New SSD platform leverages PCIe Gen 5 NAND flash controllers

Check out more coverage from the Flash Memory Summit 2022.

Silicon Motion has rolled out its latest family of NVMe NAND flash memory controllers to support PCIe Gen 5, promising improved performance, reliability and security for storage hardware installed in data centers.

The controllers are key components of the company’s new NVMe SSD platform, called MonTitan, which is ideal for enterprise cloud and on-premises data centers that crave more memory bandwidth and performance. Silicon Motion said the massive amount of data processed in these sprawling server farms drives the need for faster, higher-capacity flash storage, which MonTitan is equipped to handle.

At the heart of the MonTitan platform is the high-performance Arm-based SM8366 memory controller. The SoC supports the NVMe SSD and NVMe 2.0a specifications defined by the Open Compute Project (OCP). Made on a 12nm node, the dual-port flash memory controller features up to 4 PCIe Gen 5 lanes that can support a multitude of configurations, including independent x2/x2 interfaces.

According to Silicon Motion, flash memory controllers can deliver over 14 GB/s of sequential read/write speed and three million random input/output operations per second (IOPS). The new chip can support up to 16 channels of NVMe NAND flash at data rates of up to 2400 MT/s, twice the speed of its predecessor. It can handle a maximum storage capacity of 128TB, with support for up to 128 namespaces.

The chip contains a single or dual channel DDR4-3200 and DDR5-4800 DRAM interface and comes in a 21×21mm FCBGA package that fits U.2, E1.S and E3.S form factors. The MonTitan family also includes the SM8308, which has the same feature set as its high-end counterpart but can only support up to eight channels of NAND.

A flash memory controller is a class of special processors that fit into SSDs. They are used to communicate with storage when the server processor needs to read, write or erase data from NAND flash memory.

More advanced flash controllers are needed to stay ahead of the demand for higher storage capacities and faster performance in data centers, which has intensified competition in the category in recent years.

Last year, Marvell Technology rolled out its first family of NVMe NAND flash controllers to support PCIe Gen 5, called Bravera SC5, which will compete with MonTitan. The company said Bravera SC5 is capable of delivering up to 14 GB/s of throughput and up to 2 million random IOPS, giving it approximately double the performance of its PCIe Gen 4 line. The chips can coordinate up to 16 channels of NVMe 1.4 flash NAND.

“SSD storage solutions are evolving to meet new challenges in data centers, which require changes in storage platforms and operating models,” said Nelson Duann, SVP of Marketing and R&D at SiliconMotion.

Silicon Motion hopes to make a splash with MonTitan. He touted testimonials from several companies planning to evaluate the platform and potentially use it in their data centers, including Meta and Alibaba.

But the flash memory controller is only one dimension of the MonTitan platform. The chips are backed by a user-programmable firmware stack and software development kit (SDK). According to the company, its proprietary “layered firmware” stack enables customers to develop differentiated solutions with a high degree of flexibility and rapid time to market, while controlling engineering costs.

Silicon Motion said MonTitan also acts as a reference design, giving cloud service providers and tech giants a blueprint to evaluate and integrate the SM8366 into their massive data centers.

Maintaining data integrity and security is a top priority in the data center. Thereby, MonTitan includes hardware root of trust (RoT), secure boot, attestation, AES-256 cryptography, and other security features.

Equipped with the next generation of its LDPC engine, Silicon Motion said MonTitan can connect to and improve the endurance of storage hardware based on a range of flash memory technologies, including the latest high-density 3D QLC NAND. The platform now works with Kioxia’s BiCS NAND and XL-Flash 3D memory, Micron’s 176-layer QLC 3D NAND, and a host of YMTC’s 3D NAND products.

Scheduled to begin sampling in late 2022, MonTitan is “designed to meet the unique demands of data centers now while providing flexibility and programmability to meet evolving future standards,” Duann said.

Check out more coverage from the Flash Memory Summit 2022.