Technical Success Story: Industrial and Commercial Flash Storage
Commercial flash storage products are extremely common and widely available. For this reason, some engineers looking for storage for industrial applications look to commercial products first. However, in many cases, commercial flash storage will not be the best fit for their industrial applications. Instead, engineers and OEMs may benefit from looking for storage solutions from the basis of the usage model instead of simply opting for a widely available commercial-market solution.
The issue that most industrial applications run into is that commercial products are designed to meet the needs of the commercial marketplace. Within this market, designers are swayed by price more than any other feature, and they will purchase the storage device that offers the most capacity and speed at the price point they want to pay. For industrial embedded storage products, however, it is important to prioritize things like temperature, environment and electronic ruggedness, since many applications will be used in places where shock, vibration, and temperature extremes are common. Data integrity is also of paramount importance to industrial users, so commercial flash storage products may not be appropriate.
A customer was interested in replacing a recognized SSD from a NAND flash company that was currently being used in an embedded product. Speed was not a big concern for them. In their application, information was written to a drive offline, and the user didn’t have to wait for this process to finish. The customer was glad to see that the SSD was offered by multiple retailers, so they simply shopped around for the best prices and best delivery terms that they could find. They were aware that the SSD was being used in commercial applications, but they believed that those commercial devices had more intensive demands than their own application.
However, the customer experienced problems with the drives switching to read-only without any warning. Data could not be written when the drive went offline, though previously written blocks of data were preserved. Their failure rate soon reached 10% while they were searching for a solution, and they determined that the main problems were in older drives. They ultimately decided that their situation was untenable and reached out to Delkin for help.
How Delkin Responded
Delkin believes that there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution to storage. For commercial devices, such as laptops, commercial grade memory is a perfect fit. Commercial OEMs are looking for high levels of speed and capacity at low costs, and that is exactly what these devices deliver. However, industrial applications have different needs, simply because they are not used in the same way that commercial devices are.
Data integrity and ruggedness are the cornerstones of industrial embedded storage, and they are prioritized over other needs. For industrial applications, SLC NAND flash is most commonly used. With SLC, or single-level cell flash, one bit of data is written per cell. This increases data security while allowing for high-speed operations. This kind of embedded storage can also withstand the demands of industrial applications, including extreme temperatures and high levels of shock and vibration. Industrial grade embedded storage is always designed with wear leveling algorithms and other integrated features that monitor how memory is being used inside the device. These features help to optimize data storage, which in turn ensures that the device will perform the maximum number of program and erase cycles possible.
When Delkin worked with this customer, we determined that there were high numbers of program and erase cycles occurring because of the way the drives were being used, without any kind of wear leveling going on. Commercial devices do not contain wear leveling algorithms, because they are not important to the common usage of these memory products. Wear leveling ensures that the cells and blocks of data within memory devices are used efficiently, and the high usage rates of this customer were exposing the flaws in using a commercial memory product without wear leveling in an industrial application.
With SLC industrial flash, Delkin determined that the customer could get tens of thousands of program and erase cycles; with the commercial memory cards that they were using, they were getting as few as 800. This explained the high failure rate, particularly in their older devices.
Delkin helped this customer find an SLC drive with a small capacity, so that they could boost the reliability of their drives and get the high numbers of program and erase cycles that they required. For this customer, opting for a commercial grade product turned out to be extremely costly and disruptive. The SLC drive they ended up with was still affordable, in addition to being a much better match for their needs.
If you need help with your host storage, contact Delkin. We’re here with answers to your questions about industrial flash storage. Our team members are ready to assist you in choosing the right memory solution for your needs. We can provide product testing, customization, engineering samples, and more.
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