Thom Denholm

One Small Step to a Reliable File System

The Reliance Edge File System Essentials (FSE) is one of two API sets supported by Reliance Edge. It is a minimalist but reliable alternative to the POSIX-like option. What are its benefits and how does it work? This feature summary should answer those questions.

Tesla memory problem - is the type of wear leveling the real problem?

Several articles and posts have been written this week about worn-out flash memory in Tesla controllers. When reading some of those articles, I was struck by a thought - what if the real root cause is improper wear leveling?

Embedded file systems – trickier than you think

When thinking about reliability, many suggest that the media is most of the problem. Here we explain some of the file system choices for reliability, and how data integrity differs from fail safety. We also examine how detection of a problem can lead to possible solutions – or at least more graceful failures.

Datalight returns to Flash Memory Summit in 2019

With Tuxera, Datalight returns to Flash Memory Summit, and I am happy to report that the embedded designs are making a comeback - primarily in Automotive.

Key differences between SPI and Parallel flash media

Once thought to be in decline, raw flash media is definitely on the rise in embedded designs. A relatively new form factor using the Serial Peripheral Interface (SPI) has advantages compared to earlier (and larger) packages of parallel flash. This brief article mentions a few of these, comparing the two options.

Newsflash - Linux fscrypt reduces reliability of ext4, but Reliance Nitro is not compromised

On Linux, the recently introduced fscrypt framework provides new file system encryption options, and this support will be required in future versions of Android. For developers who used the journal to make user data more reliable, fscrypt forces them to abandon that option. Fortunately, Reliance Nitro provides encryption and reliability in one package.

Reliance Nitro 5.1 - A sneak peek

In the next few weeks, Datalight will release a new version of Reliance Nitro with support for the the Linux fscrypt framework, a high-level tool for management of Linux filesystem encryption. Support for this framework will be required for file systems in future releases of Google's Android operating environment. The only Linux file systems that support this feature are Reliance Nitro, ext4, F2FS and UBIFS.

More environments benefiting from the NAND discard interface

The performance and lifetime benefits of discards (also known as Trim) require a complete path between the media and the file system. Recently introduced to Green Hills INTEGRITY and Wind River VxWorks, this interface is crucial for NAND flash media. Customers can now take advantage of Datalight's discard functionality on Linux, INTEGRITY, and VxWorks.

Embedded World 2019 - Class Dismissed

We had nice weather in Nürnberg for Embedded World 2019. Here is our brief report on the proceedings.

Myth Busted - Overclocking NAND Is Easy

NAND clock parameters are not something set by the ordinary embedded developer. Usually they are provided as part of the BSP for the embedded hardware board. if your project makes changes to the NAND media, the processor, or even the length of the traces between those two components, these NAND parameters may be something you have to update to achieve full functionality.

Is dm-crypt right for your design?

Two options for encryption on Linux are dm-crypt and fscrypt. The former encrypts all blocks on the media, the latter can be used for files instead. This blog post discusses these options at a high level, as Datalight investigates how to move forward.

The Great OS Migration

Microsoft ended extended support for Windows Embedded CE 6.0 earlier this year, and plans to end support for all Windows Embedded products in the next five years. In this article, we look at differences that embedded developers will encounter.

On Utilizing U-Boot in Embedded Designs

U-Boot is becoming the defacto standard among embedded bootloaders, from Embedded Linux to VxWorks 7 and even small solutions such as FreeRTOS. How can proprietary software work in this GPL environment? How does a device boot from NAND using U-Boot? This blog post focuses on these answers and more.

Do You Need the Flexibility and Transparency of Source Code?

Acquiring software components for your embedded design can be a time consuming task. The right libraries can be purchased, but if changes are needed, the whole project may have to wait. On the other hand, a source code solution can require more knowledge, or even a dedicated resource. Which is the best solution for your design?

Journey to the Center of the Media

At Datalight, we frequently find ourselves helping customers on what we call 'rescue missions' – when a device is failing in the field and the design team is under pressure to quickly resolve a data corruption or data loss issue. Many times, the failure happens because data didn't get to the media, usually because a cache or other performance optimization has delayed those slow flash writes. In our recent presentation, we examined reliability on Linux with a focus on when the data is on the media.

Linux kernel 4.17 is great for embedded designs

Last weekend, Linux kernel 4.17 was released, disappointing a few pundits who thought it should be kernel 5.0. Here are some of the exciting features in this release, and confirmation of something Datalight has always said.

Effective Power Interruption Testing - USB Removal and NAND Corruption

We had some excellent questions in our April web seminar. These answers delve into removing USB media and corruption on flash media.

Effective Power Interruption Testing - Questions

Last week, we recorded a web seminar of the talk Datalight gave at Embedded World 2018 on techniques for effective power interruption testing. There were some excellent questions at that session, and this blog post answers a few of them in more detail.

Security and Cars dominate Embedded World 2018

Datalight spoke at the 16th Embedded World Conference. For more news about the show, read our blog recap.

Another failed update: Connected cars, over-the-air updates, and what happens when it goes wrong

Recently a failed update once again emphasized the importance of testing all aspects of product updates before going live with them. This can be the best strategy to avoid angry users who quickly take to social media to express their frustrations.

Often Overlooked Security Implications of Data Corruption

Data corruption happens when the media or the file system fail in some way. While this is bad enough, there can be serious security complications afterwards. Our blog post looks at the problem and the solution.

Partitioning - Slicing the Options

A file system is a common way of addressing the storage media; partitioning is a method for slicing that media up to use multiple file systems or multiple instances of the same file system, to support different purposes. This article breaks down two methods for partitioning the data.

Who Owns the Data?

A recent article described data as the new oil, with the land grab just beginning. With all the companies that can benefit from your customers' data, this is an apt description. Control over data is something that should factor into every contract and design at this point.

Do you need a file system or a flash manager?

I am sometimes asked what the difference is between a flash manager and a file system. In broad terms, both are required to store data on flash media, but their roles in storing the data vary greatly from one another. Simply put, software management controls how the flash media is read from and written to, while a file system dictates how and when data is stored. Perhaps some of the confusion between the two options comes from people who are familiar with the flash file systems on Linux – YAFFS, JFFS2, and UBIFS. Here is how the Datalight solution is different.

Datalight & NXP – New Automotive Technology at FTF Connects

Earlier this month, Datalight attended the NXP FTF Connects conference in Detroit, focusing on the automotive industry. The conference showcased NXP’s latest innovation and technology with an emphasis on the automotive market.

Update Failures – Another brick in the wall

In another demonstration of an update failure (something that seems to happen monthly), the company LockState pushed out a firmware update for the wrong model earlier this month. LockState manufactures door locking systems that can be remotely managed, and many of the affected devices were installed in AirBnB locations, in partnership with Host Assist.

Supporting a wide range of kernel versions

The Linux environment is full featured and modern, with updated kernels being released far more frequently than comparable environments such as Wind River’s VxWorks or Microsoft’s Windows Embedded. Among factors driving the choice of those kernels for an embedded design are features, flexibility, and kernel requirements among chosen software and hardware drivers.

How Sure Are You of Device Reliability?

For an embedded system, reliability means no unexpected loss of data. Looking below the application, this breaks down into two main categories:

Performance Drop Without Discards

While working on our Discards whitepaper and testing our new Smart Discards feature, we took a lot of performance measurements. One of these really stands out – but first a quick explanation.

Datalight's History with Discards

While working on a recent whitepaper, I dug up Datalight history for more info about discards. I’ve been with the company for over 16 years, and our work with discards predates not only my time on the job, but any other mention of discards for flash media.

The Capabilities of Scatter/Gather

Electronic Engineering Journal published an interesting article last week describing how scatter/gather works, to the limits of what could be said without NDA. This interesting technology doesn’t completely deliver on promises of single-cycle access, but does provide improved memory access speed.

Reliance Edge accessing media that requires a partition table

Reliance Edge is designed to handle very basic storage media. It doesn’t require any sort of partition table, and can utilize nearly the entire media. A minimal amount of overhead is required for the Reliance Edge Master Block and two Metaroots, and is placed at the beginning of the media. This can also be referred to as a partitionless disk or superfloppy. If that type of media won’t work in your software design, how can you make Reliance Edge work with media that requires a partition table?

Excessive Flash Wear Caused by Popular Music Application

An interesting article in Ars Technica last week reported and then confirmed a major bug in the desktop version of Spotify. This application has been writing tens to hundreds of gigabytes per hour to user’s hard drives, which can greatly reduce the life of SSDs. One solution is better caching, or flexibility of the file system, and we go over those details in the white paper linked below.

Are Your IoT Devices Secure?

Friday, October 21st was more than just a travel day for the World Series winning Chicago Cubs, it was also a day that 10s of millions of IoT devices launched a coordinated attack on DNS service provider Dyn. This week, a survey from ESET and the National Cyber Security Alliance showed that 40% of consumers are “not confident at all” that their IoT devices are safe, secure, and able to protect personal information

Certifying Security, the Presidential Debate & ESC Minneapolis

Like many Americans, I watched the debate on Monday night, and was pretty disappointed at the candidate’s answers regarding Cyber Attacks. Neither provided anything of substance in their answers, but with these attacks are becoming more sophisticated and having the backing of foreign states, the answer has to be more than just encryption.

Avoiding the Brick in Embedded Devices

Embedded devices today are performing more frequent updates, including monthly security updates for Android devices. One concern for any update is the potential for failure, with the worst case failure leaving the device a useless brick.

Datalight Provides Support for Android Certification

Google has seen great success with Android across a wide variety of device types and industries. Developers who build devices that run Android must pass the Android Compatibility Test Suite (CTS) in order to claim full compatibility. As application complexity and storage capacity has increased, Google has recently revised the CTS to include new requirements, such as a larger path structure and support for the fallocate() file system command.

Which Linux Flash File System is Best for Your Device?

Raw flash memory, that is, memory that isn’t part of a package (like SD, eMMC, SSD, and the like) requires software to manage it. On Linux, this software is the Memory Technology Device (MTD) layer, with a flash file system above that to handle wear-leveling, bad block management, and all regular file system duties. There are several options for Linux, but some of them present advantages.

Myth Busting for Iot Devices - The File System

Recently, William Lamie published a mythbusting piece that examined the use of an RTOS in IoT devices on Electronic Design. His insightful comments apply to most device designs complex enough to use a microprocessor. Which, these days, is pretty much all of them. We’ve run into a lot of the same myths around one crucial component of the RTOS – the file system.

Explaining OverlayFS – What it Does and How it Works

Union file systems are a creative solution to allow a virtual merge of multiple folders, while keeping their actual contents separate. The Overlay file system (OverlayFS) is one example of these, though it is more of a mounting mechanism than a file system. Brought into the Linux kernel mainline with version 3.18, OverlayFS allows you to overlay the contents (both files and directories) of one directory onto another. The source directories can be on different volumes and can even be different file systems, which creates an interesting mechanism for allowing temporary modification of read-only files and folders.

Security Options in Embedded Designs

A few months ago, the US Department of Health and Human Services defined a data breach as “a security incident in which sensitive, protected or confidential data is copied, transmitted, viewed, stolen or used by an individual unauthorized to do so.” Avoiding this means controlling network traffic, access to the device and applications, and protecting the data in storage.

Myth Busting: Using a Write Cache to Improve Performance Means Sacrificing Data Integrity

Perhaps the most widely held belief about write caching is that it makes a system unreliable. Something along the lines of "Data written to a cache instead of to the media will be lost on an unexpected power interruption, leaving the system in a damaged state and rendering data useless." There are a variety of options busting this myth.

Reliance Nitro Transaction Explorer

One of the key differentiators for Datalight's Reliance Nitro file system is the runtime flexibility. Not only does this file system provide more reliability options than any other file system on the market, they can all be changed on the fly through a simple API. To demonstrate just how easy this was, we created an intern project to do just that.

Mars Rover Flash Challenges

The Mars Opportunity Rover was in the news again this week, as NASA mission engineers try to overcome what they refer to as an increasingly troubling bout of rover "amnesia". In September of 2014, the team reformatted the flash memory.

Making FAT Reliable

Datalight developers know the danger of power interruption on embedded devices, and we also know the FAT file system well. In my 10 years as a software engineer on ROM-DOS, the internals of our FAT implementation were of daily interest.

VxWorks 7: The New Modular Operation System Environment

Datalight products have been supported on Wind River's VxWorks environment for over a decade. As Wind River advances their operating system, Datalight enhances our products to support the latest releases (Of course we continue to support legacy versions as far back as VxWorks 5.5.). As we finish up our integration into the VxWorks 7.0 environment we thought you might benefit from a heads up on some of the changes in Wind River's new modular operating system environment.

64 Bit Processors in Embedded Projects

Desktop processors are universally available in 64 bit varieties, resulting in higher and faster processing power. Another major advantage of 64 bit processors include direct addressing of huge amounts of RAM. In the embedded realm, the first hardware architecture to provide 64 bit was the x86-64, provided by Intel and AMD. Later targets included MIPS and ARM.

Flash Friendly File Systems

Earlier this year I had an opportunity to speak at Embedded World 2014 on the topic of Flash Friendly File Systems. Flash media is growing by leaps and bounds, and the chosen file system is a key component. For this paper, I drew on both my own development and support experience at Datalight and the experience of our staf

Study: Impact of File Systems on Solid State Storage Life Expectancy

In 1965, Gordon Moore predicted that transistor density would double every two years or so. For the most part, this observation has held true for 50 years and has become well known as "Moore's Law." This characteristic is a fundamental driving force behind the technological advances which have led to computers continually becoming faster, smaller, cheaper, and more reliable. Almost every aspect of technology has benefited from this characteristic - almost. Solid state memory is one area where there is a major dichotomy. Moore's Law has resulted in smaller and cheaper storage, yet the driving need for more storage capacity has driven manufacturers to sacrifice reliability and in some cases performance.

The purpose for this paper is to discuss the characteristics of solid state memory, specifically as they relate to media life (endurance) and performance. It will show how alternative file systems and file system configurations can significantly improve both media life and performance…

Embedded World 2014

Datalight constituents recently attended Embedded World 2014 in Nuremberg, Germany.

Congratulations Seattle Seahawks

Congratulations to the NFL Superbowl Champion Seattle Seahawks. They have found success the same way Datalight has - through outstanding teamwork.


File System Sculpting

For many embedded operating systems, the default file system is the only choice available. Sometimes a few customization options exist, and usually only at mount time. When using Linux as an embedded OS, there are a few more customization options and the source is available, but it is rarely easy to understand and modify. Reliance Nitro is an embedded file system that can be sculpted to fit where you need it.

FlashFX Tera Feature Highlight: The Error Policy Manager

Datalight's FlashFX Tera is quite similar in structure to its predecessor, FlashFX Pro, but there have been some features that have evolved from our experience in working with NAND flash over the years that are reflected in some of the new features you will now find in our FlashFX Tera product, and the Error Policy Manager is one of them.

Is the Linux MTD good enough for MLC NAND flash?

On Linux, the Memory Technology Device (MTD) subsystem is designed to be a generic interface to memory devices, primarily Flash media. The integrated hardware driver handles the storage formats used on the media, and then MTD provides simple routines for block read, write and erase. MTD does not contain any bad block handling or wear leveling routines, so the use of MTD alone is not recommended on NAND flash media. Instead, developers are asked to use a full Flash File System on Linux, such as YAFFS, JFFS2 and UBIFS.

eMMC TRIM new to Android?

An August 1st blog post on Tom's Hardware reports that the new Android 4.3 NOW has support for the eMMC TRIM command. How odd that the Android OS that's on 80% of smart phones sold last quarter does not support eMMC TRIM for old deleted data, a feature which has been in the JEDEC specification since version 4.4 which was released in March of 2009.

SD Reliability - Best Practices

In an earlier blog post titled "Managed NAND Performance: It's All About Use Case," we referred to an article measuring SD media, specifically sequential write performance. Speed was measured using a camera to shoot continuous pictures. Photographers and other users of SD media have another concern - reliability.

Notes from the 2013 Flash Memory Summit

The Flash Memory Summit has grown in the the last few years, and we were glad to be part of the event.

Flash Memory Summit 2013

Flash Memory Summit continues to grow, the organizers are expecting record attendance levels.

Automotive Challenges -- Security, Mount Times & Updates

Automobiles and Trucks have gone from simple contraptions to full blown multi-processor networks in just the last few years. Between M2M and the Internet of Things, today's vehicles are communicating more than ever. Here are some of the challenges we have observed in this industry.

Software Power Consumption

One of the questions we received at Datalight is whether our software affects the power consumption of embedded devices. Not being power experts ourselves, we found an intern and faculty advisor from our nearby University of Washington to help us out with the process.

Design West 2013

Design West 2013 was held last week in San Jose. The phrase of the show was "Internet of Things," and plenty of new hardware was in evidence.

Comparing Two Protocols for USB Devices

The USB Mass Storage class (also called UMS) is a protocol that allows a device connected through USB (Universal Serial Bus) to become accessible to a host computing device. This allows file transfers between the device and the desktop, as long as the file system used on the device is known to the desktop. One common example of this is the FAT file system.

Managed NAND Performance: It's All About Use Case

Last week the UK Journal PC Pro published an interesting article about fast SD cards, with a good description of the SD card Class system. With some clever testing, they showed how six cards performed in a continuous shooting situation.

When Not Using a Database, You Are Still Using a Database

Recently, we've focused considerable development effort on improving database performance for embedded devices, specifically for Android. This is because Android is a particularly database-centric environment.

Why CRCs Are Important

Datalight's Reliance Nitro and journaling file systems,such as ext4, are designed to recover from unexpected power interruption. These kinds of "post mortem" recoveries typically consist of determining which files are in which states, and restoring them to the proper working state. Methods like these are fine for recovering from a power failure, but what about a media failure?

fsck and chkdsk

Before embedded devices, file systems were designed to work in servers and desktops. Power loss was an infrequent occurrence, so little consideration was given to protecting the data.

Congratulations Adeneo & Bsquare!

Datalight congratulates our integration partners Adeneo and Bsquare for again winning the Microsoft Windows Embedded Excellence Award for 2012!

Are There Problems with eMMC?

If you've been following this blog, you've probably noticed a lot of discussion and analysis around eMMC. We've written about the reasons we are so excited about eMMC, but also why the Write Amplification issues caused by eMMC parts are a problem that needs more attention by the industry.

Reliability with ext4

The challenge - making ext4 just as reliable as Datalight's Reliance Nitro file system, within limitations of the POSIX specification. Unlike most real world embedded designs, performance and media lifetime are not a consideration for this exercise.

Multithreading in Focus: Performance & Power Efficiency

We're constantly on the lookout for ways to help our customers boost performance and improve power efficiency, and often our inspiration comes by way of the conversations we have with them. Recently, several of these discussions highlighted user scenarios where the complexity of the application would benefit from an enhancement to the classic Dynamic Transaction Point™ technology found in our Reliance Nitro file system.

Help! Why are my devices failing?

In conversations with the embedded OEMs we work with, a common issue affects almost every manufacturer - the cost of diagnosing and fixing causes of field failure. This impacts time-to-market and pulls resources from development for field diagnostics and post-mortem analysis. This issue is especially relevant due to the following reasons:

FMS: Bigger and Bigger (and Smaller and Smaller)

Last week's Flash Memory Summit did not disappoint. As one of the early sponsors of the conference, it was awe-inspiring to stand in the middle of the exhibit hall and see how the show has grown, in both number of booths and attendees.

Startup and Shutdown: Challenges in User Experience

Shutdown and startup can be slow - but they don't have to be. Datalight is working on an eMMC-specific driver to manage the sequence of writes.

eMMC - The What, How and Why

The eMMC standard improved data rates and throughputs for high-density chips, and newer generations continue to do more.

Write Amplification: The Next Device Optimization Battle?

Wikipedia describes Write Amplification as "an undesirable phenomenon associated with Flash memory and solid-state drives (SSDs) where the actual amount of physical information written is a multiple of logical amount intended to be written," and offers this formula to calculate it:

Performance Testing Reliance Nitro and ext3/4

Recently we ran benchmarks comparing ext3 and ext4 to Reliance Nitro on eMMC and Linux. Here's what we learned.

Device Longevity using Software

At Datalight, we often think about device longevity, which is why our products extend the lifetime of NAND flash media, while improving performance.

Datalight Sponsors Local High School Robotics Team

The Arlington Neobots are not like other high school technology clubs. For one thing they have access to a phenomenal pool of mentors from local technology companies like Boeing, Microsoft and now Datalight. They also have a growing number of female members, a rarity in youth organizations oriented to math and science.

Founded in 2008 with seed money from Boeing, the team competes in an annual robot building competition created by national non-profit organization FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), and this year the competition is already ramping up. For 2012, FIRST has challenged the robotics teams to a game similar to basketball called Rebound Rumble. Six teams are split up into two alliances of three; one alliance is blue and the other red. During the 2-minute and 15-second…

CES: The Embedded Storage Perspective

Steve Ballmer did a nice job kicking off the keynotes on Monday night with an impassioned presentation about Windows Phone, Windows 8, and Xbox 360, but when it ended I found myself wondering why he didn't talk about any other Microsoft products. Windows phone looks pretty slick though, and I'm assuming it will run on eMMC flash for data storage. Next year Microsoft will be passing the baton to someone else for their traditional opening keynote and will not be back - not sure what (if anything) that means. We'll also have to wait and see if Ryan Seacrest will be invited back. 

Sony announced a new flash memory card promising even faster performance, which goes to show users are still looking for faster flash-based devices and manufacturers are paying attention. One of the guys in the Sony booth also mentioned a flash card that can read up to1 GB/second that is coming soon. He didn't have any samples available, but he sure enjoyed telling me about it.

There were tons of…

Storage Visions Awards

Last week we attended Storage Visions, a show adjacent to CES that focuses on data storage solutions. This year's theme was Heavy Storage for thin Clients. We were honored to be a finalist for the Storage Visions award "New Enabling Consumer Storage Technology," for the Datalight Reliance Nitro fault-tolerant file system. Although we didn't get to take home the trophy, we wanted to congratulate our partner, Micron, for winning the award with their Real SSD C400 Self Encrypting Drive.

Learn more about Datalight Embedded File Systems

The Next Generation File System for Windows

Microsoft has a new file system but how does it compare to Reliance Nitro?

Software Perspective on eMMC

We here at Datalight are seeing a lot of interest in this weeks "Software Perspective on eMMC" presentation, across a broad spectrum. This is apparently a pretty hot topic! Our recnet webinar went really well and attracted many attendees. We hope you enjoyed the presentation! Thanks everyone! 

Nonvolatile Memory Interfaces on Pace with Data Volume

This article entitled Advances in Nonvolatile Memory Interfaces Keep Pace with the Data Volume, recently published in RTC Magazine, gives a nice overview of maintaining performance on newer technologies.  

Learn more about Datalight and ClearNAND

EZ NAND compared to eMMC

A recent article by Doug Wong compared performance characteristics of eMMC and ONFI specification EZ-NAND, specifically Toshiba's SmartNAND. Read our thoughts in this post.

Transactional File System :: Explained!

Just in case you've ever wondered what we mean when we say Reliance Nitro is a "transactional file system," or how it differs from FAT or ExFAT, have I got the video for you.

Flash Memory Summit Follow Up and ClearNAND Support

At this year's Flash Memory Summit, SSD and PCI-e memory card solutions ruled.

Much Ado About eMMC

Lately you may have noticed a lot of talk about eMMC on our blog and website. If so you may be thinking, "Why is Datalight so excited about eMMC?" Here are 5 top reasons we're jumping on the eMMC bandwagon.

Datalight Outperforms Other Linux Flash File Systems

It's always gratifying when you run benchmarks and discover your product actually does outperform the competition. Months and months of development effort went in to making Reliance Nitro and FlashFX Tera run flawlessly in an open source environment.

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.

Breaking Through the Sub-20nm NAND Flash Barrier

That cracking you may or may not have heard last month was the sound of SanDisk and Toshiba breaking the sub-20 nanometer NAND barrier. Flying in the face of conventional wisdom (and more than a few industry analysts), both companies recently announced they will be delivering 19nm NAND this year.

Coolest (and creepiest) Tech News I've Seen Lately

While listening to NPR this week I caught a story on a new artificial heart developed by the Texas Heart Institute. What's cool is that the device promises to overcome some of the inherent limitations of older technologies that led to premature failure - such as pumps wearing out or breaking down, and blood clots.

A File System Designed for Embedded

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.

Flash Memory & Android Dominate ESC Silicon Valley

The topic of storage technology seemed to be everywhere at last week's Embedded Systems Conference in San Jose, appearing in numerous key note speeches, presentations and exhibit booths. It appears the industry is waking up to the difficulties of storing and managing a torrent of data being produced by new mobile applications.

Does Consumer Electronics Drive Embedded or Vice Versa?

The hot topics in the consumer electronics segments today are Android, installable applications, sexy user interfaces, sensors like GPS receivers, gyroscopes and accelerometers and larger capacity/smaller size storage.

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.

Bootstrapping Linux from NAND Flash

We've received a bit of feedback on our Bootstrapping Linux from NAND Flash with FlashFX Tera and Reliance Nitrowhitepaper. Questions that have come up regarding this whitepaper include: "The sample project included in the whitepaper demonstrated booting from NOR rather than NAND, is it possible for the bootloader to reside in NAND?"

A Note on Customer Support

Occasionally we survey our recent customers to find out how their experience was with customer support. When I first began seeing responses, I was amazed at how positive they ALL were. Now, a few years later, I continue to see overwhelmingly positive comments regarding our customers' interactions with our support team - at this point I would be surprised to hear something negative!

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.

CES Highlights

Our CEO Roy Sherrill visited CES last week and made note of a few trends that caught his eye. Here are his thoughts from the show floor: All-in-one Devices - Over the last few years, we self-described technology geeks have seen our phone morph into a camera, an MP3 player, an internet connection/email viewer, and about a hundred other functions spanning the range between the necessary and the ridiculous.

What is JEDEC, and how does it affect me?

EDEC, the Joint Electron Devices Engineering Council (see, is a group of manufacturers and suppliers collaborating to create specifications for Flash memory access and parts.

Datalight in 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.

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.

Booting Linux with Reliance Nitro & FlashFX Tera

Recently we developed a sample project to demonstrate how to boot Linux from flash on an embedded system. Booting NAND with a single (root) file system can be a challenge, even when using a NOR chip to initialize as this project did. So how did we do it?

Digital Payments: Less NAND Flash Corruption

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…

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 aningredientof 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…

Simplified Data Storage for Linux-based Devices

Datalight announces support for Linux kernel versions up to 2.6.29 with new versions of FlashFX Tera, the file-system independent flash memory driver and Reliance Nitro, the highly-reliable, high-performance file system. FlashFX Tera version 1.2 offers out-of-the-box support for over 300 different flash memory parts from all the leading suppliers, expanding the choice for OEMs using flash memory.

Benefits of NAND Flash - Wind River and Datalight Webinar

Join us March 18th at 11am PDT as Datalight CEO Roy Sherrill and Wind River Product Manager Bill Graham weigh the pros and cons of switching to NAND. Maximize the usability and efficiency of your device memory by understanding all the considerations that go into integrating a NAND flash with your device's software. Learn more and reserve your spot today as space is limited.

LinkedIn Group Rants About Vendor-supplied Drivers

If you're on LinkedIn, check out the Realtime Embedded Engineering Group for an interesting and often lively discussion of the issues facing our community. We particularly enjoyed reading the recent thread about the drivers included by hardware vendors being less than optimal for most flash parts. The consensus can be summed up in one blogger's statement;

"What many silicon vendors refer to as a 'driver' is nothing more than the code left over by their inhouse hardware development team. This code typically exercises just a small subset of the device capabilities (or whatever they were working on last) and doesn't even come close to meeting the definition (or spirit) of a general purpose device driver."

We couldn't have said it better ourselves. A lot of our time in developing our FlashFX family of flash memory drivers is spent…

InHand Chooses FlashFX Pro for Fingertip Modules

InHand's development platforms are known in the embedded industry for their generous list of features, fast time-to-market, and solid performance. Recently, when a customer's unusual flash configuration began causing corruption issues related to the default flash driver on Windows CE,

Reliability on Windows CE 6.0

Watch our demonstration of the Datalight Reliance flash file system on the Beagle Board with Windows CE 6.0

Reliance Nitro Makes an Impact

Last week one of our customers sent the following evaluation report in an email to Datalight support staff: "Right now we are in the process of testing the impact of Reliance Nitro in our application. Apparently, we noticed some boost in the performance:  faster write speed, significant speed increase of transaction point creation, faster read speed, and significantly faster directory read (we typically have 1000 files in the directory). So, in conclusion, the overall performance of the system is boosted quite significantly." Another real world example of how Reliance Nitro boosts performance in directories with a large number of files. To learn how Reliance Nitro does it, check out the whitepaper.

Motorola Introduces the Future of Mobile Computing

We were excited to read about this week's release of the new Motorola MC9500. This slick new member of the MC9000 rugged mobile computer family includes features like swappable keypad, modular 3.5G WAN with support for GSM HSDPA or CDMA-EVDO Rev A wireless broadband connectivity in one device, screen orientation sensor, battery lifespan management and lots of other bells and whistles. We were even more excited to see a report from Computerworld that Fedex has already ordered 100,000 units!

FAT May Be Exchangeable but Still Not Your Friend

According to a recent Nielsen/Netratings report, 89.4% of us connect our gadgets to a Windows host machine, underscoring how crucial it is for manufacturers to consider file system compatibility with the Windows desktop.

Application Ecosystems on Devices

While the software we develop integrates at system level in devices, we do keep an eye open for developments happening at the application level primarily because the heavy data storage use most modern applications make. Understanding what kind of applications are making headway in the market helps us determine the type of data profile to expect at the file system and flash management level.

Seen & Heard at the Flash Memory Summit

Attendance at FMS broke records for the fourth year in a row - truly remarkable, given our current economic situation. I think even the organizers were pleasantly surprised by the confirmation that FMS is now the venue of choice for flash industry leaders to come together and for the rest of the industry to learn what is new in the world of flash technology.

Doing In-Place OS updates for Embedded Devices

Palm and Apple have released updates to their mobile devices and Microsoft is about to as well. This activity signals embedded devices becoming more like PCs.

5 Problems Impeding Flash Adoption

It's been over 20 years since NAND flash was supposed to take over the world, so why is the 'ultra-portable' laptop I'm writing this on still using HDD? And why, nearly 30 years after the invention of flash, are we still debating its applications vs. the rotating platter?

The Datalight Labs: Managed NAND vs. Raw NAND

Our R&D folks couldn't wait to get their hands on the new test board from Digi which arrived a couple weeks ago. The board comes with multiple testing interfaces, making it easy to switch between a number of different flash parts for back-to-back comparisons. They have been practically wearing the thing out, testing the performance of a number of different managed and raw NAND parts to get a better idea of the differences our customers see when doing benchmarks. Check out a few pictures of the setup currently in Glenn's office, and contact us for more information on this project. [gallery columns="2"]

Reliance and Reliance Nitro

Ever since we announced our high performance file system Reliance Nitro, we have been getting questions on how it compares to the original Reliance file system.

The Universe of Managed NAND

We have talked about managed NAND in a few blog posts before. Usually a combination of raw NAND flash (SLC or MLC) combined with a hardware controller that performs flash management features like bad block management, ECC and wear leveling is referred to as managed NAND.

Principals of Software Development Leadership

Once again confirming our suspicion that he doesn't sleep, Datalight Director of Engineering Ken Whitaker has just published his second book on managing the software development process, this time with a focus on incorporating the 'agile' project management techniques that have been so successful at Datalight and elsewhere in Ken's long distinguished career. At over 400 pages, we haven't read it yet, but it's bound to become a favorite of technology management gurus around the world. Here's some praise from one of Ken's colleagues: "Whitaker explains how to run development as the critical business function that it is. Get Principals of Software Development Leadership if you want to lead a technical team to success - or buy a copy for your boss if you want to work on a successful team." - Steve Johnson, VP,…

I HEART Reliance Nitro

With the release of our new file system this week, Reliance Nitro, we asked our Account Managers what they liked most about our new product. Their answers of course included reliability and high performance. Wes Johns and Phillip Allison were so excited they decided to make a video  watch the youtube video

Reliance Nitro Demo Video

We're totally psyched about Reliance Nitro, our newest file system (yes, we're file geeks), and we're always on the lookout for opportunities to show off the performance and reliability attributes it adds to Windows Mobile and Windows CE. When we discovered the relatively new Beagle Board, it occurred to us that a small, low-cost platform might be just the thing to demonstrate Nitro's amazing benefits. As you've probably heard, the Beagle is making waves with its low cost (around $150) and diminutive size. It uses an OMAP 3530 processor and 256MB of NAND. Though they are most commonly used with Linux, we lucked out in having a partner (MPC Data) who has already developed a Windows CE BSP for it. After a few phone calls, the wizards at MPC Data were able to develop a slick video playback demo app, and presto, the Reliance Nitro Beagle Demo was born! Amateur videographers that we are (ok, REALLY amateur), we recently videotaped…

Durability: The Next Killer App

For the first time in more than a decade, people are saving again. In 2007 and years prior, the savings rate hovered around zero as we maxed our credit cards and lines of credit, driving the savings rate into the red and giving the world's manufacturing base an almost unbelievable boom. In January 2009 though, something unexpected happened; the US savings rate suddenly moved above 5%, the highest in decades.

Making Lemonade - OEMs & Economic Turnaround in 2009

As everyone's mother used to say, "When life hands you lemons..." and at this particular time in embedded technology and elsewhere, it seems there is no shortage of lemons. In just the last three weeks, we've heard about Nortel filing for bankruptcy, Motorola planning to cut 7,000 jobs, and Sony Ericsson's dramatic profitability swing from $1.48 billion in 2007 to negative $96 million in 2008.

Why Raw NAND Flash with Hardware-based ECC is the Way

Everyone knows that NAND has challenges: from factory bad blocks and spontaneous bit failures to endurance limits, etc. That's why a few years ago managed NAND (NAND flash plus an integrated controller) seemed to be the answer, offering the density of raw NAND, while mitigating many of its inherent limitations.

Datalight Cuts Boot Time in Half for New LG Navigator

Recently, LG Electronics created a multimedia-enabled portable navigator for the North American market, featuring a 4.3" LCD screen, Bluetooth hands-free functionality and video-enabled playback. However, the two-minute startup time didn't match LG's reputation for high-performance devices.

Reliance usage in a boot code update scenario

There are two possible configurations in how boot code might be stored on a device: 1.) Boot code is stored in raw flash (no file system) and directly accessed from bootloader, 2.) Boot code is stored on a Reliance formatted flash volume

Perspective on the Flash Memory Summit 2008

It's hard to believe that it's been 20 years since the invention of flash memory, but the 20-foot timeline documenting its milestones that was displayed at this year's Flash Memory Summit offered ample evidence of the progress the technology has made.

Reliance Transactional File system demo

Demonstrating how system software work in a visual manner is an interesting problem, especially in embedded space. There is no UI or visual effects to WOW the audience. To evaluate the value system software components bring to an embedded design, the customer usually needs to configure our software on his embedded development board.

Datalight Products on VxWorks

Datalight FlashFX Pro ships as an evaluation version in all VxWorks distributions since version 6.5. Customers who need support for NAND flash on VxWorks chose FlashFX Pro for abstracting the intricacies of working with flash memory.

High-End Phone Market Strong Despite Economic Slum


WindowsForDevices has an interesting article today that shows the results from a recent ABI research study on high-end handset sales. It is interesting to note that the economy has not slowed down sale of higher-end mobile phones and the overall mobile market has been strong as well. This bodes well for flash memory vendors, especially for NOR flash vendors like Spansion and Numonyx since mobile handset industry has been a NOR stronghold (though lately NAND is making heavy inroads - call it the iPhone effect).

Using Datalight Reliance on rotating-media devices

FlashFX Pro is designed only for flash memory but Datalight Reliance is a file system that works on all block devices. This includes hard drives, USB flash drives, removable cards like SD, CF, solid state drives (SSD), etc.

Gearing Up for the Flash Memory Summit

Datalight is sponsoring and presenting at the Flash Memory Summit, August 12-14 in Santa Clara.

Worldwide Mobile phone sales increased 14% in 2008

Gartner just announced their latest research on mobile phone sales. What does this mean for you?

Flash Wear leveling

Contrary to popular belief, flash memory does not last forever. Every flash part in existence comes with a finite number of write and erase cycles before the data stored becomes corrupted and the flash part unusable. Most flash file systems on the market today include a basic type of wear leveling, but all wear leveling algorithms are not created equal.

YAFFS - Linux Flash File System

Continuing the conversation started in Flash File Systems and JFFS2 blog posts, this post talks about a YAFFS, another Linux flash file system alternative. YAFFS (Yet Another Flash File System) was designed to solve some of the performance issues suffered by JFFS2 on NAND flash.

NAND or NOR Flash Memory: Tradeoffs & Strategies

Consumer electronics and embedded software devices are using larger amounts of flash memory for nonvolatile storage than ever before. So what kind of flash memory should you use? The choice between using NAND and NOR Flash may not be a simple one for the complex embedded devices being developed today.

The Risks of Relying on a Single Flash Vendor

Digitimes is reporting that Samsung has informed its customers that it will be reducing supply of NAND Flash chips because of the huge order placed by Apple. This story is being picked up by several news outlets including Engadget.

Is General Embedded Ready for MLC NAND?

MLC NAND is experiencing a high rate of adoption and within the consumer electronics sector - MP3 players, digital cameras, smart phones, flash cards and USB drives - it is everywhere you look. However, other embedded segments (industrial, automotive, military, aerospace, etc), are hesitating to take advantage of MLC's low-cost, high-density attributes.

Factors Affecting Flash Memory Performance

The read, write and erase timing characteristics of flash hardware specifications are useful for comparing different products, but don't tell the whole story about what you will get from your real-world devices. When Flash memory is incorporated into a system, the performance of the system depends on a number of factors.

JFFS2 - Linux Flash File System

Linux has been slowly but surely establishing itself as the predominant OS in the embedded industry. ABI research report suggested that 23% of Smartphones will be based on Linux by 2013. High-profile industry support from Android and the LiMo foundation has put the spotlight back on embedded Linux.

Flash File Systems

Flash memory has established itself as the technology of choice for device data storage on embedded devices. The advantages it brings in terms of storage capacity, I/O throughput, power consumption and board space savings are significant. In 2007, flash memory was a $7.7 billion industry. Analysts predict a 23% growth of the flash memory market between 2007 and 2011

Welcome to "Data Matters"

Hi All: Welcome to the Datalight blog on "Data Matters." It's amazing to see the increase in size and value of data in devices over 25 years that Datalight has been in business. In the old days, well the 80's, Datalight worked with Flight Data recorders that held data on 3.5 inch floppies using the FAT file system and similar non-reliable foundations. Today, device data requirements are growing at a tremendous pace. These requirements include reliability, performance, size and flexibility in media, bootability and system field-update requirements.