New group seeks NAND flash integration standard

May 10, 2006 – Hynix, Intel, Micron, and Sony are spearheading a new coalition of NAND flash memory suppliers aiming to develop a chip-level standard interface for NAND flash memory used in consumer electronics devices and computing platforms.

Supporting a new NAND flash component on a platform typically requires to software and hardware are often required, even if the new part is supplied by the same vendor, according to the Open NAND Flash Interface (ONFI) working group. New testing cycles for the additions generate extra costs, and can slow adoption for the new NAND flash devices.

The group seeks to simplify integration of NAND flash memory into host systems. The new interface will enable NAND devices to self-describe their capabilities to the host system, including memory layout, timing support, and enhanced features. It also will standardize the command set for NAND, provide flexibility for supplier-specific optimizations, and define common pin-outs in order to avoid board layout changes when using a new NAND device, as well as put infrastructure in place for future evolution of NAND capabilities.

The ONFI aims to have the spec completed sometime in 2H06. Founding members of the group include Hynix Semiconductor, Intel Corp., Micron Technology, Phison Electronics Corp., and Sony Corp., with more members announced later this quarter.

One notable name missing from the ONFI announcement is memory giant Samsung, which has supported other memory industry standards groups such as JEDEC, MIPI, and MMCA. In a Q&A document, ONFI explained that Samsung supports the objectives of the ONFI initiative, and that the group is working with the company to resolve some concerns on a few items in the ONFI legal agreements.

“Without a consistent specification for NAND flash interfaces, developers face an inefficient and error prone process for integrating NAND devices into new designs,” stated David Lin, VP of product marketing at Denali Software, adding that his company currently juggles several hundred simulation models to represent various NAND flash components. “Denali customers, and the industry at large, can benefit greatly from a standard that guarantees interoperability between devices,” he said.

“An improved common interface is critical to reducing or eliminating software changes and long qualification cycles when using a new NAND flash part,” stated Takashi Yamanishi, deputy GM of standards and partnership for Sony Corp. Added K.S. Pua, president of controller manufacturer Phison: “A standard interface enables us to anticipate the upcoming flash behavior, reduce firmware development effort and accelerate our product delivery schedule.”


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