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Controllers drive down power needs of systems

Posted: 18 Jun 2014 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:controller? power? energy?

Memory is under great pressure to accommodate the increasing low-power requirements of today's devices, but controllers may well be a critical system feature addressing this energy challenge.

Silicon Motion recently announced its SM2246EN SATA (6Gbit/s) client SSD controller now supports Micron's 16nm 128Gbit MLC NAND flash. In addition to highlighting its performance, the company also emphasized its ultra-low power consumption, which on average is 56mW.


The controller's ultra-low power consumption claims to effectively extend battery life and optimise user experience. Source: Silicon Motion

It's the application that determines whether the power consumption in an SSD controller is a critical system feature, said Jim Handy, principal analyst at Objective Analysis. "The power consumption for high-end enterprise SSD controllers is something that nobody really cares about." When it comes to SSDs for client applications such as PCs, it's more important to address power use to extend battery life since a lot of SSDs are getting used in ultrabooks and Macbook Air computers.

"It's not just the power the controller expends," said Handy, "It's how the controller manages the memory." The power that the SSD uses, he said, is very much influenced by how much the NAND flash is written to and erased because those processes are the high power aspect of a NAND chip's operation. If you reduce the writes of the SSD, the performance is more consistent and improves endurance.

"The SSD controller makers focus intense efforts on minimising the amount of write traffic they have in the SSD, and that in turn minimises the power," said Handy. Controllers have their own power requirements that are heavily affected by their microprocessors, and a balance must be struck. "Are you going to the make the algorithms more sophisticated at the expense of burning up more power in the controller, or are you going to make the algorithms less sophisticated and burn up more power in the NAND flash chip?"

SM2246EN block diagram

SM2246EN block diagram. Source: Silicon Motion

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