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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

New SATA µSSD Specification for Embedded Solid State Drives

By Nick Flaherty www.flaherty.co.uk

Connector-free, high-capacity, embedded SSDs for a new generation of tablets and ultrathin notebooks

Memory maker SanDisk has implemented the new SATA µSSD specification into its SanDisk iSSD product line of postage stamp-sized embedded SSDs. SATA-IO, an industry consortium dedicated to sustaining the quality, integrity and dissemination of serial ATA (SATA) technology, introduced the standard today.
The number of media tablets shipped worldwide is expected to grow from 17.8 million units in 2010 to 53.5 million units in 2011 according to IDC.
The Serial ATA International Organization (SATA-IO) is also developing SATA Express, a new specification that combines SATA software infrastructure with the PCI Express (PCIe) interface. SATA Express enables the development of new devices that use the PCIe interface and maintain compatibility with existing SATA applications. The technology will provide a cost-effective means to increase device interface speeds to 8Gb/s and 16Gb/s.
Embedded SSDs offer fast performance in a tiny footprint, making them an attractive solution for all categories of ultrathin devices. The SATA µSSD specification (see below) eliminates the module connector from the traditional SATA interface, enabling developers to produce a single-chip SATA implementation for embedded storage applications. Among the first products to implement the new standard, the SanDisk iSSD series is an ideal storage solution for OEMs developing the next generation of thin, powerful mobile computing platforms.
“To widely adopt a new component technology, manufacturers need to have confidence in its performance, longevity and cost-effectiveness,” said Jeff Janukowicz, research manager, solid state storage technology at IDC. “Today’s announcement of an industry-wide standardization for embedded SSDs, combined with OEM requirements for size and performance gains in storage, should help propel the market for these tiny, versatile drives.”
“Connector-free embedded SSDs allow OEMs to develop a new generation of thin yet powerful tablets and ultrathin notebooks,” said Kevin Conley, senior vice president, client storage solutions, SanDisk. “Initiatives such as the µSSD specification promote the development of new standards for storage solutions that help manufacturers continually refine their end consumer product and drive new industry sectors.”
The SATA µSSD standard-conforming SanDisk iSSD series utilizes a new electrical pin-out that allows SATA delivery using a single ball grid array (BGA) package. The BGA package sits directly on the motherboard, allowing for form factors as small as 16mm x 20mm x 1.2mm (up to 32GB)/1.4mm (for 64GB) and 16mm x 20mm x 1.85mm (for 128GB). The SanDisk iSSD i100 SSD is available in 8 gigabyte (GB)1 to 128GB capacities, offering OEMs a flexible range of storage options.
“The market for tablets and ultrathin computing devices continues to grow along with the need for small form factor storage solutions,” said Mladen Luksic, president, SATA-IO. “We are excited to have industry-wide support for the µSSD specification and look forward to seeing many µSSD-based products available in the near future.”
SATA Express will provide a low-cost solution to fully use the performance of SSDs, while storage devices not requiring the speed of SATA Express will continue to be served by existing SATA technology. The specification will define new device and motherboard connectors that will support both new SATA Express and current SATA devices.
“The SATA Express specification provides SSD and hybrid drive manufacturers the advantages of performance and scalability enabled by PCIe 3.0 – which is available now – and the ubiquity of SATA,” said Mladen Luksic, SATA-IO president. “We expect the SATA Express specification to be completed by the end of 2011.”

The Complete SATA Ecosystem
SATA Express is one of several specifications from SATA-IO designed to offer low-cost, high performance storage solutions optimized for specific device segments. Since its introduction in 2001, SATA technology has penetrated 99% of the PC market and evolved to provide options for a number of applications beyond traditional hard disk storage. SATA is now implemented in a variety of applications including solid state and optical drives, embedded mobile devices, consumer electronics products and enterprise storage. Key specifications for implementing SATA technology beyond the HDD device segment include:
  • mSATA: A low-profile solution for mobile computing devices and other small form factor applications.
  • SATA Universal Storage Module (USM): An integrated SATA interface for providing portable, volume storage I/O to consumer electronics devices, as well as PC applications.
  • SATA µSSD: an embedded, single-chip solution that connects directly to the motherboard to enable ultra-thin form factor devices.
More information on these and other SATA specifications is available at www.sata-io.org.


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