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Flash Memory Summit paints SSD, flash future

Posted: 17 Aug 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:SanDisk? SSD? flash? FTL? EEPROM?

The recently concluded Flash Memory Summit has offered insights both into the genesis of the solid-state drive (SSD) and into the future of SSDs and flash.

In an interview with Eli Harari, the father of flash and co-founder of SanDisk shared anecdotes on how the technology found its footing. Other sessions explored the outlook for 3D NAND and what may come after it. The show floor gave a view of the near-term flash products making their way to the market now.

Ironically, organisers gave awards both to the engineer who wrote the software for the first SSD and to one who will sell software to replace it. Mike Jadon, CEO of Radian Memory Systems, won a best-of-show award for his company's Symphonic software that aims to replace the Flash Translation Layer (FTL) code originally written in 1988 by Robert Norman of SanDisk.

Jadon claims Radian's software will lower latency and reduce the amount of memory over-provisioning needed for SSDs today. The code is also better suited for today's big data centres, he said. But it will require some tweaking of host file systems, he added.

The software will hit the market in October embedded in the company's own SSD, the RMS-250, a 2.5in NVMe 2TB drive. However, Jadon is in negotiations with a select group of SSD and other hardware makers to license the software directly.

Jadon cut his teeth in SSDs at Micro Memory. Later he had conversations with the chief scientist at a former customer about the innovations and shortcomings of Fusion-IO, a pioneer in SSD's for the PCI Express interface.

The talks led to the idea for Radian. Jadon was able to hire a computer scientist from Google, a handful of system experts from Dot Hill and elsewhere and much of his former team at Micro Memory to form company that made its debut at the event.

Mike Jadon

Mike Jadon of Radian Memory Systems shows his RMS-250 SSD shipping in October with his Symphonic software to replace the Flash Translation Layer.

Harari speaks on early days of SSDs

Eli Harari

Eli Harari explains his strategy of adopting an expensive controller for SSDs...

In a special session, SanDisk co-founder Eli Harari shared stories of his struggles getting SSDs established. In the late 1970s, Harari did pioneering research on the floating gate EEPROM that was the foundation for flash and SSDs.

"One of the things I insisted on was [SSDs] had to be compatible with hard drives and agnostic to the host, working on any operating system and using ATA disk commands," Harari said.

The requirement led to the choice of a controller and the FTL firmware to translate the vagaries of the flash devices into what looked like a hard drive to any computer. But the first off-the shelf controllers used in flash drives in the early 1990s were expensive, about $70. "Competitors said it was crazy," Harari recalled.

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