A new data storage device company concentrating its efforts on solid-state drive (SSD) technology has revealed itself by offering a new SSD controller IC that supports SSDs with densities up to 5 Terabytes (5TB). The new company, Sage Microelectronics, is already volume-shipping 2.5TB SSDs produced on a single standard 2.5” form factor PCB.
Sage Micro’s S681 (currently in mass production) utilizes a SATAII interface to drive up to 10 channels of SD, MMC, or eMMC flash memory cards (instead of NAND chips), with each channel supporting up to 512GB of flash memory. This enables a single Sage SSD controller IC to handle up to 5TB of flash memory (an array of 10 x 4 x 128GB eMMC BGA modules), attaining an industry first for high density and small form factor.
According to Dr. Jerome Luo, founder and President of Sage Microelectronics, “Until now, cost-competitive SSD densities were limited to 1TB by the maximum capacity of flash memory chips, and by the fan-out limitations imposed on flash controllers by the high number of interface traces required for each memory device. Sage decided to leverage the highly competitive pricing of flash memory cards – such as eMMCs – to develop an SSD controller that can effectively address up to 5TB of data.”
Utilizing eMMC enables higher densities, and simplifies design and inventory management. Offloading the high pinout interface and management of single flash memory chips to the flash controller IC that is embedded in each flash memory card allows the new Sage S681 to effectively manage ten memory cards, thus increasing SSD capacity by a factor of 10x.
The market has driven the pricing of flash controller IC to become highly commoditized, so replacing NAND chips with flash memory cards does not increase the per-byte cost for the Sage SSD controller architecture. The result is that flash memory cards are price-competitive with the underlying cost of NAND chips themselves. By using JEDEC-compliant memory cards instead of discrete flash ICs, SSD manufacturers are able to mix-and-match inventory. This results in further reductions of testing costs, complexity of inventory management, and better control of firmware versions.
Sage Micro has developed their own proprietary multi-core SSD controller IC architecture. Compared to single core SSD controllers from other suppliers, Sage’s S681 is constructed on a multi-core processor that dedicates a single concise RISC CPU core to managing the SATA bus, and each additional core controls two memory card channel interfaces apiece. This allows for precise firmware partitioning between the SATA interface and the memory card interfaces, which simplifies testing, verification and software upgrades.
Sage Micro’s S68X series of SSD controllers offers three devices: S681 (supporting 10 memory channels), S682 (supporting 5 memory channels), and S685 (supporting 4 memory channels). All three versions are already being mass produced, and all three versions are priced under $5.00 (US) each, predicated by volume. The S681 is created in a BGA 207 package, the S682 in a LQFP 128 package, and the S685 in a QFN 88 package.
Sage Microelectronics was formed by experienced technologists with flash memory and controller design experience, as well as corporate backgrounds. Sage Micro is headed up by Jianjun (Jerome) Luo, PhD., who also has the distinction of serving as Director of Hangzhou Dianzi University’s (China) prestigious Micro Electronics Research Institute (MERI). His team includes senior executives that co-founded Baleen Systems, a storage technology developer. Team members have held technology and senior executive positions with the likes of IBM, Maxtor, Synopsis, Oak Technologies, and other Silicon Valley firms. The team has garnered more than 60 patents between them.
For more information, you can visit the product page for the S68X series of SSD controllers at Sage Micro’s website here.