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What is Industrial Grade eMMC?

eMMC has seen strong adoption and become the storage of choice for consumer devices such as smartphones, e-readers and tablets. These small devices all run on battery power and require high-density storage with low power consumption — at a low cost. Offered for less than $0.60 per GB and in a wide array of sizes — 4GB to 128GB in a single package — consumer-grade eMMC provides this price-performance-power combination. Built to a JEDEC standard, eMMC is now produced by all the major storage vendors including: Toshiba, Samsung, SanDisk, and Micron.

Newly emerging industrial-grade eMMC seeks to leverage this well-defined standard to satisfy a different set of demands. While consumer storage is focused first on cost and size almost to the exclusion of other requirements, industrial applications have a greater need for endurance and reliability with cost much lower on the priority list. Low power consumption – an escalating priority for the consumer market — is also a growing concern for some industrial uses. Many applications within the industrial market require a wider operating temperature range, greater environmental tolerances, additional data security protection, and power fail recovery features.

The new breed of industrialized eMMC responds to these requirements and is gaining consideration for embedded applications in areas such as automotive, medical, aerospace, and other commercial applications. While the industrial marketplace demands a much greater ruggedness than the consumer market, it is also not as cost-sensitive. Industrial devices are much more durable and often mission-critical, products that may be in use for ten or more years recording important data day in and day out. At least one Datalight customer expects their products to operate for twenty years in the field with zero failures.

Industrial grade devices often need to operate in harsh environments that include extended operating temperature ranges — extremes that would cause consumer-grade eMMC to fail. Components must be specified in consideration of the particular need. Automotive and aerospace uses, for example, have a broader temperature demands than medical environments. The table below shows typical temperature ranges for different grades of electrical parts.

Grade

Low Temperature

High Temperature

Consumer

0°C

70°C

Industrial

-40°C

85°C

Mil/Aero

-55°C

175°C

 

The higher reliability of industrial eMMC comes with a higher price, which is justified by the longer payback period and business-critical performance. The chart below shows the general relationship of cost and reliability for the consumer and industrial eMMC memory.

industrial-emmc

So how do eMMC manufacturers achieve the endurance necessary to meet the industrial standard? Unlike other industrial solid-statue storage – eMMC can be configured to operate in one of two modes: Single-Level Cell (SLC) at one bit per flash cell – sometimes called “enhanced mode” or Multi-Level Cell (MLC) at two bits per flash cell – referred to as “standard mode”. While enhanced mode has half the number of storage bits, it lasts about 20 times as long as standard mode. Stated conversely, standard mode provides twice as much storage, but its endurance is reduced by a factor of 20. In more specific terms, standard mode may fail at about 3,000 P/E cycles, while enhanced endures for about 60,000 P/E cycles.

In addition to the existing consumer eMMC standard packaging of 153 or 169 ball packages, JEDEC has recently standardized on a 100-ball industrial-grade packaging. This new Industrial packaging provides reduced cost of manufacturing with simplified PCB trace/space designs, fewer number of balls, and fewer number of PCB layers. Industrial eMMC devices are available today from Micron, Kingston, and Memoright. Greenliant and Smart Modular are also entering the industrial eMMC market.

Industrial storage requires increased reliability and endurance. The hardware is only half of the solution.   The software driving the storage is the other half, and has an equal or greater effect on reliability and endurance.   Are you leveraging all the tools available to you to meet the endurance and reliability requirements?    To learn more about solutions for managing eMMC devices, see our FlashFXe page.

RoySherrill | July 23, 2013 | Flash Memory, Flash Memory Manager

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