January 22, 2007 – A coalition of memory suppliers formed last spring to develop a chip-level standard interface for NAND flash memory has delivered its first specification, which the group says simplifies flash controller design to facilitate integration of a wide range of NAND flash components into diverse end-use applications.
The Open NAND Flash Interface (ONFI) 1.0 spec defines NAND device behavior, such as command and register sets, pin-out, electrical parameters and packaging. It also incorporates a “self-describe capability,” which enables the NAND flash to identify itself and provide key characteristics such as memory layout, timing support, and enhanced features to the controller, via a standardized protocol, according to ONFI. This capability expands the range of NAND flash components that can be accommodated, and enables support for new flash components with minimal software changes, the group noted.
ONFI’s next spec, to be ready sometime in 2H07, will incorporate faster interface transfer rates, a “block abstraction” capability that manages disparate NAND flash components, integrated ECC to improve performance, and separate power supply specifications (Vccq) for the NAND flash core and data I/O to improve device noise immunity, the group stated. Also included will be a definition for a flash-based module with a tailored, pluggable module connector, similar to DRAM modules used today.
“An increase in transfer rate in the next ONFI specification will be required to enable next generation consumer and industrial storage applications,” said Lane Mason, memory market analyst for Denali, in a statement provided by ONFI. “With many of the industry-leading companies involved, ONFI will help manufacturers integrate next generation NAND flash into future products to enhance performance, functionality and time-to-market.”
The ONFI working group, spearheaded by Hynix, Intel, Micron, and Sony in May 2006, now boasts nearly 40 members, but with one notable omission: memory giant Samsung, which has supported other memory industry standards groups such as JEDEC, MIPI, and MMCA. But in a previous 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.