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What’s new in Flash memory?

John Day

John Day

Posted Sep 29, 2011
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Good news this week for engineers concerned with automotive electronics voracious memory requirements. Three firms (and let me know if I missed any others) made announcements this week related to Flash technology.

Spansion announced a family of Serial NOR Flash memory devices that offer more than 20 percent faster read speed, three times faster programming speed, and five times faster erase speed than other Serial Flash products.

Macronix International announced its full support of the new JEDEC Serial NOR Flash standard JESD216, and Greenliant Systems said it has begun volume production of its SATA interface NANDrive™ solid state drives (SSDs).

Automotive applications for Spansion’s new devices include instrument clusters that rely on 3D graphic engines for displaying real-time driver information and demand high reliability, real-time fast rendering and lower pin counts and will require higher densities in the not so distant future. Ajay Bhatia, Spansion’s director of product marketing, said those capabilities are required for giving consumers stylish designs with improved graphics and an instant-on experience with their digital dashboards.

Alan Niebel at Web-Feet Research estimated that serial Flash memory is estimated to grow at a compound annual rate of approximately 19 percent through 2015 as next-generation electronics require real-time processing, advanced security, 3D graphics and smaller form factors in consumer, automotive and industrial applications.

JEDEC standard

The JEDEC JESD216 Serial Flash Discoverable Parameter (SFDP) standard enables Serial NOR Flash to describe its pertinent device parameters and capabilities using a standardized communication protocol and internal parameter table format.

“These parameter tables can be interrogated by host system software to enable adjustments needed to accommodate divergent features from multiple vendors,” explains Rick Culver, who chaired the JEDEC SFDP Task Group. “SFDP provides more flexibility in vendor selection, reduces engineering resources for firmware upgrades and effectively shortens the time to bring product to the market. The value of SFDP mirrors that of Common Flash Interface (CFI) for Parallel Flash. The software engineers have been asking for a standard like this since the increased adoption of Serial Flash.”

NAND Flash controller and die

Greenliant’s SATA NANDrive combines the firm’s proprietary NAND flash controller with up to eight NAND flash die in a multi-chip package. Greenliant chief executive officer Bing Yeh says that compared to using discrete NAND and a controller, NANDrive improves customers’ time-to-market by eliminating the need to procure and qualify multiple chips.

“As NAND Flash memory continues to rapidly shrink, making it difficult for embedded products to keep up, a standard-interface storage solution that doesn’t require redesigns at each new geometry node is needed,” suggests Michael Yang, principal analyst for Memory & Storage at IHS iSuppli Corporation. “The timing is right for BGA package SSDs like NANDrive.”

Web-Feet Research, Greenliant, IHS iSuppl, Automotive Electronics, SATA NANDrive, Spansion, JEDEC Serial NOR Flash standard JESD216, Macronix

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John DayJohn Day recently launched John Day’s Automotive Electronics News (johndayautomotivelectronics.com) to provide news and feature coverage of the automotive electronics industry. Earlier he wrote for Auto Electronics magazine, Auto E-lectronics, EE Times, and other business and engineering publications. Visit John Day

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