By: Jeff Child
Flash solid-state drives have achieved performance and capacity levels well on par with magnetic hard disks. Secure erase capabilities help seal the deal.
If the dynamics in the flash memory chip market and the roadmaps of flash chip vendors are any guide, it looks like flash-based solid-state disks (F-SSDs) are poised to quell any arguments for staying with traditional rugged hard drives. Throw in the major advantages in ruggedness and security that F-SSDs enjoy, and the contrast becomes even more vivid.
With no moving parts, F-SSDs are able to operate under the harshest conditions, unlike magnetic hard disk drives. In a rugged environment, the rotating mechanisms of a hard drive can fail, and are subject to partial and sometimes even total loss of data. Severe conditions including high shock, vibration, altitude, humidity and extreme temperature ranges increase failure rate percentages of hard disk drives, which is unacceptable for mission-critical systems.
Because F-SSDs targeted for military and aerospace apps use the same fundamental flash components as the consumer realm, the price advantages can be leveraged across all markets. The list of applications where F-SSD are attractive continues to broaden, now including submarines, space vehicles, aircraft carriers, high-altitude balloons, high-speed locomotives, oil and gas pipelines, drilling rigs, weapons systems, mining equipment, combat aircraft and more.
Flash Tradeoffs Fade
Traditional drawbacks of flash-based disks are quickly falling by the wayside. Random access speeds rival and will soon beat other media, retention and re-writing cycles have dramatically increased and many systems offer a single-control erase-all function with or without power for security-sensitivity applications. All those factors have moved F-SSDs closer to the forefront as the lead option for rugged mass storage. Responding to the growing demand for F-SSDs, the major vendors of F-SSD products—including Adtron, BiTMICRO, M-Systems and Memtech—continue to ramp the capacity, performance and security features of their products.
Exemplifying the rugged environment capabilities of today’s F-SSDs, BiTMICRO’s solid-state E-Disk flash drive served as the data storage device for the Cosmic Rays Energetics And Mass (CREAM) project. The CREAM project is a NASA-sponsored high-altitude balloon experiment led by the University of Maryland in collaboration with other universities. The objective of this latest CREAM project was to investigate the composition of ultra-high-energy cosmic rays utilizing the Long Duration Balloon (LDB) vehicle technology developed by NASA.
The pilot-less, helium-filled scientific balloon and its CREAM payload were launched from the National Science Foundation’s McMurdo Station, Antarctica on December 16, 2004. It traveled 41 days and 22 hours, breaking the previous unmanned balloon flight record of 31 days and 20 hours. All throughout the flight, CREAM instruments recorded about 36 Gybtes of heavy nuclei data onto a 43 Gbyte E-Disk flash disk drive. Figure 1 shows the CREAM probe and its flight path.
Recently BiTMICRO Networks rolled out a military-grade version of its E-Disk 3S320, a Ultra320 SCSI F-SSD. Designed for extreme environments, the E-Disk Ultra320 SCSI can operate from -60° to +95°C and is designed to handle operating shock of up to 1500gs, making it an ideal storage solution for scientific missions and reconnaissance flights where data recording opportunities are critical.
The pure solid-state/non-volatile drive is OS-independent and is targeted to provide up to a 42 microsecond access time, 12,500 IOPS (max) and 2 million hours MTBF. Sustained read/write rate is 44 Mbytes/s (max) and burst read/write rate is 320 Mbytes/s (max). Available in a 3.5-inch form-factor, maximum capacity for the E-Disk Ultra320 SCSI is pegged at 155 Gbytes. The completely bootable drive comes with either a half pitch DB68 or SCA-2 ANSI-compliant connector and does not require any device driver for proper operation.
Also climbing up the density curve, Targa Systems Division of L-3 Communications has boosted the available capacity for its Series 4 Removable Disk Data Transfer Systems to 36 Gbytes. The Series 4 DTU product line incorporates a 2.5-inch removable disk and is available in a compact (k=4) Dzus rail panel mount (CDU style) form-factor unit with either 28 VDC or 5 VDC power input. It is available with a multitude of interfaces, including USB and Ethernet. A hard mount version is also offered.
Serial ATA Solutions Roll
Serial ATA technology is quickly becoming the dominant interface for data storage devices migrating from the parallel ATA interface. Adtron’s latest F-SSD offering is its 3.5-inch Serial ATA flash disk offering called the A35FB (Figure 2). The unit is built on Adtron’s SmartStorage framework and the Adtron ArrayPr performance engine, and has a storage capacity of up to 128 Gbytes. Adtron’s EraSure technologies further enhance the use of solid-state-based solutions in defense applications by providing clear and sanitize functions that are compliant with defense specifications.
Those features ensure rapid and secure data elimination from the media when required. Optional destroy, write protection and password protection features are also available. Both the A35FB flash disk and I35FB flash disk (its IDE counterpart) support either commercial (0 to 70°C) or industrial (-40° to 85°C) temperatures.
Likewise weighing in with a Serial ATA F-SSD offering, Memtech this summer announced the addition of SA2580, AT2580 and SA3580 Panther series of solid-state flash drives to its product portfolio. Performance ranges from 20 to 60 Mbytes/s, and capacities from 4 to 128 Gbytes. The Panther AT2580 is fully ATA-compliant and the Panther SA2580 and SA3580 are the next generation in SATA solid-state flash drive solutions.
The Memtech Panther series offers advanced security features, including secure erase. The drives are designed for low power consumption in critical operating conditions and are built to withstand extreme temperature, pressure, moisture, shock, vibration and power loss. Each drive is guaranteed for life and goes through a rigorous five-step temperature and ruggedness test process that includes read-write data integrity testing at temperatures as low as -40°C and as high as +85°C.
M-Systems, meanwhile, is pushing the density curve for F-SSDs with their introduction of its FFD 2.5-inch serial ATA solid-state flash drive with up to 128 Gbytes of storage. The device features an endurance of more than 5 million write/erase cycles and an interface speed of 1.5 Gbits/s with a sustained read/write performance rate of 44 Mbytes per second. M-Systems’ FFD SATA product complies with the stringent reliability requirements offset for mission-critical applications such as NEBS level 3 for the telecommunication industry and the MIL-STD 810F standard for military and aerospace.
Supporting stringent security standards required by military and other mission-critical applications, M-Systems’ FFD 2.5-inch SATA is equipped with a fast security erase feature and complies with the sanitizing standards of the U.S. DoD, National Security Agency (NSA), Navy, Air Force (FSSI) and IREC (IRIG).
L-3 Communications Canada
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