Industrial, Industrial pSLC, Industrial MLC & Industrial 3D Flash Storage Devices - which solution is Right for my OEM System?


Cactus Grade Selector Tool


For almost two decades, industrial, Industrial pSLC, and Industrial MLC have been flash storage terms used by Cactus Technologies to describe our product offerings. With the advent of the Industrial 3D-TLC NAND, Cactus can now offer reliable, high-performance PCIe interface products and has created a new Industrial 3D category on our selector guide. Let's dig into what these different terms represent so you can determine the right flash storage solution for your embedded OEM system.

From a high level, here are the definitions of these four categories of flash storage products. All are used in Embedded OEM Systems and applications, but choosing the wrong part can lead to unforeseen failures.


Cactus Flash Storage Grades & Categories for OEM Systems:


INDUSTRIAL GRADE – Industrial Grade offers the Most Reliable, Highest Endurance & Data Retention flash storage solution. These products are based on SLC "Single Level Cell" NAND. Industrial Grade is the correct choice if you want a part that will operate without fail for decades in your application. A word of caution, pSLC "Pseudo Single Level Cell" NAND, as used in our Industrial pSLC products, is not as reliable as genuine SLC NAND since it's made from a lesser endurance MLC NAND component.

Industrial pSLC – Industrial pSLC provides Good Reliability at a Lower Cost, with Medium Endurance & Data Retention. These products are based on pSLC "Pseudo Single Level Cell" NAND, signifying it uses an MLC "Multi Level Cell" NAND component in a one-bit per cell mode. As the name implies, pSLC is "like" SLC, but it is not a substitute for the SLC used in Industrial Grade products if you need the highest level of reliability in the market.

Industrial MLC – Industrial MLC products offer a Lower Cost, Lower Endurance & Retention product that can meet many OEM system requirements. These parts are based on MLC "Multi Level Cell" NAND, which is substantially more robust than Consumer products using consumer 3D TLC "Tri Level Cell" NAND.

Industrial 3D – The latest category for the Cactus products is Industrial 3D. While PCIe is an interface, we gave it a separate category since it is an Extremely High-Performance interface, and we use INDUSTRIAL 3D TLC NAND to build these products. 3D memory has been in the market for several years, yet we can only consider the INDUSTRIAL 3D TLC version from Kioxia as viable to use at Cactus.

I’ll have an in-depth chart later on of what each of these grades represents so you, the OEM System designer, can decide what your type of application should use.


First, Key Characteristics of the Manufacturer & Supplier:


  • LOCKED-BOM – Why go through all the trouble testing a flash storage device for your OEM Systems when the production units you receive will be different? This is what happens with most manufacturers of flash storage. They regularly change the internal memory or controller silicon and the firmware. A Locked BOM (Bill-Of-Material) signifies no change in the components or firmware without customer notification. As the next bullet points out, how long this Locked-BOM stays in place is equally important.


  • LONG LIFE CYCLES – Consumer flash cards and SSD are constantly changing. The only thing guaranteed is that there is a certain form factor [Ex: 2.5” SATA SSD] and capacity point [Ex: 128GB]. What goes on inside the card or SSD packaging can be anything. For OEM Systems, it is important to ensure there is a Locked BOM and that it is available for a long time. The term, Long Life Cycles signify this long availability period. For example, Cactus’ Industrial Grade products can have a 10+ year life from launch to end of life with no changes to the product.


  • EXTENDED LIFE CYCLES – A quality supplier should be able to continue delivering the same Locked BOM product for months to years after the End Of Life of a particular memory and controller configuration. There needs to be a commitment on the side of the OEM purchasing these parts. Through bonding material against specific customer demand, a true supplier can extend the product life by months to years.


What Grade is Right for your OEM Application?


Grade Selector Table


As you can see by the chart above, you must define exactly what your application will require from the flash storage device. This way, you can determine what is needed to create your OEM System with an SSD good to perform reliably over your system’s expected life.

If you are an OEM system designer and would like more information on this or any other items related to flash storage in your design, please reach out to us for assistance.


Contact a Cactus Expert


Final Thoughts:


Cactus Technologies' focus is to make the most reliable Industrial Grade Flash Storage Devices based on SLC NAND memory, with a locked BOM (Bill-Of-Material) to ensure the performance and reliability characteristics never change over the many years of production.

We also offer Industrial pSLC and Industrial MLC products to meet budget-constrained applications and PCIe high-performance parts where speed is essential. We deliver these parts with many different form factors and interfaces to meet the needs of embedded OEM application designers everywhere.

If you need assistance with an OEM design or special features, please contact us.

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 LinkedIn.