The FlashPoint platform solution from Denali Software provides an interface between NAND flash and PCI Express (PCIe). Many designers may wonder why something like interfacing to NAND flash would need a platform solution. From an operating-system perspective, more work is expected of NAND these days.
For example, Microsoft’s Vista uses flash memory for caching (ReadyBoost) and for bootup/return from hibernation (ReadyDrive). Also, the range of applications for which flash is being used has increased sharply, and flash is getting more complex with more bits per cell. This has led to the need for more complex wear-leveling algorithms, reliability monitoring, and so on.
FlashPoint works with PC cache modules, solid-state drives (SSDs), and ExpressCard devices. An integrated design configuration engine handles the configuration. The platform includes a complete hardware design, software stack, and drivers required to interface to a NAND flash device (see the figure).
“We have significantly reduced customer risk and increased system performance through an integrated and flexible hardware/software platform approach to PCIe-based NAND controller designs,” said Robert Pierce, senior director of flash products at Dinali Software. “With the rich feature set, OEMs and semiconductor firms have the flexibility to confidently select unique and differentiating features, such as performance, encryption, and array management for their system.”
The platform also supports the nonvolatile memory host controller interface (NVMHCI) standard. Pushed by Intel, Microsoft, and Dell, NVMHCI provides a standard software-programming interface for NVM subsystems. The operating-system driver uses NVMHCI to access NAND when it is being used for drive caching or as an SSD. And, FlashPoint supports a range of flash devices from several memory vendors, including those supporting the open NAND flash interface (ONFi) standard.
“Denali has been an active supporter of the ONFi initiative, which provides a standardized NAND component interface that not only simplifies design support for a broader range of NAND components, but also eases transitions to future NAND generations,” said Knut Grimsrud, ONFi chairman and Intel Fellow. “Product releases compliant with the ONFi standard, such as Denali’s new flash platform, pave the way for broad adoption of standards-based flash solutions.”
The platform also uses the Databahn IP technology, a hardware architecture built for high performance and reliability, for PCIe and NAND. Its configuration infrastructure automates the design’s verification and tuning process based on application performance—an otherwise often arduous task if done manually. FlashPoint will be commercially available in the second half of 2008.