The embedded computing industry is being inundated with changes to storage products driven by technological advancements, market forces and environmental concerns. The precipitous drop in solid-state flash drive (SSD) prices has enabled designers, previously turned off by the cost, to now consider solid state as an option over rotating hard disk drives (HDD). With that decision comes a serious list of performance benefits, including improvements in durability and security, which SSDs have over HDDs.
Driven by higher clock rates and parallel interface performance limitations, the storage industry is moving rapidly towards serial interconnects. This affects both SSDs and HDDs and forces system designers to consider their options when faced with this choice.The European Union’s Reduction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directive bans lead in electronic components including storage devices. This wellintentioned requirement certainly affects consumer products, but it’s tentacles reach far into the industrial and military space as commercial off the shelf (COTS) products are used in these applications. The shift to RoHS components and the serial to parallel interface shift required product end of life (EOL) management including monitoring product roadmaps, making last time buys and identifying secondary sources.
Solid State Flash
Until recently the default solution for most industrial or military storage needs involved storage using rotating drives and one of two widely used parallel interfaces — IDE/ATA or SCSI. Units are ruggedized external to the drive by way of costly shock mounting or thermal management schemes at the board or box level.
Solid-state flash drives in Compact Flash, 1.8", 2.5" and 3.5" form factors have long been available as form, fit and function replacements for rotating drives and they offer higher resistance to nasty environments compared to rotating drives. The barrier to making the shift to solid state was always sticker shock. Now, however, with the drop in solid-state prices at almost 80% in the past 18 months, it begins to make economic sense to consider flash storage. There are two cost points to weigh when considering which storage solution best fits an application — the up front material costs and the longer term costs. Flash storage still costs 15 to 20 times more than rotating storage on a per gigabyte basis. However, when considering the not so obvious long term costs — especially in rugged applications — the picture changes rapidly. Table 1 gives a brief performance comparison between flash and rotating storage.
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