Customer Success Stories: Evaluating NAND Storage Solutions in Embedded Memory Cards
For customers shopping for industrial embedded storage solutions, comparing different SLC memory cards is critical. This process used to be simple. Comparing storage solutions essentially came down to comparing what kind of flash the memory card used. As technology has evolved, these comparisons have become more complicated. This is especially true in light of the introduction of enterprise MLC, TLC, and 3D NAND.
Comparing the program and erase (P/E) cycles of different storage solutions was a popular option for some time. Customers would estimate the lifespan of storage cards based on the size of their files and the total amount of data that would be written. Next, customers began to rely on Total Terabytes Written, or TBW, as a tool for evaluating different kinds of flash memory. The problem with these types of evaluations is that they only consider one factor. In reality, the lifespan of a memory card is influenced by many different things. Data endurance and retention, the host CPU, and flash performance all impact the life of a memory card. As such, considering just one part of the memory card’s performance will not give users an accurate estimate of how a storage solution will work in their device.
Additionally, there is another factor that many people overlook when evaluating NAND storage solutions: write amplification. Write amplification, or WA, refers to the process of programming a full block of a memory card when only a small amount of data is being stored. WA results in a significant amount of capacity reduction. It makes ratings like TBW or Drive Writes Per Day (DWPD) virtually useless as evaluative tools. Flash life calculators that don’t consider WA can give users the wrong idea about the true lifespan of a memory card, as one Delkin customer recently discovered.
A medical device manufacturer came to Delkin in frustration after having to change memory cards, suppliers, and capacities for the third time in just three years. Because getting approvals for storage for medical devices is extremely costly and can take months, this customer and the compliance team working with them were searching for a better solution. The Delkin team initially offered them a storage solution with an 18-month lifespan. However, the customer was seeking an option with at least a 24-month life.
The Customer Applications team at Delkin explained that most embedded storage manufacturers were actually buying flash products from just a few of the same companies. In addition, any company that was promising them flash that would last beyond 18 months simply wasn’t being honest with them or had plans to hold flash back for them.
The customer wanted to know what that process would look like. However, the Delkin team asked the customer if they would instead be willing to let us conduct a model on the device usage in order to predict the endurance of flash and to experiment using both SLC and Industrial 3D SD cards. She agreed to allow the team to see what they could find.
Delkin has some of the most sophisticated models available to compare SLC and Industrial 3D endurance. The models consider multiple factors, including usage, file sizes, the file writing process, TBW, and capacity. Combining the information from these tests with TCO and target prices generates a realistic, accurate comparison of different models of NAND flash storage cards.
For this customer, Delkin first took the time to understand their specific needs, including how the device was being used. This allowed Delkin to evaluate precise information specific to their device, including the usage model of the cards and the associated P/E cycles, workload, flash design, and TBW. This information generated a realistic estimate of the lifespan of the cards.
The results of the models shocked the customer. Switching from an 8GB 3D flash memory card to a 512MB SLC memory card would extend the useful life of the storage from 6.4 years to 10.2 years. Additionally, the P/E cycles would increase an impressive 20 times. The customer was also impressed that the SLC cards had a 4-year lifecycle; this was significantly longer than that of the 3D cards they were expecting to use. In this case, for this customer, choosing a memory card with a lower amount of storage capacity but significantly more efficient operations to use in their medical device was the right choice for functionality and budget.
When it comes to embedded industrial storage, one-size-fits-all storage solutions simply don’t exist. Comparing different storage cards is much more complex than it used to be. As such, opting for a memory card based on a single factor, like capacity, is not guaranteed to get you the best memory for your device. It is important to consider everything from operating conditions and physical size to cost, functionality, TCO, and usage models. It may even be necessary to choose a custom memory solution based on the design of your device. The Delkin team can provide customized testing and product customizations for industrial flash storage products to ensure that every customer gets the most efficient solution.
Delkin’s Technical Team Is Here to Help
If you’re having problems with your industrial storage, let us help. We often work on complex cases to find memory solutions for devices that are used in the most demanding operating conditions. With a wide range of available customizations and customer-specific testing available, we can be your trusted advisor when it comes to maximizing your storage for the life of your device. We also provide complete lifecycle management support and assistance in transitioning to new storage solutions when necessary. Let us solve your complicated host failures by contacting us today and explaining your needs. We’ll take the time to understand your usage model and work carefully alongside you to find the embedded storage that meets your specific needs, from efficiency to budget.
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