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Securely Delete Files on Flash Media

If you’ve noticed the numerous posts lately on the Datalight blog regarding JEDEC and eMMC, you might be wondering why we’re so excited about this particular standard. There are many features that this “smarter” memory will enable for OEMs; In this post I’ll focus on one of those features in the eMMC specification –secure delete.

Securely deleting information on flash memory is more complicated than it seems. For one thing, files are constantly being moved around to ensure even wear of the flash, resulting in multiple copies of file data on the media. Furthermore, when a file is marked for delete, it is typically not physically deleted, rather the space is only marked as available to be overwritten. Until that happens, the “deleted” data is still present and recoverable on the media. In fact, the University of California San Diego Non-volatile systems lab has produced an in depth study of file deletion on flash memory, where they found significant data still present on the media even after deleting the files. A copy of the report can be found at:

In order to securely delete a file on raw flash, you must use a controller that will either track every block where the file has been stored, or will overwrite the space the file was stored in each time it is moved. The latter describes exactly the secure erase and secure trim features found in the eMMC 4.41 standard. This means that the hardware will finally be capable of securely deleting files –brilliant! There is just one problem: Who has software to support this functionality? As of this writing, there is no file system which supports the feature. While an application can make a call to the media to delete a file securely, the file system may have a backup copy stored somewhere. Fact is, the file system must support the secure delete capabilities of the hardware in order for these features to function correctly.

If an OEM wants to take advantage of the secure erase and secure trim features, their application will need to communicate with the eMMC driver, which may differ from part to part. As the only software company that is an active member of JEDEC, we are excited offer support for quite a few eMMC features. File system support for secure erase and secure trim will be coming later this summer!

Learn more about Datalight Embedded File Systems


Michele Pike | June 29, 2011 | Flash File System, Reliability | Leave a comment

A File System Designed for Embedded

To protect against unexpected power loss, so common in the embedded world, file writes need to be atomic.

Linux file systems ext3 and ext4 were designed for server or desktop environments. Google developer Tim Bray suggests that appropriate use of fsync() can mitigate the risk of data loss, but I am sure that’s not the best solution. The use of delayed allocation means that metadata is committed but the data is not. Alternatively, both can be committed to the journal at a performance penalty. Performance is crucial in both desktops and devices, but not at the expense of data corruption.

This problem is readily demonstrated when updating files, an action which usually happens “in place”. This is quite common in database and other important system files. When power is lost, data can be overwritten only partially, or else metadata can be altered to point to where the data will be updated but has not been. Another alternative to liberal use of fsync() is a rename strategy, that is, write only new data, then rename and replace the old file. Rename is atomic, at least.

The best solution, and one which does not require applications to change the way they do writes, is to perform all data writes atomically. In addition to that, the file system should never overwrite live data and always retain a “known good” state on the media. This way caching does not have to be removed – either user data changes get to the disk fully or not at all. No partial writes or incorrect metadata, and no mount-time journal rebuilds or disk checks either.

Instead of adapting a desktop or server file system for embedded use, it is far better to use a file system designed specifically for embedded use.

View whitepaper: Breakthrough Performance with Tree-based File Systems

Thom Denholm | June 8, 2011 | Performance, Reliability | Leave a comment

Security and eMMC

The JEDEC eMMC 4.4 specification added two variations to the basic erase command for data security. These were:

Secure Erase – A command indicating a secure purge should be performed on an erase group. The specification states that this should be done not only to the data in this erase group but also on any copies of this data in separate erase groups. This command must be executed immediately, and the eMMC device will not return control to the host until all necessary erase groups are purged. One erase group is the minimum block of memory that can be erased on a particular NAND flash.

Secure Trim – Similar to Secure Erase, this command operates on write blocks instead of erase groups. To handle this properly, the specification breaks this into two steps. The first step marks blocks for secure purge, and this can be done to multiple sets of blocks before the second step is called. The second step is an erase with a separate bit flag sequence that performs all the requested secure trims.

This feature was changed in the eMMC 4.5 specification, due out later this year, and neither of these commands will be functional. To properly handle this change and allow a board design to support multiple types of eMMC parts, the file system or driver will have have a built in flexibility. The alternative, assuming both eMMC vendor drivers work in the design, is still a complete recoding phase and full software test cycle.

Learn How Datalight is Supporting eMMC

Thom Denholm | March 25, 2011 | Reliability | Leave a comment

About Fragmentation

Do you need defrag? It mostly depends on your hardware and your use case. While defragmenting a file system can make the computer run faster, it’s not the only answer.

Fragmentation is usually caused when modifying a file. Overwriting the file or making it larger means storing a fragment of the file in a new place, unless the file system creates a complete new copy of the file. Databases are particularly susceptible here – they are usually large files and often updated in the middle.

Another way fragmentation happens is when the file system initially stores the file in pieces. This could happen if the file system is not configured to keep file blocks together, or if the media is fairly full and there are no spaces of sufficient size for the new file.

What about the impact of fragmentation? In the days of rotating media, a fragmented file meant extra head movement and platter rotation to read the file. With flash media, the extra overhead is just additional block reads – a far smaller cost.

Avoiding fragmentation if you’re using Reliance Nitro can be as simple as customizing your transaction points. Instead of transacting on a timed basis, create a new transaction point only when the entire file is on the media, at “file close”. Similar settings may be available on other file systems.

If your use case causes fragmentation, a valid workaround might be to reformat the media after backing up the database files. A fresh file format is fairly quick on modern hardware, and can be coupled with a bad block test as well.

Read more about Reliance Nitro

Thom Denholm | January 26, 2011 | Performance, Product Benefit | 1 Comment

Datalight Blasting Into Space Again with SpaceX Falcon 9 Project

Earlier this month (June 4th) SpaceX sent the Falcon 9 rocket on its maiden voyage from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station with a successful orbital insertion. Falcon 9 is a reusable spacecraft which will be used to resupply the International Space Station under the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. We are delighted that SpaceX selected Datalight Reliance and FlashFX Pro to protect mission-critical data from the rigors of space travel, such as shock, vibration, temperature extremes and radiation. Emily Shanklin,Director, Marketing and Communications for SpaceX had this to say: “Datalight software enables reliable flash-based embedded computing for SpaceX’s upcoming Falcon 9 and Dragon spacecraft missions in the data-hostile conditions of space.”

Michele Pike | June 23, 2010 | Flash File System, Flash Memory Manager, Military/Aerospace, Reliability | Comments Off

Datalight XCFiles File System for SDXC Removable Storage Helps OEMs Get Consumer Devices to Market Quickly

Earlier this week we announced XCFiles, a design-ready exFAT-compatible file system for next-generation extended capacity SD (SDXC) cards. Visit to read the full announcement or learn more about our exFAT implementation

Michele Pike | | Consumer Mobile, Consumer Other, Cost Savings, Flash File System, Flash Industry Info | Comments Off

Datalight Chosen for Blackboard Campus Card Reader Systems

Blackboard is the standard-bearer for student ID systems around the world. Their contactless cards serve as campus ID, building access, and point-of-sale accounts for meals and other services, and are rapidly replacing the old magnetic stripe systems. The cards and readers use a Windows Embedded CE-based platform. When Blackboard’s BSP provider learned that the systems would be responsible for keeping track of sensitive financial transactions, they recommended Datalight software to make certain that the system will function with bullet-proof reliability. To read more about our work with Blackboard, check out the full success story.

Michele Pike | May 20, 2010 | Consumer Other, Flash File System, Reliability | Comments Off

Press Release: Latest Datalight Flash File System Brings 20 Millisecond Mount Times to Linux through Kernel Versions 2.6.33

Bothell, WA, – May 5, 2010 – Today Datalight announced support for Linux kernel versions up to 2.6.33, the most recently released Linux versions available. FlashFX Tera, the file-system independent flash memory manager and Reliance Nitro, the highly-reliable, high-performance file system offer much faster mount times than UBIFS, YAFFS, or JFFS2. In addition, the Datalight products boost write speed over the standard file systems and provide out-of-the-box support for over 300 different flash memory parts from all the leading suppliers. Linux is finding its way into more devices such as smart phones, automotive infotainment, and industrial equipment which require both responsiveness and 100% data reliability.

“With the growth in adoption of Linux for data-intensive embedded devices, OEMs need a flash file system that better supports their reliability and performance requirements.” said Roy Sherrill, Datalight CEO. “By supporting the most recent kernel versions of Linux we’re filling that gap in the market with a robust, commercial-grade solution backed by our reputation for responsive, high-quality support.”

FlashFX Tera supports the full range of flash technologies including NAND, NOR, and MLC NAND flash in a single driver. Its patented wear-leveling and bad block management extend the useful life of devices using flash. While FlashFX Tera can be used with virtually any file system, pairing it with Reliance Nitro provides an optimized data storage software stack to simplify system development.

FlashFX Tera 1.2 and Reliance Nitro 1.2 are available immediately from Datalight and the Datalight worldwide network of channel partners. Please visit us at to find a reseller near you.

The Reliance family of file systems and FlashFX family of flash media managers comprise the Datalight flash file system solution. Reliance was designed from the ground up for high reliability applications. Dynamic Transaction Point™ technology gives developers full control over performance and data protection characteristics, protecting users from file system corruption, even after unexpected system interruption. Embedded applications can benefit from faster boot times that remain consistent for the life of the product, regardless of disk size. FlashFX™ Tera features pre-written support for over 300 flash parts, works with virtually any NAND controller, and features wear leveling, bad block management, and background compaction for unrivaled performance.

For information, contact:
Kerri McConnell, Director of Marketing


Michele Pike | May 6, 2010 | Flash File System, Flash Memory Manager, Performance | Comments Off

Digital Payment: Come for the Flash Management, Stay for the Reliability

We recently had the opportunity to work with Digital Payment to solve a NAND flash corruption issue by using the validation tools that come standard in FlashFX Pro. You’ve probably seen their shiny parking meters around town, including many remote locations that have no permanent power and no easy access to service. That’s why when Digital Payment learned of the reliability benefits of Reliance, they saw an opportunity to improve up-time and lower service costs. Reliability is just one of many reasons their parking meters are popular with parking lot owners and municipalities looking for dependable, user-friendly machines. Be sure to check out the full case study for more information about Digital Payment’s experience with FlashFX Pro and Reliance.

Michele Pike | April 14, 2010 | Flash File System, Flash Memory Manager, Industrial, Reliability | Comments Off

Psst! Datalight is the “secret sauce”

Customers tell us the performance and reliability benefits of our products are important competitive advantages for them. So with hundreds of Datalight customers shipping millions of products, why don’t you see more glowing reviews and fact-driven case studies on our website? As one top-tier consumer OEM recently told us, “If our competitors know that we use Datalight, they may use it too, and we don’t want to lose that advantage.” What a fantastic endorsement – Datalight is an ingredient of this customer’s “secret sauce!” Just last week an OEM building a metering product expressed reluctance to have us publish a case study. They were concerned competitors googling their name would find it and learn about the problem Datalight solved for them. One the one hand, it’s wonderful that our products are a factor in customers beating their competition; on the other hand it’s frustrating to not be able to tell the world about the role we’re playing in market leading devices. For now, our solution is to take the “Dragnet” approach and change the names to protect the innocent. And now you know the rest of the story: behind each example we use in marketing our products sits an organization driving fantastic innovation in the embedded industry with a real-world problem that Datalight solved.

Here are a few case studies that we are allowed to share:

Datalight FlashFX Pro Helps WAGO Build a Faster PLC

InHand Preserves Reputation of Reliability

Boot Time is Cut in Half for LG Navigator

Michele Pike | April 7, 2010 | Datalight Products, Product Benefit | Comments Off