On The Move

 

UFS, do we need another storage interface?

Many teardowns for smartphones and tablets identify the application processor, baseband and other important components that are used to advertise the capabilities of the mobile device consumers look to purchase. One feature that is also popular to mention is storage capacity as the potential buyer can quickly translate the GigaBytes of storage memory into number of songs, movies, pictures and data that can be stored on the device without the need in adding extra storage.

However, storage capacity is not the only measurement that we need to take into account. As wireless data bandwidth grow (WiFi or 4G LTE/LTE-A), videos and pictures generated by 3D-configured cameras and external high bandwidth interfaces (USB3, thunderbolt) the requirement to quickly store or read from large internal non-volatile memory storage increases. It’s not only how much you can store but how fast you can store or access the data generated or pulled by the peripherals on the mobile device.

Lets look at the BOM of Samsung Galaxy Tablet from a teardown provided by iSuppli (http://www.isuppli.com/Manufacturing-and-Pricing/MarketWatch/Pages/Samsung-Galaxy-Tablet-Teardown-First-Look.aspx?utm_source=iSi&utm_medium=SN&utm_campaign=/?utm_source=iSi&utm_medium=SN&utm_campaign=MANUFACTURINGPRICING_RA):

I highlighted the flash controller used (from SanDisk) which is 16GB, Multi Level Cell (MLC) using eMMC interface (in addition to the NAND flash stacked on the application processor).  Flash controller device configuration uses multiple-die and deploy one controller plus one or more high density NAND dies all stacked and packaged in one device to reduce area and package cost. Here’s an illustration from Toshiba’s web site (http://www.toshiba.com/taec/Catalog/Line.do?familyid=7&lineid=900195):

The problem is that eMMC v4.4 allows throughput of 104MBps and cannot keep with the rapid growth of data transfer required in the mobile device.
So do we need another storage interface?
Since we are discussing mobile electronics with unique requirements (low power, low # of pins, small footprint, scalability, low EMI…) then I believe the answer is positive.

Universal Flash Storage (UFS) v1.0 standard was introduced in March 2011 as a result of collaboration between JEDEC and MIPI Alliance (http://www.jedec.org/news/pressreleases/jedec-announces-publication-universal-flash-storage-ufs-standard). UFS is introduced and targeted to be used (first) as embedded flash allowing scalability, low power, low pin and high throughput interface. It’s based on MIPI’s scalable and low-power M-PHY (1.4, 2.9 and 5.8Gbps rates) and UniPro stack. You can read more about M-PHY in one of my previous posts,  Next-generation mobile protocols foundation

On March 30th, JEDEC and MIPI Alliance will co-host an EETimes webinar. During the one-hour session, speakers from both organizations will outline the technical details of the recently announced UFS specification, as well as the role that MIPI’s M-PHY and UniPro specifications play in advancing mobile device technology. 

Register at http://seminar2.techonline.com/registration/wcIndex.cgi?sessionID=mipigr1_mar3011

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