Flash Storage Solutions for Embedded Designs

High Reliability Flash SSDs, Cards and Modules for Industrial Applications


One of the most memorable phrases that my mother used when I was growing up was – “Don’t trust the book by it’s cover !”. This was meant for me to look beyond the flashy advertisement and glorified promotional specs and really understand the value and the promise the product or relationship had. The same proverb could be well used to warn the prospective customer about the Industrial SSD products.

A customer is typically barraged by multiple factors when evaluating an Industrial Solid State Drive purchase. The price point, cost per gigabyte, data transfer and IOPS speeds and type of NAND flash memory used are all vitally important when assessing the value of an SSD drive. However, there is one item typically business customers frequently take for granted during the evaluation  process: the bill of materials. It’s not surprising why this checklist would not get more than a cursory check. After all, it is common sense that manufacturers should be using the best materials and components when producing the end products. In addition, any sale production should put a major focus of product quality and consistency of operation. This, unfortunately, is not always the case.

At the lowest level, the bill of materials is nothing more than a list of the approved subsystems and components that make up a larger product. End users may not feel that this is of importance and should not be concerned with this kind of minor detail, but issues with a product’s BoM can directly affect its performance and reliability.

BoM problems are typically defined by three gauges : completeness, consistency or correctness.
1) Completeness refers to the total number of components and process steps that are required to manufacture the end product.
2) Consistency refers to the specific quality of components and process steps that are required to manufacture the end product.
3) Correctness refers to the correct number and sequence of process steps that are required to manufacture the end product.

Prospective SSD customers should be especially vigilant of consistency in manufacturing when selecting a solution. Many manufacturers, especially that pursue low cost strategy, have shown an inability to procure the same components, control their manufacturing process or issue corporate communication highlighting changes to the component/process in product manufacturing.

The Drawback of Flexible BoMs
Recently, TweakTown’s Chris Ramseyer described some of the most outrageous examples of manufacturing companies knowingly changing their product BoMs.

OCZ Technology, for instance, once made an alteration to the BoM on one of its products, changing out the NAND flash used for another similar device. Because of the change, some volume consumers had significant technical issues with the new batch of manufactured SSDs. Similarly,. Kingston experienced the same fate, quietly replacing the 25nm synchronous NAND flash originally included with its original V300 SSD series with an inferior component approximately one year later.

PNY Technologies had a similar issue in the past, manufacturing the same part number SSDs with changing BoMs. One of TweakTown readers contacted Ramseyer and stated that the purchased SSD did not contain a BoM that matched the one that was previously reviewed on the website. According to Ramseyer, that the reader bought the identical PNY SSD because of the high marks  given due to its performance. However, because of changed BoM, that individual’s product did not exhibit the same performance benchmarks.

PNY later admitted that the company had shipped out the same SSD model number with multiple BoMs, approving this strategy by noting that all of its products fall within “minimum advertised performance levels.” However, the BoM change was easily noted by the end customer in their simple benchmark verification.

It is evident that when manufacturers neglect to lock down the components within their BoMs, consumers and business users may wind up with a product that doesn’t meet their expectations. Ramseyer lamented that companies would choose to take such liberties and fail to adhere to full transparency with their BoMs.

“Sadly, we no longer have faith in PNY or Kingston SSDs as both companies have acted with poor judgment and misled SSD product reviewers, our readers and the buying public,” Ramseyer wrote. “Even though both product changes should meet the advertised specifications, they are not in line with the products we and others tested. Hopefully other companies will not follow their lead.”

Ramseyer’s reaction to these incidents – especially when his own stellar review was the prime cause of the purchase – highlights the importance of consistency and transparency in the product creation.

Fortasa Memory Systems, Inc. Solid State Storage products, including SSD drives have always featured locked BoMs . Fortasa specifically locks the five most critical items – Connector, PCB, Flash Controller, Flash Component and Firmware, giving end customers’ peace of mind knowing that any ordered item will offer the same performance and compatibility as the originally qualified product.

With Fortasa SSDs, customers can be fully confident that they receive exactly what they had experienced in the past.

Please contact Fortasa for our Industrial Solid State Storage Product Information.

Contact Sales For Information about Fortasa Industrial Product Information

Hits: 2225
Fortasa Industrial eMMC device

Fortasa Industrial eMMC device

As the rapid pace of innovation of technology drives products to become lighter, smaller and cheaper, the same principal drives the storage products. In the last few years the commonly utilized CompactFlash card form factor was surpassed by the SD card standard, later to be overtaken by an even smaller microSD card. In the embedded industry, the 2.5″ HDDs were overtaken by a smaller form factor Flash Modules and now rapidly replaced by a single chip SSDs.

eMMC is the most common choices in the single chip SSD offering. Benefiting the customer by a universal standard, small footprint, fast performance and multitude of suppliers, the eMMC is being rapidly designed-in not just consumer, but Industrial applications.

eMMC standard is managed by JEDEC, an independent authority for developing specifications and standards. All the product technical features, command set, package layout and ball positions are all defined in the JEDEC specification. The standard also defines compliance testing and issues certification to conforming, approved and tested products.  The eMMC certification insures compliance and ubiquity of supply.

Most Flash memory manufacturers, also offer an eMMC product for their customer base. However, their offering is targeted for the highest volume, consumer applications, such as cellular phones or tablet products. The manufacturing goal of the memory suppliers is to have the lowest cost product with the acceptable rapid changes for immediate cost reductions. This is contrary to the Embedded Customer needs of having a consistent product for the longest duration.

Fortasa Memory Systems, Inc.offers an Industrial Grade eMMC product where the product content is specifically identified and restricted. The Flash Controller, Flash Component, Package manufacturer and Controller Firmware are specifically locked to a unique marketing part number that the customer uses to order the device. A Fortasa eMMC customer ordering that specific part number will receive the exact same product manufacturing content as he had used in the qualification.

Please contact Fortasa for our Industrial eMMC Product Information.

Contact Sales For Information about Fortasa Industrial eMMC Product Information

Hits: 2321

The CompactFlash (CF) card form factor has been in use since the early 1990′s. Originally embraced by the consumer devices such as Digital Cameras and MP3 players it has more recently migrated to the industrial and embedded platforms.

The CompactFlash card has many distinct advantages: common interface, installed base of manufacturers, specification stability and minimum innovation. In recent years, however, Parallel ATA (PATA) systems and respectively, CF cards have been slowly replaced by SATA interface systems and multiple form factors they incorporate.

Industrial CompactFlash card

Industrial CompactFlash card

As the demand for CF cards and PATA SSDs has been dropping, many storage product manufacturers are promoting the migration to SATA and dropping support for CF and PATA. In reality, there still is a sizable installed base of OEMs and platforms that would prefer to continue using the existing PATA SSDs and CF.

Many legacy PATA designs with CF cards as a storage choice are performing perfectly for their end applications. CF usage, while on a decline, is still significant in volume and will be around for a long time.

Concurrently, the storage industry had seen a high level of corporate consolidation and reallocation of resources.  Just in the last year alone, long-time suppliers like Western Digital (WD) and STEC completely exited the industrial embedded SSD space. This unexpected exodus has left many long-time CF card customers without their qualified suppliers.

In this tumultuous time, Fortasa is more than ever committed  to manufacturing and supporting its Industrial line of CompactFlash cards and PATA SSDs. In addition to the legacy PC ATA Cards, CF and PATA SSDs form the basis of Fortasa legacy product group.  Our sales and engineering group  have substantial experience in Flash Storage Products and can assist any customer with the product migration and qualification of the Fortasa devices.

Fortasa Industrial Grade CF cards are manufactured using high reliability SLC NAND Flash or cost effective MLC NAND Flash components and feature sequential read/write speeds of up to 115/80 MB/s. The cards come in commercial and industrial temperature configurations and meet MIL-810 standards for humidity, altitude, shock and vibration.

Available in capacities ranging from 128MB to 32GB, Fortasa CF cards offer the industry’s longest product lifecycle of over 5 years.

Please contact Fortasa for Information about our CompactFlash card and PATA SSD products.

Contact Sales For Information about Fortasa CompactFlash card and PATA SSD products

 

Hits: 1339

Consumer product innovation has always been driven by an insatiable need to create smaller, lighter, faster and cheaper designs. This was not the case with Industrial and Embedded applications where product reliability and continuation of supply have been the drivers in component selection. However, the popularity and universal acceptance of consumer devices has also driven the embedded designs toward integration of consumer standards.

Embedded-SD-Card

Fortasa Industrial SD Card

The same could be said of the progression of Flash card standards in the embedded space. CompactFlash card was a universally accepted storage device in the embedded designs. As the consumer industry migrated rapidly from CompactFlash card to SD card and microSD form factors, the embedded designers have also migrated the new designs t use the now ubiquitous SD card standard.

Embedded application require the storage component to have very high degree of robustness, withstand environmental impact and operate reliably for the lifetime of the end product. For this type of requirement a low cost consumer grade Flash card would just not suffice.

Fortasa Memory Systems, Inc. manufactures Industrial Grade SD card specifically for the OEM and Industrial customers. Utilizing high reliability SLC NAND Flash or cost effective MLC NAND Flash, Fortasa’s SD Cards offer the highest degree of quality and reliability. These devices go through a significant production qualification tests verifying consistent and reliable operation at voltage and temperature corners, under extreme shock and vibration and even under power supply brown-out conditions.

Please contact Fortasa about our Industrial SD Card Products Information and Reliability Report.

Contact Sales For Fortasa Product Information and Reliability Report

 

Hits: 1298

Fake Industrial Grade Flash Storage  Devices – Beware of  Impostors

On my many trips to different parts of Asia, I never failed to be accosted by strange salesmen trying to offer jeweled Swiss watches, name brand women’s bags, designer perfumes and other luxury goods. These products look extremely genuine, high attention to detail, luxury boxes, glossy user manuals. Yet they are offered for a fraction of what the same item would cost in an American store. How is this done?

It is a common knowledge that Asia is full of brand name knock-offs, which are good looking copies of the expensive luxury goods built at a low quality Asian manufacturing facility using inferior component parts. So while the offered item might look and feel like a genuine part, it sure is NOT !

Similar development has been occurring in the Industrial Flash Storage market. Over the last few years a number of Asian no-name brands have come out of the woodwork offering Industrial Grade Flash storage products at dirt cheap prices. While their SSDs and Flash cards look just like the real devices, Industrial Labels with bar codes, professional looking data sheets and elaborate technical documentation, but in reality they are the same poor quality knock-offs just like the fake Rolex watches you find on every corner of an the Asian market.

What makes these devices inferior?

First, the memory component used is typically a reject component that the Asian manufacturers recover from the scrap pile of a semiconductor test house. While the rejected component can potentially function for a short while under normal conditions, the extended operation requirement of the Industrial Grade device will not be met.

All other assembly materials: connector, PCB, casing are of the least expensive kind resulting in physical damage to the device, especially in the highly environmentally sensitive applications.

Secondly, the Flash controller and respective firmware (FW) are usually created for the consumer device. The consumer market is very cost and performance sensitive. That means that the controller is the lowest cost product without any special features for robust operation or failure analysis. The accompanying FW is tuned for the maximum performance and not for long term reliable operation.

How to tell if the Industrial Grade Flash Storage device is genuine or fake ?

This is a multi-thousand dollar question as these devices are so well disguised that unless you do extensive reliability test of the product it is hard to find the weaknesses.

Here are a few clues:
1. Product Documentation -  Typically the knock-off brands spend a lot of time and care perfecting the product, but not the accompanying documentation. Once you start inspecting the product data sheet, you will see incorrect grammar, run on sentences and even paragraphs that don’t make sense from both language and technical sense.
2. Offered Price -  As the common wisely states, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is !”. Low price of the offered SSD or module is usually a red flag on the lack of quality or reliability or support, or all three. To be able to achieve such low pricing the component quality has most likely been sacrificed, the test and qualification effort has been reduced or even eliminated and pre and post sale support is probably non-existent.
3. Online Sales –  Typically a manufacturer supporting OEM or Industrial customers doesn’t develop products for the consumer market as the price and reliability requirements of the two markets are very different. As a good indication of potential issues with the vendor’s products, if the same Flash SSDs or modules are sold in on-line store, or even worse Amazon or Ebay, is a major flag to stay away as the low cost products developed and targeted for consumer market could cross over to the Industrial applications.

Final Thoughts

When developing a high value Industrial equipment that is expected to work reliably and last a long time, it is critical to make proper choices of all the component and sub-system qualification. Considering low cost no-name brand in your storage selection, while appearing lucrative might not be wise. The long term effects of subpar components, reduced qualification tests and long term support could become a major disaster, especially a long term after the original product has been deployed at end-customer’s site. Buyers should consider choices carefully and research the technical specifications and online presence to make sure that the product quality matches the reliability requirement of the end-product application.

Please contact Fortasa for our Industrial Storage Products Information and Reliability Report.

Contact Sales For Fortasa Product Information and Reliability Report

 

 

Hits: 1437