ONFI Breaks Speed Barrier for NAND Flash


Seventy-One Member Companies Support Next-Gen Spec Reaching up to 133MBps

SANTA CLARA, Calif., Nov. 14, 2007 – The Open NAND Flash Interface (ONFi) Working Group, the organization dedicated to simplifying integration of NAND Flash memory into consumer electronic (CE) devices, computing platforms and industrial systems, today announced the availability of the 0.9 draft of the ONFi 2.0 specification to member companies. This signals the imminent release of the ONFi 2.0 specification in January 2008. With 71 member companies supporting ONFi development, this scaleable technology secures its foothold in the industry.

ONFi 2.0 defines a high-speed NAND interface that delivers up to 133 MB/second in interface performance. The legacy NAND interface is limited to a maximum speed of 50 MB/second, significantly hampering the performance in applications such as solid state drives. The high speed NAND definition is forward looking, with infrastructure in place to reach 400 MB/s in the third generation. With its backward compatibility and existing legacy NAND interface, ONFi 2.0 enables a graceful transition.

After founding the group in 2006, the ONFi Working Group introduced the 1.0 specification in January 2007. While the first-generation technology standardized NAND electrical parameters and protocol interfaces, ONFi 2.0 focuses on improving speed while retaining backward compatibility.

“We foresaw the need for a high-speed NAND Flash interface to improve the user perceptible performance for NAND-based products,” said Knut Grimsrud, ONFi chairman and Intel Fellow. “Previously, the NAND interface was a significant bottleneck in read performance and ONFi 2.0 is solving this issue. Building on our history with this specification, the enhanced performance opens up significant opportunities for NAND in new computing, industrial and consumer electronic applications, with a scalable roadmap for the future.”

ONFi 2.0 reduces the time required to transfer data to and from the data buffer by using two techniques. The first is DDR (Double Data Rate) signaling, which is commonly used in DRAMs. Secondly, ONFi uses source synchronous clocks that accurately latch signals enabling higher frequencies to be realized. Further platform performance enhancements are possible by using commands standardized in ONFi 1.0. For example, techniques such as combining interleaving and cache commands enable developers to increase concurrency/parallelism.

“Establishing and defining standards is a necessary evolution for the NAND Flash industry,” said Joseph Unsworth, Gartner principal analyst. “Improvements in performance of NAND Flash available from multiple sources will be essential to satisfying the growing demand for embedded solid-state storage in video and computing applications.”

The 0.9 draft of the ONFi 2.0 specification is currently available to members only, and will be available to the public online in Q1 2008.

For an overview of the ONFi 2.0 specification, and to learn how it can support scalable density applications and increase system performance by reducing I/O time, view the webcast at: www.denali.com/en/events/webcasts/2007/onfi/index.jsp

Industry Support for ONFi 2.0

“ONFi members have shown that they have the vision to bring the NAND interface into the world of serious computing,” said Jim Handy, director of market research firm Objective Analysis. ”NAND has its roots in consumer electronics, but is destined for greater things now that this technology is finding its way into the PC. The ONFi 2.0 specification is a timely response to the needs of the PC designer.”

“In any market that is steadily breaking down new price barriers like the NAND Flash business has been for the past six to seven years, they are bound to open up new applications and new demands on NAND performance,” states David Lin, vice president of product marketing at Denali Software. “This improved bandwidth capability, which is both the industry’s (ONFi) response to current demands and an enabler for tomorrow’s new applications, is a necessary step if the NAND industry is to make possible its future growth possibilities. With a strong industry standard as a stepping stone, new design and sourcing is made easier, giving users more insight into what happens next along the NAND roadmap, and frees NAND makers to compete on additional and important feature differentiation and manufacturing excellence.”

“Moving with the pace set by the industry, Hynix is excited to support an evolving technology such as ONFi,” said Arun Kamat, vice president of marketing at Hynix. “As our customers seek ease-of-use and shorter development cycles on new products, we are pleased to ensure our Flash components are interoperable and support the features customers want.”

“As a founding company supporting ONFi initiatives, Micron has seen the organization grow to 71 member companies in just over a year,” said Frankie Roohparvar, vice president of NAND development at Micron Technology, Inc. “This trend in membership growth is a clear indicator of the industry demand for interoperability within the NAND Flash interface. We are excited to enhance the existing specification to add new features that evolve with a growing industry.”

“As a NAND Flash solution provider, we would like to provide broader application and better experience to the end user,” said K.S. Pua, president of Phison Electronics. “The speed increase defined in the ONFi 2.0 specification not only creates a better solution for the developer wanting to move data faster, but also allows for diversification into new applications.”

“As a consumer electronics manufacture massively adopting NAND Flash components, we depend on open, scalable solutions like those enabled by ONFi,” said Takashi Yamanishi, deputy general manager, standards and partnership, Sony Corporation. “Sony is pleased to see the next generation of the ONFi specification focus on speed to improve the performance of new applications, but equally important is our sustained focus on ensuring backward compatibility.”

ONFi Roadmap

With the completion of the 2.0 specification, the ONFi Working Group will now focus on defining an addendum specification for a Flash module connector and form factor. This will enable an industry standard, pluggable NAND module similar to a DRAM module used in computing platforms today. This module not only simplifies the motherboard design, but also provides the user the flexibility to easily upgrade the system as needed.

Future generations of the specification will deliver speeds up to 400 MB/second. This next generation of the ONFi specification, targeted for completion in 2009, is aimed to double the interface speed delivered in ONFi 2.0.

About ONFi

The ONFi Working Group is dedicated to simplifying integration of NAND Flash memory into consumer electronics (CE) applications and computing platforms. Before the advancements made by the working group, use of NAND Flash in these end user applications was hampered by the lack of sufficient standardization. To support a new NAND Flash component on a platform, host software, firmware and/or hardware changes were often required. Implementing these changes was extremely costly due to the new testing cycle required, which led to slower rates of adoption for new NAND Flash components. ONFi aims to remedy that problem and speed time-to-market for NAND Flash-based applications.

The ONFi Working Group was formed in May 2006 and currently has 71 member companies. ONFi’s founding companies include Hynix Semiconductor, Intel Corporation, Micron Technology Inc., Phison Electronics Corporation, Sony Corporation and STMicroelectronics.

Blair Cook
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