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JMicron seeks redemption with a new chip that could drive mainstream SSD adoption

DailyTech has learned that JMicron will be unveiling a new NAND flash controller for use in Solid State Drives (SSDs) in the near future. The JMF612 chip uses an ARM9 core in a 289-ball TFBGA package, and will support the use of up to 256MB of DDR or DDR2 DRAM as an external cache.

The new chip was designed to remedy stuttering problems during random write operations, which has plagued SSDs using the JMF602 flash controller. JMicron rushed out a JMF602B chip to address shortcomings, but was only partially successful. Several firms decided to combine two JMF602B chips and an internal RAID chip from JMicron to boost performance. Although it raised costs significantly, it was still cheaper than controllers from Samsung and Indilinx, which were not yet available at the time. It was for this reason that SSDs like OCZ's Apex and G.Skill's Titan series were born.

The JMF612 chip is designed especially for a new generation of NAND flash chips built using smaller process geometries that will be entering the market soon. The new flash chips will be smaller, faster, and cheaper to manufacture. IM Flash Technologies, a joint venture between Intel and Micron, is already building 34nm NAND, while 32nm NAND from Samsung and Toshiba will soon be entering production. The use of a cheap single-chip controller and new higher density flash chips could cut prices in half by the vital Christmas shopping season.

SSDs using the chip will also be able to support Native Command Queuing (NCQ), which was designed to increase performance of SATA hard disks by allowing the drive to internally optimize the order in which read and write commands are executed. NCQ is used in SSDs when there is latency due to high CPU usage. It also supports 128-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) protocols for full disk encryption. This provides data security mandated for classified and/or privileged information in government and corporations.

While most drives using the new chip will be designed for its SATA II interface in mind, it does have a USB 2.0 interface for data transfers and firmware updates. The JMF612 has an ARM9 embedded processor with 32KB of ROM and 128KB of RAM at its core. Data integrity is provided by BCH ECC in hardware, with the ability to correct up to 24 random bit errors per 1024 bytes. Dynamic and static wear leveling technologies, along with updated bad block management software help to ensure long life of the drive.

The first terabyte SSDs on the market could end up using this controller chip. It uses eight memory channels to access its storage quickly and without lag.

JMicron will be showing engineering samples of its latest controller at Computex 2009 at the beginning of June. Mass production of the new chip is expected to start in July. The company is also working on a flash controller that will work at SATA 6Gbps speeds, but it is not expected to be ready for mass production until the middle of 2010.

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RE: To the doubters out there
By jadeskye on 5/26/2009 11:50:19 AM , Rating: 2
I agree. I thought SSD adoption would be a little faster then it has been but it's well on the way.

As the owner of a somewhat expensive OCZ vertex, i look forward to the day of buying another and putting them in RAID ^_^

RE: To the doubters out there
By Cypherdude1 on 5/29/2009 7:29:02 PM , Rating: 2
Flash storage isn't meant to replace optical media. It's meant to replace hard disks because of the lack of mechanical stress. Personally, I think optical media would have been dead a long time ago if it didn't make software distribution easy. If bandwidth caps take hold that would be the only thing keeping optical media around.

More accurately, SSD is meant to replace the first drive, not all the drives in a system. You can install XP Pro and Vista on 8 GB and 16 GB partitions, respectively. All the apps and (multimedia) data files can go on later partitions. The first drive in Windows never powers down for power savings or while playing DVD's. This is unsatisfactory from power using, wear usage and noise level stand points. Not having the first drive spinning while seeing DVD's makes for a better multimedia PC. After the first SSD drive, you can then install 1 or 2 SATA, 1 or 2 TB drives. BTW, it would be nice if ATI would produce a 4800 series PCI-E card which does NOT use a fan, even if it was slower than its counterparts.

SSD will not replace optical media anytime soon because SSD is far more expensive to make. For example, think about BlockBuster and Netflix. They mail thousands of DVD's everyday. How could they afford to ship SSD instead, especially in a simple envelope? Not everyone can afford high speed 'Net today. Even if they could, who wants to see movies on their 17" PC screen?!

RE: To the doubters out there
By icanhascpu on 5/30/2009 2:59:15 PM , Rating: 2
Alot of people seem to have a very short-sighted view on this. Flash isnt meant to replace optical drives is a ridiculous thing to say. Do you mean SSD is not meant to replace optical drives? You'd be correct.

SSD would be impractical to replace optical drives, but I have no doubt a different formfactor of flash WILL be replacing it. Scrached disks will be a thing of the past. Moving parts such as the hard drove, optical drive, and even fans will always want to be pushed out. Fans will be the last thing to go, practically speaking.

Anyway in not so long in the future when flash gets down under 15nm we will be seeing thumbdrives at 1TB with way more throughput than optical technology is or has been progressing for the cost of a optical movie. Way more flexibility in terms of protection, be it physical and digital, orders of magnitude better access time, esp random access. Much more reliable writes and reads. Much longer longevity. Much better resilience to elements (washer/drier anyone?)

I predict after the hard drive market switched to SSD fully (aka 95%+) like the monitor industry has with LCD from CRT, Flash technology will start settings its sights on the optical market. The list of pros just goes on and on, esp considering the pase of advancement of the two technologies. Optical tech will be dead alot sooner than you think and it is being further poisoned by corporations inability to decide on standards quickly.

"So, I think the same thing of the music industry. They can't say that they're losing money, you know what I'm saying. They just probably don't have the same surplus that they had." -- Wu-Tang Clan founder RZA

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