Last week Drive Rescue attended Embedded World 2023 in Nuremberg, Germany. This is one of the biggest convergences of Asian, European, and American disk manufacturers in Europe. Some of the latest NAND-based storage devices were on display. Moreover, it was a pleasure to discuss the latest storage trends from teams all over the world.
How the EU’s Right to Repair legislation might influence computer manufacturers’ choice of storage disk in the future
The European Commission is expected to implement Right to Repair legislation which will impact manufacturer component choices in devices such as PCs, laptops, and mobile systems. For example, by 2027 most manufacturers selling electronic products in the EU market will have to devise designs for removable batteries. It is also speculated that the implementation of non-removable SSDs (such as eMMC flash memory and BGA SSDs) might also be discouraged by future EU regulation.
The Dangers of QLC NAND
For those involved in the procurement of SSDs, you might have noticed some manufacturers offering QLC NAND in some of their drives. Many disk manufacturers at Embedded World 2023 were unanimous and candid in their sentiments regarding QLC NAND. While QLC NAND (4 bits per cell as opposed to 3 bits per cell for TLC NAND) is faster and cheaper, it also wears out a lot quicker. For example, some QLC NAND only allows for a paltry 100 Program/Erase (P/E) cycles. Applications such as those used in crypto-mining, data-logging, RAW continuous burst photography and video recording would chew up these cycles in no time – leaving you with a burnt-out SSD. The bottom line is that QLC-based SSDs are fine for use cases such as PCs and laptops used for internet browsing or basic office tasks. But using QLC SSD for any sort of write-intensive applications could be asking for trouble.
SSDs and Vibration
The difference in durability between SSDs and HDDs is stark. Drop a laptop running an HDD on a relatively hard surface and more likely than not you could be looking at some disk-head damage. Drop an SSD-running laptop on the same surface and the disk will hardly notice. However, SSDs are not as hardy as you might think. Heat can damage them, and also vibration. The super-nice team from Biwin Storage (OEM manufacturers for HP, Lenovo, and Acer branded disks) explained just how insidious continued SSD exposure to vibration can be. In vibration-heavy environments such as manufacturing facilities and ship’s engine rooms, vibration can loosen the solder joints between NAND ICs and the disk’s PCB. This can result in a failed SSD. For this reason, Biwin Storage have introduced SSDs which use an “underfill” epoxy-resin coating which secures a stronger adhesive bond between the NAND IC soldering balls and the PCB. This makes disk failure due to vibration much less likely to occur.
Power Loss Protection
NAND-based storage devices with in-built power loss protection were a huge theme at Embedded World 2023. Sudden power loss can be a huge issue in sectors such as manufacturing, where machinery or PLC controllers subject to sudden power loss can result in hours (or even days) of downtime. This power loss can occur due to an overburdened power grid (a very common problem in some countries), or it can be the result of human error. Some manufacturing operatives will sometimes kill power to machinery before it has fully shut-down – resulting in data loss.
SSD Controllers and VW Golfs
The controller chip is at the heart of any SSD device. It manages data reads, writes, and erase functions. It performs data scrambling. It performs encryption. It performs error correction, garbage collection, and wear levelling. You could say that the SSD controller is the brain of the disk. A representative from Transcend (a major SSD manufacturer) described controllers as being like VW Golfs. The latest generation Golf is going to be more efficient and more sophisticated than the last one. And that’s an apt analogy. SSD controllers are vastly more sophisticated than those from a decade ago. For a start, they use less power. Some of them have already deployed 5th-generation LDPC error correction. Some use dynamic scheduling. And some controllers now even have the ability to predict bit errors before they happen using Predictive-LDPC (Pre-LDPC). All a far cry from the early 2010s when SandForce controllers were seen as top-end…
The new SSD form factor for enterprises and data centres
Just when you thought another SSD form factor was impossible – along comes EDSFF (Enterprise and Datacentre Standard Form Factor). This has been developed by the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) in response to the demand from enterprise and data centre customers for an alternative to the M.2 form factor. There are a number of reasons why M.2 is not that suitable for this cohort of customers. Firstly, M.2 disks are relatively small. Even the “2280” iteration is only 20mm by 80mm in size. This allows limited space for NAND flash chips. In contrast, the EDSFF E1 form factor is 318.75mm in length. This extra surface area not only allows for more NAND but also greatly facilitates more heat dissipation. Moreover, in terms of data bandwidth, EDSFF has a theoretical architecture of PCIe x16. In reality though, at the time of writing most manufacturers such as Kioxia are just using PCIe x4. And another great advantage of the EDSFF standard is it’s hot-swappable. In theory, at least, making the serviceability of these disks much easier.
Drive Rescue are based in Dublin, Ireland and offer a complete data recovery service for SSDs. Contact us on 01 485 355.