New Flash memory standard set for launch next year

JEDEC has spent three years of blood, sweat and tears to develop it

ARE YOU PREPARED for the next revolution in Flash memory for your mobile devices? Well, JEDEC hopes so, as they’re getting ready to announce a new Flash memory standard later this year with at least a few industry heavy weights backing the new Universal Flash Storage standard, or UFS as it’s more likely to be known as.

The first and pretty much only announcement so far about UFS was back in 2007, so it has taken JEDEC quite some time to finalize the specifications. This might in itself not be a bad thing, at least not if the performance is there. Oddly enough, there doesn’t appear to be a single picture on the web of an actual product, yet we’re set to expect retail products by the first half of next year.

We’re fairly certain that most people are not interested in yet another memory card format.  However, with JEDEC promising a “multi-gigabit per second high speed interface for embedded mass storage and removable cards”, there seems to be no current technology with which this could be implemented. However, it’s possible that we’ll find UFS compliant chips inside the next generation of SDXC cards that adhere to the SD 4.0 specification which is expected to be announced in early 2011. Coincidence? Well, maybe, but we’re very suspicious that there might be something going on here, as the next generation of SDXC cards will feature a second row of pins just above the current row for speeds of “up to 300 megabytes per second” according to the SD Association.

Then if you throw the UFS backers into the mix, things start to look a lot like there’s something to it, as Micron, Nokia, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, STMicroelectronics and Texas Instruments are all said to be involved, in one way or another, with the development of UFS. At least two of those companies are Flash memory manufacturers at a large scale, and we’re certain that Nokia, Samsung and Sony Ericsson are interested in stuffing some faster – and hopefully cheaper – Flash memory into their mobile devices.

The trick here is the sentence quoted from JEDEC earlier about multi-gigabit per second performance, as currently most mobile devices rely on expensive, but fast, NAND Flash for at least the operating system part, while some might use eMMC or some other type of lower cost solution as embedded storage memory. If UFS can replace several different types of Flash memory in handsets, we might end up seeing more affordable products, or hopefully at least products with a significant amount of built in Flash memory as standard without a cost increase.

The key criteria when UFS was developed consisted of power, performance, pin-count, and system scalability. This all sounds good in theory, but we’ll have to wait and see if UFS delivers once it becomes available next year. JEDEC will be talking about UFS at the Flash Storage Summit in San Jose on Monday and hopefully we’ll find out a few more details of a standard that could have a huge impact in the Flash memory market.S|A

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