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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 Natfly on 5/26/2009 3:15:34 PM , Rating: 3
It is not there yet, but it will be soon.

I wouldn't hold my breath. As far as cost/GB, flash is still dollars/GB while magnetic drives are pennies/GB. Performance/$ is what will make flash a real competitor to magnetic HDDs.

And as far as comparing flash vs Blu-Ray. It makes no sense to manufacture read/write memory on silicon lithography vs simply stamping a piece of plastic with the data you want.

RE: To the doubters out there
By Ratinator on 5/26/2009 3:37:01 PM , Rating: 2
Oh come on......magnetic drives used to cost hundreds of dollars per Gig at one time too. Why is it so inconceivable for people to realise in a few years that flash will also cost pennies/GB. Once they have refined their processes and paid for their R&D, costs will come down just like every other useful piece of technology in history.

As for comparing flash vs its simplest form both provide a means for reading/writing/storing data. As I noted in a previous post, this was in response to someones comment about flash never being on par price wise with Blu Ray discs.

RE: To the doubters out there
By Natfly on 5/26/2009 3:50:58 PM , Rating: 2
magnetic drives used to cost hundreds of dollars per Gig at one time too.

Yeah, and it took a while for them to get where they are.

Why is it so inconceivable for people to realise in a few years that flash will also cost pennies/GB.

Because we'll probably hit the physical limitations imposed by the size of silicon atoms before that happens. I'm sure some technology will eventually compete on a price/gb scale. I'm just saying it isn't going to happen anytime soon.

RE: To the doubters out there
By sxr7171 on 5/27/2009 12:13:55 AM , Rating: 2
That's a really tough one to argue. Yes, the flash guys have recently stated that there is going to be a foreseeable limit on flash:

However, 5 years is enough time to figure out how to stack these silicon layers. For one argument.

For the second more persuasive argument it that today I could hold a 32GB MicroSD card. Those things are small enough that one could easy fit the 16 of them in a standard 2.5" HDD case. Those 16 chips would reach the capacity of a 500GB 2.5" magnetic HDD.

16 of those chips in there would leave 95% of free space in that drive. Imagine if they even filled 50% of the space of that drive with similar density Flash to what goes into that 32GB MicroSD. Leaving half the space for supporting chips and board space.

Anyway, it's possible it just needs to get cheaper.

It like when we using cassette tapes and sure we were wishing for cheaper cassette tapes when the CD came out at $18-20 each in 1983 prices. It wasn't cheaper cassettes that saved us eventually. It was the CD.

This flash business is paradigm shifting stuff.

The next thing I wish for is RAM that holds itself without needing a constant power source. Boy, my OS is going to fly on that thing and my data will fly coming off that super fast flash memory.

Our laptops will half as thin, half as light and unbelievably fast with that kind of tech. I look forward to it. Hope we get some fuel cell tech on the side.

RE: To the doubters out there
By Belard on 5/27/2009 8:21:20 AM , Rating: 2

Next, people will be saying that digial cameras will NEVER replace film cameras.

"We shipped it on Saturday. Then on Sunday, we rested." -- Steve Jobs on the iPad launch

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