“Zero Data at Risk”: Embedded Storage Q&A

Stored data enables the discovery of patterns and more to support key choices across
consumer, industrial, and medical markets, which is why top-notch security remains paramount.

Editor’s Note: Hiep Pham is Virtium’s VP of R&D. C.S. Lin is a marketing executive with Winbond Electronics Corporation America. Both spoke with EECatalog recently, responding to questions on embedded storage issues.

EECatalog: If decision makers and influencers are becoming clearer on the IoT versus Industrial IoT differences, what are the next ideas they need to understand in order to make their IIoT competitive?

C.S. Lin, Winbond Electronics Corporation America

C.S. Lin, Winbond Electronics Corporation America: Despite their common foundation—that of efficient machine-to-machine interaction—IoT and IIoT present starkly contrasting security demands. IoT, due to its predominantly consumer-focused applications, requires a comparatively modest level of security, whereas IIoT simply can’t be competitive in today’s market without stringent security to prevent or minimize the risk as it collects and stores crucial data used to gain new insights to make critical decisions. Ideally, that security would be “baked in”—that is, architected directly into IIoT components, such as flash memory that is indispensable for every system.

Hiep Pham, Virtium: IIoT designs need to be undertaken holistically. Rather than focus on facilitating simple commands between IIoT devices, the system-design process needs to focus on key values for IIoT end-points that are often deployed in hard-to-reach and harsh environments. These values include: extended life endurance, security, connectivity, remote manageability and most importantly, zero data at risk. Intelligent, secure storage with continuous, reliable data logging is an important element in maintaining zero data at risk.

EECatalog: What changes in the storage market over the past five years have you seen change customer behavior, and how have you adapted?

Hiep Pham, Virtium

Pham, Virtium: The storage market clearly has matured. Capacities keep experiencing huge leaps, while the number of consumer devices that use some form of flash storage seems limitless. But what’s truly astounding is how machine learning and artificial intelligence have impacted cloud storage and servers, as they enable IIoT systems to leverage not only a mature infrastructure of networked storage, but also data analytics at the network edge. This leads to improved system efficiency, performance, and the ability to monitor and manage critical functions at remote locations. This is the approach we’ve been taking in our StorFly-IoT network-connected platform.

Lin, Winbond: As evidenced by hundreds of Winbond customers’ products, code storage has taken on ever-increasing importance in system designs. This is because it moves essential code quickly between flash devices and other system elements, such as system memory. Of course, those customers are also putting a much higher importance on securing that code storage, so they’re relying more on security schemes such as our TrustME Secure Flash architecture. Integrated directly into select flash memories, the TrustME Secure Flash architecture enables trust by enhancing advanced Flash memory technology with smart card security techniques. It also adheres to the Arm Platform Secure Architecture, which clearly outlines a requirement for secure boot, root of trust, and secure storage.

EECatalog: How can storage solutions support such evolving technologies as human machine interactions and augmented reality to strengthen IIoT?

Pham, Virtium: The combination of a central cloud server with storage/processing and remote intelligent IIoT solid-state storage serves to reduce the human-machine interaction and shift toward machine-to-machine systems. So, in that sense, the way today’s storage solutions are evolving is by enabling humans to confidently rely on intelligent storage at the edge to help streamline machine-to-machine operations.

EECatalog: Why take the long view when it comes to ups and downs in the storage market?

Lin, Winbond: It’s impossible to not take the long view in flash memory, whether for consumer products, enterprise systems or industrial designs. To neglect looking forward risks product failure, if not that of the entire business. Winbond is constantly looking several steps ahead with its flash memories—beyond what our customers have in the works and toward where we see markets heading years down the road, such as Winbond’s 1.2V family of low-voltage serial flash products designed for long-view market demands. But again, a central requirement remains securing the data stored.

Pham, Virtium: The world is moving steadily toward machine learning and AI—so the reliability of data has never been more important. With all the ups and downs in the storage market, there’s one constant: the need for all data to be managed and stored securely. That’s been the case for years and we shouldn’t expect it to change any time soon. Virtium was built on the foundational belief that data needs to be both protected and accessible, regardless of the environment—the same view we’ve had since our founding more than 20 years ago.

EECatalog: What IIoT issues are not getting the attention they deserve, and how can that situation be remedied?

Pham, Virtium Some IIoT system designers would do well to be reminded that one size does not fit all. This is particularly true with SSDs; the IIoT application determines form factors, interfaces, capacities, power requirements, and ability to withstand shock, vibration and extreme temperatures. Having a broad range of SSD options specifically tailored for] industrial IoT, as well as very long product life cycles, is what we do—and that helps remedy these IIoT challenges.

Lin, Winbond: I don’t mean to beat this drum incessantly, but the need to design in adequate security simply can’t be overstated. More than ever, we live in a time in which data and code are currency—often worth more than the systems that store it. We at Winbond are working diligently to remedy this by partnering with our customers and organizations such as ARM to bring security flash memory the seriousness it deserves.