ONFI Announces EZ-NAND at FMS: OEMs Rejoice

Thom Denholm Posted by:

Last week's Flash Memory Summit was a whirlwind of tutorials, announcements and networking, including a presentation by our very own CEO Roy Sherrill, but if you missed the announcement by ONFI (the Open NAND Flash Interface organization) that its new ONFI 2.3 specification will include the EZ-NAND protocol, take a few minutes to soak it in. The news about EZ-NAND, which stands for error correction code (ECC) Zero NAND, is especially welcome for manufacturers of smart phones and other high-performance, price-competitive embedded devices. The EZ-NAND protocol dictates that ECCs are done by the NAND itself rather than by the NAND controller or device driver, a much more efficient method (as we've been  blogging for nearly two years now). Also, in this era of fast-changing ECC NAND requirements, not having to keep up with the rapidly changing NAND ECC requirements by using costly high-end NAND controllers is a major competitive advantage for OEMs. In current raw NAND implementations, the host controller is responsible for managing ECC and all other NAND functions like wear leveling, bad block management and compaction. ECC is notoriously difficult to implement in software, and EZ-NAND decouples it from the rest of these functions, allowing device designers to use the system processor for these functions and avoid the use of expensive NAND controllers. This setup, combined with a high-performance flash manager like FlashFX Tera, offers OEMs the ultimate combination of performance, flexibility and low cost to make those high-octane smart phone processors (MIPS, PowerPC, iMX-31 and OMAP families, etc.) really shine. While eMMC, with its hardware-based ECC seems to offer good compromise, the reality is that the other NAND functions (wear-leveling, bad block management and compaction) have to contend with the inexpensive controller found in the eMMC device. Translation: less-than-optimal use of the flash and seriously bogged-down performance in many use cases. We would love to hear what you thought of this year's Flash Memory Summit, what you learned, what surprised you and what you liked or didn't like.  Also, let us know if you have comments or questions about EZ-NAND using the comment field below.

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