Flash Storage Life Cycle & Component Volatility Management
Industrial Flash Storage for Leading-Edge Applications
The typical Flash user is one that utilizes various form factors for images, temporary portable storage, or high-end, high-speed, high-capacity drives for a compute intensive application, often called the ‘leading-edge’. This arena changes very rapidly with a life span of sometimes only several months before a product may be declared obsolete or outdated. Delkin Devices works closely with each industrial OEM and customer to ensure the right industrial Flash storage solution is chosen to meet the needs of application requirements, including customization options. This helps accommodate rapidly changing leading-edge applications, and a Flash storage life cycle strategy can be determined during the planning and consultation phase.
Delkin Devices Supplies Leading & Trailing-Edge Needs
Delkin Devices builds drives to satisfy a portion of the leading-edge customer base, but there is another segment which is equally as important that Delkin has mastered over many years of manufacturing customized industrial Flash storage devices, the trailing-edge segment of industrial Flash storage demand.
Flash storage designs for the military, aerospace, or other embedded devices completed in early 2000’s rely on proven technology such as CompactFlash or Secure Digital cards. These applications are expected to have an ultra-long-life cycle and very high reliability in rugged conditions. High capacity and high performance are rarely the focal point of embedded storage applications like these. More important is life span, a controlled bill of materials (BOM), and reliability. Many of these Flash storage applications use a very small amount of storage, even as low as 128MB, and cannot support higher capacities due to the era in which they were integrated. In this case, the customer will continue to buy 128MB drives as long as they are available because the application does not change. This is a scenario that’s common with the trailing-edge Flash storage requirements and customers who are looking to lock in a BOM with the longest life cycle possible.
To meet these strict life span requirements Delkin chooses suppliers carefully and parts that can support long life cycles. These are critical considerations with the two most important and volatile components in industrial Flash storage, the Flash, and the controller.
Managing Component Volatility: Flash
The Flash is the most volatile. We typically steer users to SLC Flash for applications that have ruggedized requirements, such as extended temperature ranges, high humidity, and dust and other potential debris. SLC is much more expensive that lower grade MLC and even furthermore so than TLC. Due to this, SLC is not targeted for cost reductions and the price cannot compare with consumer grade Flash. Toshiba, for example, has supplied 43nm SLC since 2010 and continues to manufacture this part. Whereas MLC and TLC see a cost reduction revision each year, or even more frequently than that. Each quarter, Delkin meets with major Flash suppliers to monitor the status of Flash life cycle to get their prediction of remaining life span. In the case of a part being discontinued, Delkin has a notification program and system of life cycle management where we provide a replacement part that will reset the clock on the product life span. The customer will typically requalify the part with this new Flash configuration.
Managing Component Volatility: The Controller
The next most volatile part is the Controller CPU. Delkin partners with industrial controller manufacturers to ensure that controllers are spec’d to ensure an extended life cycle, and not cycled each year as consumer-oriented controllers are. This ensures we have a reliable supply chain of controller CPU’s and can offer our customers the confidence of having the longest product life cycle available in market.
This Controller partnership also allows us to offer customized firmware for a specific application. We can work with a customer to develop very specific firmware for a very specific set of requirements. This firmware is then locked in-place, so the customer always receives the same firmware. This high level of application-specific customization is something that sets Delkin Devices apart from competitive Flash storage manufacturers.
Managing Component Volatility: Low Scale Integration Parts & Passive Components
The third level of component volatility are low scale integration parts, such as a power supply and passive components, including capacitors, resistors, and connectors. Using standard values and packaging provides a variety of suppliers to source these lower tech parts throughout the application life cycle. Should a part of this nature become obsolete, and not directly replaceable, Delkin offers the ability to notify the customer when these seemingly insignificant parts change, or are replaced due to becoming EOL, giving the customer the opportunity to decide to requalify or not. Delkin can also notify a customer if a different manufacturer is being specified, even if a part hasn’t changed value or packaging has not changed.
Following Mobile Phone Component Trends
Another area that causes components to become obsolete is minimization driven by the mobile phone industry. Many passive components employed in embedded storage devices are common to mobile devices, and the ever-changing and highly competitive mobile device market. Delkin chooses components which are often common to mobile devices to keep costs down and reliability up, by riding the coat tails of large volume manufacturing. As technology progresses, some vendors will stop manufacturing certain types of passive components, however, Delkin keeps up with these changes to ensure the maximum life cycle of all industrial Flash storage product lines.
Built to Order in the USA
The last strategic alignment in Delkin’s ability to supply the longest life cycle in the industrial Flash storage market is the in-house, California, USA based manufacturing of our industrial Flash storage drives. Delkin has complete SMT lines each capable of building single and double-sided drives to fulfill the needs of long-term customer application markets. Delkin’s boards are designed to be standardized as well as allow customization to accommodate the rugged requirements of the applications and vertical markets served.