Technical Success Story: Industrial CF Cards for a Power Client
At Delkin, our top goal for our customers is finding storage solutions that meet their specific needs. This means understanding that no single storage solution can meet the needs of every customer. Even with extensive knowledge of the exact specifications of our storage drives, understanding exactly how they will work with a customer’s host device requires looking closely at the design of the device and the environment in which it will be used. That is why we work with each customer to understand their unique power devices, and the environments they operate in, and offer a long list of testing options and customizations This helps to enable our customers to get the maximum performance and reliability from their embedded storage.
A case in point was a recent experience we had with a client in the power industry. They were relying on CF cards for embedded storage, but were experiencing a high rate of failure. When they were unable to determine the root cause of the problem, they turned to Delkin for assistance.
This Delkin customer was using MLC CF cards for their power devices. Although they initially did not experience any problems with their CF cards, they were surprised by the short lifespan they were getting from their storage devices and running into unexpected costs from having to replace their CF cards sooner than anticipated. They were also experiencing a higher rate of failure than acceptable for the devices.
Their current supplier of CF cards could not find a reason for the failures, but the customer still suspected that the cards were to blame. The customer decided to turn to Delkin for assistance. They explained that they were operating under strict budget requirements, but that they needed to find a solution that gave them a longer lifespan and greater reliability than they were currently experiencing.
Upon hearing about the customer’s issue, Delkin suspected that the problem could lie with the fact that the customer’s devices were being used in operating conditions with extremely hot temperatures. CF cards have been used as a reliable, embedded storage interface for over 20 years. Their basic connector mimics that of a hard disk drive, or HDD, which is part of the reason why they are so popular. CF cards are used in countless applications with great success, and they are more reliable than some other drive formats in rugged conditions, thanks to their protective packaging.
However, the reliability of the card is also partially determined by the grade of the flash used in the card. In most industrial applications, SLC flash, or single-level cell flash, is used. With SLC flash, one bit of data is stored per cell. SLC flash is the most reliable form of flash memory and is capable of operating in extreme conditions, including with temperatures ranging from -40 degrees C to 85 degrees C.
MLC, or multi-level cell, flash is flash memory in which two bits of data are stored on each cell. Because two bits of data can be stored on each cell, MLC flash can hold dramatically more data than SLC flash without increasing the physical size of the device. The potential downside to MLC flash is that it has a reduced ability to tolerate rugged conditions. As such, it is more prone to failure in extreme conditions than SLC flash is. For some OEMs, the question becomes how to balance storage capacity requirements with the need for a device that can tolerate demanding operating conditions.
To test the theory that the client’s operating conditions were resulting in the card failures, Delkin decided to test some of the client’s current cards in a variety of operating conditions. Once temperatures exceeded the typical range for commercial grade products, Delkin noticed failures occurring. Not every exposure to an extreme temperature caused a failure, but temperatures that were common in the customer’s operating conditions resulted in a higher than acceptable rate of failure.
Delkin recommended to the customer that they adopt SLC CF cards instead of the MLC cards that they were using. Delkin tested SLC CF cards in conditions that were typical for the customer and was able to demonstrate that the cards did not fail in that environment. Further, Delkin showed the customer that SLC CF cards could provide a much longer lifespan than MLC CF cards, thus addressing the concerns about the frequency of memory replacement.
The customer was initially concerned about making the switch, as they said that they chose the MLC CF cards for budgetary reasons. It’s true that MLC cards tend to be less expensive than SLC cards, but that doesn’t always make them the best value for a particular customer from a total cost of ownership standpoint. In this case, we were able to consider the pricing needs of the customer and show them how they could actually afford to choose SLC CF cards and end up saving money over time. When the cost of replacing the MLC cards more frequently than they had anticipated and the cost of downtimes because of failures and replacements were taken into account, it became clear that opting for SLC cards that were more suitable for the operating environment was significantly more cost effective. The customer agreed that this decision aligned with their budgetary and operating needs.
If the embedded storage solution you choose is not appropriate for your application, then you could end up paying more than necessary in the long term. Delkin offers customized testing—and customizations—to ensure that the embedded storage device you purchase works effectively and efficiently.
Delkin’s customer applications team found the right solution for this customer, and we can help you find your best option for embedded storage. Reach out to us today to discuss your application and let us assist you.
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