Seizing 5G Opportunities - Apacer’s New Approach to Hardware and Software Integration

Dec 26, 2019

As the development of 5G technology accelerates the application of artificial intelligence (AI), industrial-grade storage and memory products with high processing speeds and wide-temperature operation have leapt to the foreground. Apacer, a global leader in industrial memory and storage, uses innovative design thinking to realize software and hardware integration, adding added value to memory products, so that customers can capture data in the opportunity-filled 5G era.

The first year of 5G commercialization is upon us. Taiwan will conduct 5G spectrum bidding by the end of this year, and the 5G industry-related ecosystems are actively preparing for war. Apacer hosted a forum on "Preparing for the 5G Ecosystem: Rethinking the Storage Industry in the Age of AIoT" in Taiwan on November 29. During the forum, Apacer shared with the outside world many new product design ideas that catered to 5G data business opportunities, as well as sharing multiple innovations in networked storage applications.

The Importance of Small Cells in the Age of 5G

5G has three distinguishing characteristics: high-frequency bandwidth, low latency, and high-volume device networking. However, due to the use of high-frequency transmission, it is vulnerable to poor diffraction capability, communication loss, and reduced coverage. Therefore, 5G requires a large number of small cells to provide the deep, wide coverage necessary to support a large number of transmission demands. It is expected that the number of small cells will explode in the future, which is estimated to be 2 to 3 times that of the 4G era.

Looking deeper into output value, according to a Market & Market research report, the 5G small cell market output value was 528 million US dollars in 2019, and it is estimated to increase to 3.509 billion US dollars by 2025. The annual compound growth rate is 37.1%, making it the second largest market after mobile phones in the industrial chain.

The Memory Market Demands Higher Speeds, Lower Latency, Smaller Sizes

Looking beyond small cells, the infrastructure of 5G is dauntingly extensive, covering everything from telecommunications equipment to servers. Operators will need to upgrade existing hardware in order to cope with the demand for processing huge amounts of information traffic after entering the 5G era. The requirements of large capacity, small size, and high-speed transmission mean that DDR4-2933/3200 and 32GB DDR4 industrial-grade memory modules are in higher demand than ever.

In the 5G era, edge computing has also received a lot of attention. With the increasing application of edge computing, the associated amount of small servers, network switches and gateways is also increasing, driving market demand for memory and SSDs. However, the installation environment of these devices is probably not quite as secure as the cloud data center, which is more severe and complicated. Therefore, the reliability requirements of the memory modules will be higher.

Anderson Chang, of the Product Management Department at Apacer’s Vertical Market Application Division, pointed out that as a leading storage brand, Apacer has introduced a variety of compact industrial memory modules that are especially suitable for 5G Netcom applications, such as the Mini DIMM, VLP DIMM and SORDIMM series. Taking DDR4 VLP SODIMM as an example, it not only has the characteristics of thin and light SODIMM, but also has an impressive advantage in height. Whether it is installed vertically or horizontally, it can save about 40% of motherboard space and meet the needs of 5G equipment.

In order to meet the requirements of industrial-grade products facing harsh environments, Apacer uses anti-sulfurization and coating protection technology to provide effective protection for electronic components and protect industrial SSDs and memory modules from sulfur, dust, dirt, and humidity. At the same time, Apacer products incorporate original industrial-grade wide temperature components to ensure reliable operation in extreme temperature ranges from -40oC to 85oC. In addition, Apacer products also utilize 30μ gold plating, meaning the connector interface has higher reliability and prevents dangerous disconnects in industrial applications.

Jerry Hsu, of the Product Management Department of Apacer’s Vertical Market Application Division, reminded customers of the importance of high IOPS values and TBW (Total Bytes Written) values of industrial NAND Flash products. “Pay attention to whether the workload test meets enterprise standards when selecting an SSD,” he added, “as a reference index to estimate the service life of any particular SSD.”

In response to the trend of introducing 3D NAND flash memory technology for 5G applications, Apacer's SLC-liteX technology, which considers performance, durability, and cost considerations, is based on the 3D stacking architecture. Apacer's excellent firmware design provides 30,000  program/erase cycles (P/E cycles), which is 10 times as much as the 3,000 P/E cycles of standard 3D TLC NAND flash memory. Compared with SLC flash memory, it can help customers save at least 86% of the cost, making it the best choice for smart devices in the 5G era.

In the generation of 5G high-speed transmission, PCIe is bound to become the mainstream interface, especially for outdoor equipment construction. High temperatures and harsh environments are expected to become standard operating conditions. For high-speed PCIe SSD products, Apacer has also developed CoreGlacier™ technology, which can effectively reduce the NAND Flash temperature by up to 23%. This ensures that the system temperature is maintained in the normal operating temperature range, which helps the SSD to operate efficiently and stably.

Integrated Hardware and Software for Pre-event Prevention and Post-event Monitoring

The advent of 5G high-speed networking technology has created new value chain developments, such as AR/VR, self-driving cars, smart medical care, smart cities, and smart factories. With the establishment of the 5G network, and with the assistance of high-bandwidth, high-performance computing, more smart devices will be connected in series.

Ivan Chu, Technical PM A. Director at Apacer's Vertical Market Application Division, quoted Morgan Stanley's data, stating: “by 2020 the output value of the Internet of Things market should reach 110 billion US dollars, with a compound annual growth rate of 7.3%. In 2016, there were approximately 16 billion IoT devices operating worldwide, and it is expected that by 2022, the number of connected devices will increase to 29 billion. When each device uses its own SSD and firmware, a single SSD can no longer meet all application requirements.”

“Apacer has developed an intelligent storage solution called DBS (Double-barreled Solution),” he continued, “which integrates CoreAnalyzer2 technology and SSDWidget 2.0 intelligent monitoring software. It can help users master the actual application and usage behavior of SSD, and then use it in an efficient and intelligent way to manage and control the storage device, greatly improving the durability of the product and ensuring the stable operation of the system.” He went on to say that Apacer has now developed the Double-barreled Solution Cloud Edition platform to help customers integrate SSD monitoring data into existing cloud services in response to the increasing diversity of connected storage applications in the 5G era.

By remotely monitoring and recording the usage environment, temperature, and read-write status of the SSD, customers can control data security and important storage parameters anytime, anywhere. They can also instantly analyze the health status or failure causes of an SSD such as temperature, power abnormality, or unexpected power outages. DBS can set high-risk status reminders and warning parameters, predict the end of a product’s operational life, and prepare for product replacement in advance, so that the operation of the enterprise will not be interrupted or lost due to temporary product failure. This will greatly save manpower maintenance costs and improve the overall system, meet the standards of effective management, and allow real-time monitoring of remote equipment.

Mr. Chu used existing customer success cases as an example. A Chinese automation equipment manufacturer with 1,500 employees was dealing with unexpected forced power outages, resulting in unstable or abnormal power supply to the production line, and even causing system damage and production line failure. The customer hoped that in addition to improving the stability of the power supply, the record of unexpected power outages could also be uploaded to the cloud for real-time power monitoring. Adopting the Apacer DBS cloud management platform allowed for 24/7 real-time dynamic data transmission, so that the customer can be notified as soon as possible when the power supply is abnormal or out, and the problem can be fixed immediately to ensure the stability and integrity of data transmission. The customer also integrated Apacer’s DataDefender™ protection technology, which is composed of hardware and firmware elements, into their existing system, allowing multiple levels of data protection and helping reduce the risk of system damage.

Mr. Chu also mentioned at the forum that Apacer had visited a US security monitoring customer, and the SSD they were using occasionally caused unexplained failures or dead screens, which caused customers a lot of distress. After analysis by the Apacer technical team, it was found that some of the customer's cases were designed for outdoor application environments, and the team's research and judgment were being caused by abnormal temperature problems. Considering that the use of an SSD with the wrong temperature specification in low or high temperature environments may result in a failure to boot normally or a dead screen, Apacer recommended industrial wide-temperature control SSD products for this customer. They can operate stably in harsh outdoor environments, and with an integrated DBS cloud management platform, real-time detection of SSD operating temperature ranges creates a high-quality user experience for customers, preventing any risk from occurring.

Mr. Chu estimates that although incorporating cloud backups will incur construction costs, under the pre-event prevention and post-event monitoring, the risk of accidents and losses can be reduced. Overall, it can still reduce the total cost of ownership (TCO) by 30%. As the demand for 5G networking applications grows significantly in the future, DBS intelligent storage solutions developed by Apacer can ensure that SSDs can maximize the storage benefits from end to cloud and provide customers with sustainable SSD solutions.

Cindy Huang, director of the vertical market application division of Apacer Technology, said that Apacer has been manufacturing components for more than 20 years, and has become a leading player in the high-end NAND Flash industry. It has gradually become the most trusted customized technical consultant for industrial control customers, providing high-end customized services where needed. So far, the relationship with customers has evolved in the direction of becoming technology development partners. “In the future,” she concluded, “through more innovative research and development cooperation, we can increase the added value of both products, create more mutually beneficial possibilities, and jointly create opportunities in the 5G era.”

Mini DIMM  VLP DIMM  SORDIMM  Anti-sulfurization  SLC-liteX  CoreGlacier™  DBS (Double-barreled Solution)