In recent years, as fields such as artificial intelligence (AI), big data, cloud computing, edge computing and Internet of Things (IoT) grow rapidly, the demand for reliable high-capacity data storage grows as well. Apacer, which has focused on the industrial storage market for over a decade, has worked with Toshiba to create 3D NAND Flash storage solutions, which offer superior features in terms of efficiency, reliability and performance. Thanks to Apacer’s close collaboration with Toshiba, a new series of memory solutions incorporating industrial-grade 3D TLC 64-layer NAND Flash technology officially launched in the fourth quarter of 2018. Apacer’s industrial-grade 3D NAND SSD solutions are tough enough to be used in challenging, harsh environments. It’s no wonder leading manufacturers around the world incorporate Apacer SSDs into their industrial products.
3D NAND is growing, but how can its technical strengths best be leveraged by customers?
Recently, Jerry Hsu, of the Product Management Department in Apacer’s Vertical Market Application Division, pointed out that the applications for 2D NAND technology have just about reached their limit. Mr. Hsu went on to say that moving from 2D SLC or MLC to 3D TLC is similar to changing building patterns from standard homes to high-rise buildings. The vertical construction of 3D NAND technology overcomes the interference caused by the close distances between memory cells found in the 2D NAND process. This offers superior capacity and reliability while also lowering power consumption.
Mr. Hsu also mentioned that, unlike 2D NAND, 3D NAND can perform write operations through one-pass programming. This raises overall efficiency. What’s more, 3D NAND offers the function of writing data to multiple areas at one time, which has the advantage of reducing power consumption.
However, 3D NAND also has challenges such as quality, P/E cycles and temperature. To this end, Apacer continues to use only Toshiba ICs, which offer an impressive total number of P/E cycles (3,000) and support operation at temperatures between -40 and 85oC. In addition, Apacer has developed a variety of firmware designs and value-adding technologies that are expected to enhance reliability and extend the operation lifetime of 3D NAND solutions.
Apacer further optimizes the continuous random write performance of 3D NAND SSDs through Over-provisioning. With this technology, 7% or more of drive space is reserved. When a later bad block (LBB) is discovered, it will be replaced with a Free Block from the reserved space to stabilize operation and extend product durability. Users who require longer-lasting SSDs are recommended to choose Over-provisioning.
Mr. Hsu emphasized that Over-provisioning technology can effectively reduce write amplification and extend the life of an SSD. In 4K random performance and background processing performance, the number of reads and writes per second (IOPS) can be increased by 85% and 65%, respectively. Apacer’s 3D NAND SSDs also use LDPC ECC engines and DataRAID technology to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the data. They also support TCG Opal 2.0 for secure encryption.
A Double-barreled Solution For Extending SSD Lifespans
In order to maximize the practical operating lifespan of 3D NAND SSDs, Apacer has developed a Double-barreled Solution. The first phase is the CoreAnalyzer2 firmware and software package, and the second phase is the SSDWidget2.0 smart monitoring software. Together, these technologies allow customers to select the ideal SSD for their needs and monitor it as it operates.
In view of this, by taking full advantage of Apacer’s CoreAnalyzer2, customers can easily discover the SSD which is most suitable for their needs. CoreAnalyzer2 can also recommend customized SSD firmware when necessary. CoreAnalyzer2 collects usage and operational data while still maintaining customer privacy, never analyzing what data is recorded but simply the time and conditions under which it was recorded. Apacer’s professional technical team use this data to produce a usage analysis, and make suggestions based on this report.
Once an SSD is chosen and deployed, customers can monitor its operation in the real world using the second part of the Double-barreled Solution – SSDWidget2.0. This software can be incorporated into a customer’s private server to allow their engineers to monitor the status of SSDs in real-time, anticipating the end of an SSD’s operational life and replacing it before it fails to ensure data integrity. This will improve data reliability and, in many cases, reduce manpower and maintenance costs.
Apacer’s Double-barreled Solution led to significant improvements for a US offshore well platform. In the face of remote and challenging environments, offshore exploration platforms have to operate smoothly and store large amounts of data. But logistics concerns mean that most offshore well platforms can be reached by ship or helicopter, making maintenance visits by engineers extremely expensive. But by monitoring SSD health status via SSDWidget2.0, possible drive failures can be anticipated and avoided.
▲ Apacer’s future high-performance SSD product development blueprint
In the future, Apacer plans to continue to develop the next generation of storage products, with higher performance and lighter overall weight to meet the diverse needs of smart applications. Products will be aimed specifically at the defense, transportation, gaming, healthcare, IoT and networking industries. By mastering the technical challenges of 3D NAND, Apacer will help companies overcome bottlenecks and enter a new era of smart storage.