Benefits of Industrial Grade Flash Storage Devices

Cactus Technologies Limited describes in depth, the benefits of Industrial Grade Flash Storage Devices versus the Consumer/Commercial Grade Flash Storage Products.

Cactus Industrial Grade Flash Storage Devices
Cactus Industrial Grade Flash Storage Devices

Industrial Grade products have a much higher endurance, longer life cycles, BOM control, reliability, wider temperature ranges, MTBF and small block random read performance than either the Commercial or Consumer Grade flash products.

Endurance signifies the number of times a sector can be written during the life of a flash cell. This is important because flash memory in general and the NAND flash memory used in flash storage devices becomes less able to effectively store the data beyond a certain number of erase/write cycles.

Industrial Grade cards use SLC (Single Level Cell) NAND flash memory which has the highest level of endurance. The tradeoff of using SLC NAND versus the lower endurance MLC (Multi Level Cell) and TLC (Tri Level Cell) NAND is its significantly higher cost. Typically Industrial Grade products are rated at >2 Million endurance cycles per logical block which is ~20 times the MLC NAND rating and up to 10,000 times better than the TLC NAND based products.

Longer Life Cycles is a key attribute for the Industrial Grade products since many Industrial, Military, Gaming, Medical and other markets have designs which need a form, fit and function solution for 7 - 15+ years. While the Consumer market demands the latest form factor such as microSD with >32GB storage capacity, many Industrial systems only need from 32MBytes to 16GBytes of storage in a PC Card, CompactFlash or full size SD Card form factor.

BOM (Bill-Of-Material) Control is one of the largest differentiators for Industrial offerings. True BOM Control locks down the controller and NAND silicon revisions as well as the firmware internal to the flash storage devices. It is very important to companies who have long qualification cycles to make sure their qualification efforts are meaningful by receiving the same BOM on production parts as was originally tested.

There is a lot of lip service paid to BOM Control, since it is a lot easier to claim than to execute. With regularly shrinking NAND trace widths and revisions to the controller silicon/firmware it takes real commitment to maintain True BOM Control. This commitment comes with the cost of proper material planning, purchasing and stocking months to years' worth of end-of-life components as well as having production processes which guarantee a stable BOM.

Reliability for Industrial Grade products comes from the controller/firmware, NAND memory and other components used. High grade controllers/firmware developed specifically for the Industrial marketplace and thoroughly tested prior to launch have several advantages. They are optimal in environments susceptible to power loss and they increase endurance cycles through Industrial Grade ECC (Error Checking and Correction), defect management and wear leveling. The use of SLC NAND from world class vendors and only using the highest grade and specification of discrete components are the other two pieces in the reliability puzzle.

Wide temperature ranges specified at -45C to 90C are also made possible by Industrial Grade controllers, firmware and SLC NAND. In fact, Cactus Technologies has screened devices to >105C and to <-55C for specific customer requirements. Recently a NAND vendor has released an eMLC (enhanced Multi Level Cell) component with -40C to 85C temp option, but these parts still are significantly less reliable than the SLC NAND components used in Industrial Grade products.

MTBF (Mean Time Between Failure) is the predicted elapsed time between inherent failures of a system during operation. The Industrial Grade products are rated at >4 Millions hours, whereas the Commercial Grade, based on MLC NAND, is rated at 100K-400K hours and Consumer cards are typically not rated at all.

Finally, Small Block Read performance of Industrial Grade products is important to applications storing and running their Operating System from the flash storage device. During the boot process, the use of Industrial Grade products is evident due to the lower amount of time required for completion.

In conclusion, there are very few suppliers with the ability, desire or commitment required to design, build and support the Industrial Grade Flash Storage market. It is the lifeblood of Cactus Technologies Limited and we look forward to working with your company on current or future designs requiring the Industrial Feature Sets described in this article.

Cactus Technologies has been focused on the Industrial Flash Storage market since its inception in 2005.

Cactus Technologies Limited