New flash specification doubles SSD data transfer speed

The ONFI 3.0 controller specification should allow data transfers at 400MB per second

A flash memory working group announced a new interface specification on Tuesday that could speed up data transfers from flash storage products such as solid-state drives inside computers and consumer electronics.

The Open NAND Flash Interface (ONFI) Working Group released the ONFI 3.0 controller specification, which allows for transfer of data at 400 megabytes per second. That is double the speed of the previous ONFI standard, ONFI 2.3, which was released last August.

The ONFI specification is a chip-level controller interface that defines how data is written, read and erased on flash memory. ONFI has also defined a physical connector specification for NAND flash, similar to the DRAM DIMMs used to attach memory.

The ONFI working group was created in 2006 to establish a standard interface so NAND flash can be easily integrated into host devices such as consumer electronics and computers. The founding members included Hynix Semiconductor, Intel, Micron Technology and Sony. Today, ONFI has more than 100 members, including SanDisk, and flash components from companies such as Intel support the ONFI interface.

The use of flash storage in handheld devices and PCs is growing as the storage medium becomes cheaper. Server makers are also embedding solid-state storage on motherboards to provide faster data access for I/O-intensive applications. SSDs offer faster read and write capabilities than hard drives. When placed close to a CPU, NAND flash can help systems process and transfer data faster.

The new specification includes improved error-correction capabilities and is more power-efficient than earlier standards, ONFI said in a statement.

ONFI 3.0 uses fewer channels than did previous specifications, which results in both cost and space savings, which are key requirements for SSD design, Micron said in a statement.

"Intel supports the new specification, which will enable a new class of high-performance SSDs," the chipmaker said in a blog entry on Tuesday.

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