigates the effects of shock, vibration and temperature, and helps ensure its durability and, more importantly, critical data.

It goes without saying that footprint is important, so depending on the application, drives can vary from the tried-and-true 2.5-inch size all the way down to miniscule M.2. Then there are the multiple benefits of low-power SSDs: decreased energy costs, longer drive life and, due to the reduced heat generated, they can be deployed in space-constrained systems. 

Now, add to that requirements list network-readiness and the accessibility it avails. Network options such as WWAN, WLAN, WPAN, NFC, Ethernet, even CANbus make IIoT-stored data accessible and enable quicker time to market.

Mix in capacities that address IIoT storage’s usual need for minimal capacities (with the added benefit of requiring lower costs and less power), a range of interfaces accommodating diverse embedded and IIoT applications, such as standard SATA (as well as its SlimSATA and mSATA derivatives), and PCI Express, platform-agnosticism so SSDs can be deployed in legacy applications, long-term drive availability that helps prevent design obsolescence, steady bill-of-materials costs, and remote monitoring software that ensures performance and reliability from afar, and you’ve got a comprehensive set of criteria for SSDs for IIoT.

We at Virtium strive constantly to advance solid-state storage for the IIoT, embedded and related markets. That mission means we take the above criteria very seriously, so we’re developing SSDs from the ground-up that can store, compute, control, connect, and protect critical data. It’s the only way to keep apace with the rapid changes afoot in IoT storage.

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Scott Phillips is vice president of marketing at Virtium Solid State Storage and Memory (www.virtium.com).

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