How The Hottest Embedded SSD Technologies Are Helping To Keep Things Cool

Today’s Leading OEMs No Longer Have to be Constrained by Legacy HDD Form Factors

By Adrian R.M. Proctor, Viking Modular

In the world of embedded computing, there are two things that keep engineers awake at night: how to bring highly featured and unique products to market on time, and how to keep the costs down. In an environment where smaller is better, it can be a complex feat of engineering to design these innovative and intuitive embedded and industrial computing-devices that deliver both speed and capability in the right package for the customer.

To date, the governing bodies that create industry standards for storage have been focused on regulating Hard Disk Drives (HDDs) that are smaller and are more energy efficient. The most popular standard sizes being 2.5” or 1.8” form factors. However, Solid State Drives (SSDs) now offer low and medium density storage in significantly smaller form factors enabling much smaller “purpose built” storage solutions. As a result, Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) can think outside the HDD box when designing next-generation solutions.

And it’s not just that SSDs offer smaller form factors. They also can provide performance that is an order of magnitude better than HDDs, weigh less, consume less power and generate significantly less heat when in use. For markets such as industrial embedded, enterprise server and storage, networking/communications and defense and aerospace, the advantages that smaller form factor-SSDs deliver are highly compelling to the system architect.

So if SSDs offer superior capability in a smaller footprint, what’s the downside? The biggest to date is that key regulating agencies haven’t yet determined the all-important industry standards that will apply to all SSDs. Without these industry standards each vendor is free to categorize a particular product’s specifications in their own unique way, creating potential confusion as OEMs try and determine what technology makes the most sense for their unique product. However, one size does not fit all. Some require high performance, while others place high value on the benefit of space savings.

In order to establish the best possible standards, there must be multiple options from which to choose. When numerous suppliers become involved, and a variety of product choices are available, costs are driven down and it becomes feasible – even sensible – to choose these alternative SSD form factors over the standard HDD products.

To anyone that follows the market, you know this is already happening. Costs have lowered significantly in the last couple of years, making designs incorporating SSD technology much more palatable. And regulating agencies such as JEDEC and SATA-IO have championed small form factors for SSDs, thus helping to enable the infrastructure that will support faster time-to-market solutions at a lower cost. Previous concerns of SSD capacity compared with HDD are becoming obsolete as flash SSD capacity is increasing rapidly and large capacity drives are already available for enterprise and industrial applications.

With all of the advances both in the technology and in the supporting infrastructure for SSDs, it stands to reason that cutting- edge capabilities are now being brought to market. These include products that reinvent storage capabilities – for example, addressing multiple flash components simultaneously to achieve 200MB/s+ sustainable Read/Write speeds, or stacking/packaging technology to enable the smallest footprint, or offering a wide variety of capabilities that can now achieve enhanced performance, reliability, ruggedness and power savings for the rigorous demands of today’s embedded computing environments.

As more SSD vendors bring small form factors to market, and as regulating organizations evaluate these new technologies to determine the most appropriate industry standards, SSDs will become the primary option for embedded computing. Even more, these new products continue to demonstrate significantly superior capabilities in density, power consumption, thermal characteristics and longevity – all at a lower cost and faster time-to-market. What’s the bottom line? Well, engineers will find new avenues for ingenuity and invention, thus optimizing the value and performance of their applications.

Adrian Proctor is Vice President of Marketing for Viking Modular Solutions™, a division of Sanmina-SCI Corporation. Mr. Proctor is responsible for the product development and market strategy. He has over 20 years of experience in DRAM and Flash marketing, sales and management, working in both Europe and in the United States in these roles. Mr. Proctor graduated from Liverpool University - United Kingdom with a BS in Physiology and an MBA from the University of Phoenix.