One of the recurring themes when talking to embedded industrial design engineers is how much they hate to reopen an old design to solve an obsolescence issue. Not only is it annoying to redesign something that’s working perfectly fine, but in many cases it comes with the added cost of requalification and/or recertification.
With proper advance notification of EOL (end-of-life) components, there are no surprises. Plans can be made for last time buy purchases to satisfy production requirements until a scheduled qualification or certification.
The biggest issue is when there’s no notification until the purchase order goes unfilled for a specific component on a design. At that point, it’s a fire drill, with everyone jumping through hoops trying to find a replacement component without adequate time to perform proper due diligence. The result is missed orders, unhappy customers, and possible lost contracts.
Industrial-grade flash storage devices generally have life cycles in the five-plus year range without BOM changes. Industrial suppliers typically have a well-established product change notification system, which gives many months of notification to the embedded OEM of forthcoming obsolescence items.
So if industrial-grade storage solves all these issues, why doesn’t everyone use them? The biggest issue with industrial-grade devices is that they look and feel like much lower cost counterparts known as consumer and commercial flash storage devices.
Many OEM designers unknowingly use consumer-grade solid-state devices in systems requiring longevity. A few weeks, months, or years down the road when the consumer device migrates to the latest MLC or TLC NAND technology, the designer needs to approve a replacement part. If this same OEM designer originally chose an industrial-grade device, he could get more than five years without changes. In addition, if he’s working with a conscientious supplier, the five-year lifetime can be extended to allow many more months or years. The moral to this story is to understand the longevity of your OEM system and make sure you’re getting the proper flash storage device to complement your design.
A customer of mine has a saying in his email signature block, “The bitterness of poor quality lingers long after the sweetness of the low price is forgotten.” I’m going to change it a bit: “The bitterness of the sustaining engineer lingers long after the sweetness of the original designer’s flash storage decision is forgotten.”
Steve Larrivee is VP Sales & Marketing for Cactus Technologies Ltd. and has over 30 years’ experience in the data storage market, including 10 years with SanDisk and five years at Seagate Technology.