Options for industrial SATA flash storage

February 16, 2015 OpenSystems Media

Many industrial-grade flash storage options are available to embedded system designers. With industrial grade, reliability is a given, but performance is another item to consider. I’ll describe several high-performance embedded SATA industrial flash storage solutions here. The SATA interface to the host can run at speeds from 1.5 to 6.0 Gbps depending on the version supported by the host and device.

The mSATA module (aka mini-SATA or MO-300) is one of the smaller SATA interface devices. At 50.8 mm by 29.85 mm, it has room for up to four NAND flash components and a controller. The mSATA card-edge connector is physically smaller than the Slim SATA and 2.5″ SATA SSD. It has 26-pads on each side of the PCB for a total of 52 connections.

An advantage of mSATA in high shock and vibration applications is its two mounting holes on the opposite end of the PCB from the connector. By using standoffs and a connector, this creates a solidly mounted high-performance flash storage solution. Industrial mSATA, based on SLC NAND, also offers high endurance, long life, and strict BOM control attributes.

CFast is another form factor with a SATA interface and more square physical size than mSATA at 36.4 mm by 42.8 mm. It’s a completely enclosed device, similar to CompactFlash cards, but with a unique SATA interface connector. The industrial CFast product requires a CFast connector on the host system for the physical connection. Beyond that, it’s standard SATA.

Slim SATA (aka Half Slim SATA or MO-297) is similar to mSATA as it’s a PCB with exposed components. It’s slightly larger than mSATA at 39.8 mm by 54 mm and the connector is on the PCB’s wide end rather than its short end.

A key advantage of the Industrial Slim SATA module is that it uses the same physical connector as the popular 2.5″ SATA SSD. If you have a power supply with existing connectors, you would only need to concern yourself with mounting the Slim SATA using its four mounting holes.

The final form factor that may be acceptable for embedded designs is the Industrial 2.5″ SATA SSD. If you need a large amount of storage and your design has sufficient physical space, the 2.5″ form factor may work. At 100.5 mm by 69.85 mm by 9.5 mm, this is the largest embedded flash storage devices used. An advantage of this form factor is the wide availability of SATA SSDs in the market. There are many manufacturers, reliability levels, and supply channels to choose from.

Other SATA form factors exist in the market as well, but those described here are the most common for embedded applications.

Steve Larrivee is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Cactus Technologies and has over 30 years of experience in the data storage market, including ten years with SanDisk and five years with Seagate Technology.

Steve Larrivee, Cactus Technologies Limited
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