Beyond the hardware—how to get lasting performance and durability out of your automotive flash storage
- by Martin Booth
We’re excited to share with you a guest blog from one of our valued hardware partners, Western Digital.
Automotive electronics has become a hot topic at tradeshows and in the general press in the last few years, with the advent of the connected car and autonomous driving vehicles. Huge amounts of data are being collected by cars, in some cases as much as gigabytes per second, and the processing and storage of this data is critical to enabling many of the new functions we see coming to market. Cars now have gigabytes of flash memory distributed amongst different computers and the next generation designs can have more than a terabyte.
A brief history of automotive edge storage
Selecting and managing the appropriate storage components is critical to the performance, reliability, and longevity of the design. In the early days of navigation systems, optical drives and even hard drives were used—and these had to be engineered to withstand an environment with more shock and vibration as well as temperature extremes. Many if not all of those devices were eventually replaced with either embedded flash storage or SD™ cards. Over the years, these flash storage devices were further developed and upgraded from the standard consumer version to be more robust, durable and reliable for automotive applications.
With today’s powerful CPUs and large LCD panels, even wider temperature extremes are generated in automotive electronics systems. Automotive grade storage devices are available from a number of vendors, including Western Digital, that are optimized for such extreme environments and designed to last.
Today’s automotive applications are heavily write intensive
Traditionally, many of these applications had been “read intensive” for functions such as holding map data or the operating system. The biggest concern back then was data retention over the life of the system. Nowadays, for connected car designs, the applications are more “write intensive,” for example storing camera data to an event data recorder (EDR). Hence, the performance has become a bigger and more pressing issue. Engineering reliability for the write intensive use into the flash component also requires a different approach. Devices such as the Western Digital iNAND 7250A embedded flash drive (EFD) have a number of features designed to provide caching of data, protected writes, health monitoring, and power fail resiliency to ensure optimized operation in connected car systems.
Carefully consider the storage software, as well as the hardware
From a host designer’s viewpoint this is a good starting point; however, performance and reliability are also a function of the flash file system chosen. The file systems that are distributed as standard in operating systems such as Linux may not be ideally optimized for flash memory management. This is where partners like Tuxera can come in and provide a file system that is specifically optimized for performance and resiliency and works well with the specific features of individual flash devices.
As storage becomes a bigger and bigger part of the electronics bill of materials (BOM), it is simply not good enough to select the lowest cost option. The right device selection with the right file system choice can make a major difference in overall system performance, reliability, and longevity.