How to Use Industrial CFast in Embedded Applications?

Industrial Grade CFast cards are a follow on to the successful Industrial CompactFlash cards which have been used in embedded applications for decades. CFast is in a very similar package as the Compact Flash cards, but has a SATA electrical interface.

The higher performance and support by the CompactFlash Association makes Industrial CFast cards a compelling solution for any new industrial embedded OEM design.

What is a CFast Card?

The CFast card is a flash storage module based on an industry standard published and maintained by the CompactFlash Association. The CompactFlash Association created the CFast specification in 2008 to provide a higher performance and up-to-date SATA interface to a form factor similar to Compact Flash.

As with the CompactFlash, the CFast has a standard host interface so all the flash management functions are handled by the controller internal to the CFast card. But the CompactFlash and CFast cards cannot be used in the same connector system due to their different interfaces.

Unlike CompactFlash, with its 50-pin female connector, CFast cards have a different style of female connector with two different sections. A 7-pin SATA section and a 17-pin Power and Control line section. A detailed description of these pins is in the chart below.

What are the Physical Dimensions of a CFast Card?

CFast cards are available in one physical size with the same length and width as the CompactFlash cards. At 3.6mm including the label thickness, the CFast height is slightly larger than the standard type I CF cards.

Length36.4 mm
Width42.8 mm
Thickness (incl. Label)3.6 mm

CFast Performance:

There are varying performance CFast cards available in the market. Which one is right for your OEM design depends on your application. Extremely reliable CFast cards with slower performance may be the right choice for an embedded system, but an extremely fast card with limited endurance may be the best choice for a consumer video application.

What is an Industrial Grade CFast Card?

Industrial Grade CFast cards are made with SLC NAND flash memory. They are also known as SLC CFast for this reason. These products are designed for high reliability and endurance with over 2 Million Endurance cycles per logical block.

There are 2 other varieties of CFast:

  • Commercial Grade (made with MLC NAND flash)
  • Consumer Grade (made with TLC NAND flash)

For an in-depth review of the differences see:

CFast Configuration with Physical Write Protect Switch:

There are different configurations of CFast as well as special feature options available. The Physical Write Protect Switch option is popular for several applications.

In cases where data is gathered and needs to protected or where data is preloaded and cannot be overwritten, Cactus offers a CFast card with a physical write protect switch on the back rail. This Industrial Grade CFast is in our 900S Series.

For OEMs of reliable embedded systems, Cactus can assist with your choice of flash storage device and suggest options to increase reliability. Please contact us for more details.

Steve Larrivee has over 30 year's experience in the data storage market, including 5 years at Seagate Technology and 10 years at SanDisk. He joined Cactus Technologies Limited as an equity partner and Co-Founded Cactus USA in 2007 with partner Tom Aguillon. Learn more about Steve on Google+