Flash Illuminates Mobile Digital Storage


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Flash Illuminates Mobile Digital Storage

  1. 1. A Storage Vision #2 Flash Illuminates Mobile Digital Storage Thomas M. Coughlin President Coughlin Associates www.tomcoughlin.com A brief history of flash memory In the early 1980’s semiconductor engineers developed concepts for non-volatile data storage devices. This technology allowed storage of trapped electrons in “cells” to create an array of addressable storage nodes. The trapped electrons were prevented form leaking out of the cell by a large energy barrier creating a non-volatile storage architecture. The data in these cells could be written and then they would retain the data until the cell was erased or “flashed” . The cells could be organized to provide different logical functions such as NOR or NAND. NOR-based flash memory has faster read speed, but longer erase and write times and is most suitable for infrequently updated code such as BIOS or firmware. NOR is still used in applications such as cell phones and set top boxes but increasingly NAND-based flash memory is finding its way into more and more applications requiring data storage. The initial work on flash memory was published by Dr. Fujio Masuoka of Toshiba in 1984 and significant development began at many companies in the later 1980’s. SanDisk, funded in part by Seagate Technology was established in 1988 to develop NAND-based flash memory technology and owns a significant amount of flash memory IP. Today the largest manufacturer of flash memory is Samsung Electronics. Samsung entered the flash market in 2001 and currently has about 50% market share of NAND flash. Samsung flash memory comes in all form factors and in many mobile applications. The role of flash in mobile CE and other applications Flash memory represents a vision for rugged non-volatile digital storage devices and enabled the development of new mobile electronic markets. Flash provided a useable storage capacity, shock resistance and low power storage for electronics designers. Devices such as low cost MP3 players and digital still cameras were enabled by the availability of embedded and removable flash memory storage in the 1990’s. Figure 1 shows a 64 GB compact flash storage device from Samsung. Figure 1. Samsung 64 GB Compact Flash Storage Device
  2. 2. Since 2001 NAND flash storage capacity for a given number of flash chips has doubled annually. In 2006 8 Gb components are shipping and by 2008 32 Gb components should be shipping. Using reduced lithographic line widths and multiple bits per cell to boost storage capacity flash memory is giving competing storage technologies a run for their money. As the storage capacity of flash memory increased mobile flash memory began to show up in more and more mobile devices from PDAs to video cameras. In 2000 storage companies began to provide USB based memory devices (USB drives) that could be easily carried from computer to computer, see Figure 2. These mostly flash-based USB devices displaced floppy disks for computer “sneaker net” data transfers within a few years. Technologies such as Migo and U3 are offering ways to even run applications from USB-based devices allowing the possibility of carrying data and applications on a small mobile device for use in computers at a destination that may not have the applications resident. Perhaps in the future some people will use USB drives for their current working files using computers at their destination as if they were their office computers. Figure 2. USB Flash Memory Device With the introduction of Vista, notebook computers may use hard disk drives with 256 MB or more of NAND flash as a write cache and also to hold some operating system boot-up data to allow more rapid boot up when the computer is starting. These products are being called TM ReadyDrive . In addition to faster computer boot-up the NAND cache stores data to be written on the disk drive so the disk drive does not have to write data to the disk as often. This can reduce the power consumption of the disk drive significantly, perhaps as much as 90%. Overall laptop power consumption would only be reduced by about 8-12% since the storage component only consumes around 10-15% of the total laptop power (the display is the biggest power consumer). Samsung has also introduced solid state drives for use in ultralight laptop computers with current capacities as high as 32 GB, Figure 3. These devices are the in the form factor of 1.8 or 2.5-inch hard disk drives (called solid state drives or SSDs). Although the price is much higher than for a higher capacity hard disk drive-based ultralight laptop the company expects the faster data access, greater ruggedness, longer battery life and lighter weight to appeal to some market segments. As the storage capacity of NAND flash chips increases in coming years such SSDs could provide adequate storage for lighter weight usage travelers or those with ready access to on-line storage. There is already a market for such products for heavy industrial or military applications.
  3. 3. Figure 3. Solid State Drive with 16 GB Flash projections and its role in bettering our lives According to Semico total annual capacity shipments of flash memory could exceed 24 EB (Exabytes or 24 billion gigabytes) by 2010 as shown in Figure 4. The analyst firm also expects that the price per GB of flash will be less than $2 in the same time frame, Figure 5. Figure 4. Semico projections for total annual flash memory shipment capacity Gigabyte Shipments (log) Billions of GigaBytes Shipped 100,000 10,000 1,000 100 10 1 00 02 04 06 08 10 20 20 20 20 20 20 Figure 5. Semico projections for average price per GB for flash memory
  4. 4. Price per Gigabyte (log) Average Price per GigaByte $10,000 $1,000 $100 $10 $1 00 02 04 06 08 10 20 20 20 20 20 20 F lash m em ory has unfettered people from fixed consum er electronic and com puter products. M ore than ever flash m em ory is playing a critical role in the overall product designer’s storage hierarchy. T his product represents a true vision of the use of digital storage to enhance the human experience, give us greater freedom of movement and work and the ability to capture our present situation where ever we may happen to be. The annual storage visions conference Come join us January 6 & 7, 2007 at the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada for the 6th annual Storage Visions Conference. Hear our sponsors such as Samsung Semiconductor explore and describe new opportunities for digital storage and personal and entertainment content creation, distribution and reception. Meet and network with the creators of the future and explore all the ways that digital storage will enrich our human experience!