Customer Success Stories: Evaluating NAND Storage Solutions in Embedded Memory Cards
For customers shopping for industrial embedded storage, comparing different flash technology used in memory cards is critical. This process used to be simple when comparing storage solutions essentially came down to comparing what flash is in the card. But as technology has evolved, these comparisons have become more complicated. This is especially true for industrial applications when legacy SLC flash is compared to pSLC, TLC and QLC 3D NAND options.
The traditional method for selecting a flash technology was to compare P/E cycles (program and erase cycles) to assess the endurance or ‘life expectancy’ of the device. The more complete way to assess life expectancy is to calculate TBW or total terabytes written. The formulas for TBW factor in not only the flash P/E cycles but also flash architecture (page and block sizes), workloads (file sizes and write frequency), and a write amplification factor (WAF). 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 can result in faster consumption of P/E cycles if the amount of data written is small compared to the flash block size.
A TBW calculation is a good apples-to-apples way to compare different cards on paper, but because most of the time it is based on a standard workload established by JEDEC, it will most definitely not reflect the actual number of Terabytes that can be written in a specific application. The best option is to measure the actual workload of an application and use this to calculate the true TBW for that application environment.
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. The changes they were experiencing were due to both product wear out tied to accelerated TBW and flash production life span turnover. 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 jumped in looking for a storage solution that had the potential to solve both of their issues – extended TBW and life expectancy of the card AND a flash production lifespan that would avoid them having to qualify a new part for at least 3 years.
The Delkin team asked the customer if they would be willing to let us conduct actual application testing on the device usage, in order to predict the endurance of flash and to experiment using both SLC and Industrial 3D SD cards. The customer agreed to allow the team to see what they could find.
The Delkin Team took the time to understand the application’s specific needs and the customer’s operational model for qualifications and expected product life cycles. This allowed Delkin to evaluate precise information specific to their device, including application workload and any environmental factors affecting the cards performance. This information generated a realistic estimate of the life expectancy of the cards in the customer’s actual application.
The results of the models surprised 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. While the lower card capacity still met their needs, the 20X increase in P/E cycle rating delivered the longer life. 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 application workloads, operating conditions, physical size, acquisition cost and TCO spanning the flash availability life span. 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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