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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 Ratinator on 5/26/2009 2:38:21 PM , Rating: 2
My comment was directed at someone's comment about a month ago where they indicated that flash will never get a good market share and become main stream and thus will continue to use re-writable optical discs because flash will never be as cheap as optical storage. Well I guess if you want to have 20 or more Blue Ray discs to deal with....go right ahead.

RE: To the doubters out there
By Jansen on 5/26/2009 3:29:45 PM , Rating: 2
Blu-Ray has a role as a medium for one-way content distribution, where you don't expect to be returning the disk.

USB flash drives are cheap, but will never quite reach the price points of an optical disc due to interface costs.

RE: To the doubters out there
By tastyratz on 5/27/2009 9:59:11 AM , Rating: 3
They might however reach a point where the cost to manufacture becomes negligible. People think usb and think expensive - but cost of media will go down if you go with a format that relies on host based circuitry. Think less usb flash and think more sd card.

Once media is fast enough that you could write to the entire contents of a 32 or 64gb sd card in under a minute or 2 I think we might see a shift away from optical. Using flash media in that context presents new opportunities.

Stamping optical media requires a large operation and overhead, it takes a facility.

To quickly deploy you need a burner, and while faster it requires some sort of organic material in the disc that breaks down compromising longevity. People wont buy tangible movies if they only last a few years.

Think kiosk based distribution systems. These can be massive data storage tanks holding thousands of movies. They can have multiple autoload cardreaders and printing capabilities. Pick your movie from the screen, scan your card, and give it 2 minutes. It writes your movie, prints the cover art, and spits out in the tray.

Entire movie departments can be replaced with the equivalent to a "ms pack man" sized footprint. a "blockbuster" can be ever few streetcorners like an atm.

Want just the movie? 3.99.
How about the deleted scenes and making of? only 50c extra!
if you buy now, they will put the sequel on the same media for only 2.99 more.
What about just renting the movie? An expiration date 7 days from now can be written to the media saving you 0.99 today.
How about the soundtrack? its only 1.99 more.

While optical media is cheap to mass produce, the elimination of nearly all overhead becomes attractive enough to become competitive. Match that with the incentive of the endless possibilities having build to order media sales and you will start seeing a price point in a few years where it becomes much more viable.

I agree with what others said, I think Bluray will likely be the last distributed optical based storage solution unless they break 2 key barries.
1 . Instant or close to write capabilities in a non deteriorating archival format.
2. being AFFORDABLE massive leaps in space - generations ahead of other technologies making it attractive.

If holographic media came out, and cheap burners could write a 500gb disc in 1 minute for 30 cents a pop... we might see those in my kiosk scenario.

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