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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 Samus on 5/26/2009 6:26:48 PM , Rating: 5
The reason optical media will prevail: there's no way in hell you can manufacture a 25GB flash nand for a dollar because the rare metals, controller and more 'complex' assembly process will always cost more than that.

Optical media is a molded plastic disc. It's infinately cheaper to produce and mass-produce.

RE: To the doubters out there
By MrPoletski on 5/26/09, Rating: -1
RE: To the doubters out there
By Merlyn2220 on 5/26/2009 9:30:47 PM , Rating: 2
Oil prices would have to hit $1000 per barrel before it would significantly affect the price of a CD or Bluray disc.

RE: To the doubters out there
By HrilL on 5/27/2009 12:28:31 AM , Rating: 2
Yes because plastic is dependent on oil? Too bad plastics can be made from just about anything organic. $175 a barrel would make it cheaper to use other sources than oil. I believe at that price coal is even cost effective. Algae and corn would be cheaper at around 140 a barrel.

RE: To the doubters out there
By Samus on 5/28/2009 12:15:26 AM , Rating: 2
Saying plastic media will become too expensive due to oil prices rising is like saying silicone waffers will become too expensive because of a sand shortage. There are way more expensive components and the amount of plastic needed for optical media is so marginal (and of low, non-medical grade quality) that its a moot topic to even discuss.

RE: To the doubters out there
By Belard on 5/27/2009 8:18:08 AM , Rating: 2
But an HD movie with extras doesn't need NAS type tech. A version of FLASH will do (non-writable) as long as the data can be made instant.

As of today, $15~20 gets you 8GB. Compared to my last 2GB was $12 3 months ago, 2 years ago was $20 for 1GB stick. So yeah, in 5 or so years I can see an SD-Flash chip with a movie on it that you can buy. Unlike SSDs, it doesn't need to be super fast.

32GB is currently $75~80 The price of my very first Flash key from 5 years ago, 64mb Lexar (still works). These memory cards WILL be replacing Blu-Ray, which is a good format... and the last optical I think.

Once we go to some Flash/card for our HD movies, we won't need opticals. The players will be DIRT cheap. No motor, no door or loader. Just a slot. No noise, low power. Just a CPU/GPU to decode the movie.

In 3 years, SSD 512GB should be $100.
Current prices: 256gb = $600~800. 512GB = $1500. The first SSDs (2 years ago) were $800+ for 16~32GB.

They are scaling up faster than HDDs. So yeah, they will be cheaper, larger capacity, faster and more reliable.

RE: To the doubters out there
By Jansen on 5/27/2009 10:06:49 AM , Rating: 2
CDs and Blu-Ray discs cost pennies to make.

Digital distribution is far more likely than flash media based distribution.

Even at $1, a flash drive would be at least 5-10x more expensive to produce. It is the shipping, labour, and retail markup you pay for at a store.

RE: To the doubters out there
By Regs on 5/29/2009 9:16:06 AM , Rating: 2
Not sure what you're trying to say. The manufacturer sells it to the retailer and the retailer sells it to the customers for a mark-up. Mark-ups are after costs of goods sold are accounted for. Overhead, direct/indirect labor, direct/indirect materials are accounted for the costs of goods sold when the manufacturer sells it to the retailer.

RE: To the doubters out there
By icanhascpu on 5/30/2009 3:05:56 PM , Rating: 2
Not if the telecommunication companies get what they want.

RE: To the doubters out there
By icanhascpu on 5/30/2009 3:25:55 PM , Rating: 2
Come on guys, I thought DailyTech commenter were a little smarter than this.

I doubt the cost of making a optical disk will ever be more than making a flash ThumbDrive either. Here is the thing with that; there is more to a company trying to distribute media than just that. If you want to make a arguement in your favor that makes any sort of real world sense you have to account for much more than preschool logic.

1. Flash is rewritable.
Media distributes like NetFlix could do a number of things with that simple fact. New movie coming out? Start replacing low-demand FlashDrives with high demand ones simply by writeing over. You just doubled the worth of the drive. Or halved the production cost of it. Do that a few times and the actual cost of the drive is ALOT lower than you have convinced yourself it is.
2. Resilience
Flash is much much tougher then optical media. How many DVD/HD do you think places like Netflix or Blockbuster have to replace per day? I would say a single optical dist will last a maximum of ten(10) people before it starts getting its first movbie-skipping scratches AT BEST. At that point its pretty much worthless to a company that wants to pride itself on quality assurance. A flash drive will almost certainly last several times as long. Once again extending the actual cost of manufacturing much lower than some might think.
3. Flexibility and Encryption
Flash drives will undoubtedly skyrocket in terms of space as the processes that create them get ever lower. 1TB will not be uncommon in the next 5 years. Thats not exactly a long time. Thats not even enough time for blueray to be replaced. The fact that you can fit several movies/whatever and encrypt it, and link decryption to an account as you, say, rent a custom FlashDrive with 10 1080p movies on it, rented all together, or as a package deal (whatever). The point of that is, you have 1 FlashDrive vs. 10 optical disks. 10 Disks that have a 10times greater possibility to get scratched. Once again, that drives the actual cost of creating a flashdrive vs. optical divided by 10 in that case alone.

So no. No way in HELL will optical media be less to manufacture IF YOU INTENT ON ACTUALLY USING THEM.

"This is about the Internet.  Everything on the Internet is encrypted. This is not a BlackBerry-only issue. If they can't deal with the Internet, they should shut it off." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis

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