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Vendors pledge to make Flash as easy to upgrade as RAM

Open Flash spec published

Intelligent flash storage arrays

Intel, Hynix, Micron, Sony and the other companies behind the Open NAND Flash Interface (ONFI) have announced the specification is complete and ready to use to break the proprietary link between Flash memory and controller chips. It now plans to make Flash as easy to upgrade as RAM.

If widely adopted, the ONFI 1.0 spec will allow device makers to mix and match controllers and memory from different vendors. The specification defines the NAND chip's electrical characteristics, packaging design and what commands it will accept from the controller.

The specification also allows the memory chip to report its specifications to the controller. This should allow gadget makers to increase their products' Flash storage capacity without having to design them around a set capacity.

The ONFI initiative was launched in May 2006. But while the organisation behind to now numbers many of the great and the good of the storage arena - and Flash in particular - among its members, Samsung, the world's biggest producer of NAND Flash chips, remains notable by its absence.

With the ONFI 1.0 specification under their collective belt, the members said they would now turn to increasing the speed at which data can be transferred in and out of the Flash chips. They will also grow the chips' command set, allowing controller devices to become less complex. That, they hope, will make it cheaper to implement Flash, widening the range of applications to which the storage technology can be put.

It also wants to define an interconnect standard to allow Flash memory to become replaceable with a module swap, just like regular RAM. The next incarnation of the ONFI specification, set to include all these features, is scheduled for publication during H2. ®

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