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Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Flash Translation Layer allows NAND memory to be used for deterministic operation in embedded designs

By Nick Flaherty www.flaherty.co.uk

HCC Embedded in Budapest has extended its existing flash translation layer (FTL) solution for NAND with the addition of deterministic execution control. 

Engineers integrating NAND flash into safety-based systems in automotive, aerospace, and industrial applications can use HCC’s SafeFTL to ensure stable and predictable operation of the NAND flash. The deterministic SafeFTL has been fully verified both in simulated environments and on real NAND flash arrays.

Traditionally, NOR flash has been the dominant memory in highly reliable systems, but more recently engineers are integrating NAND flash into safety systems where information must be predictably available. An FTL manages an array of NAND flash to create a logical interface that software can use. This includes wear leveling, bad block handling, and the many other subtleties of managing NAND flash. However, existing FTLs all stall at some point for a variable period of time, particularly when placed under heavy load.

Safety-critical systems demand a different approach that ensures stability and predictability above all else. For these systems, where accurate time division is critical to the delivery of safety, engineers can use HCC’s deterministic SafeFTL to integrate arrays of NAND flash without disturbing the predictability of the system. 

The deterministic FTL builds on HCC’s SafeFTL by enabling the host or safety system to know how long operations will take and respond by either scheduling tasks appropriately or executing them in multiple steps. The host system gets the length of time a flash operation will take from the FTL and can schedule an appropriate time slot, or can spread complex operations over multiple time slots, while leaving the NAND flash accessible to other tasks.

“HCC has spent much of its history developing a deep understanding of flash storage technology,” said HCC Embedded CEO Dave Hughes. “Our SafeFTL has provided fail-safety and reliability to embedded systems for the last 15 years. We do this by taking a system-level approach that ensures each layer in the system has correctly defined the behaviour it requires from adjacent layers. The addition of deterministic execution control to our SafeFTL product goes a step beyond to ensure the utmost reliability and predictability in safety-critical systems.”

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