Should flash hardware look like UBI?

Thomas Gleixner tglx at
Tue Oct 6 07:21:45 EDT 2009


On Mon, 5 Oct 2009, David Woodhouse wrote:

> I just posted which
> laments the common view that future flash storage will just look like a
> disk (SSD/eMMC/etc.). I don't think we want that, for the reasons given
> there.

You forgot to mention that the pre SSD FLASH storage (USB sticks, CF
Cards ...) already have provided a proven track record of
unreliability. I still have the recommendation of keeping the power
supply stable for min. 400ms after the last access to the device which
I got from a well known "industrial grade" manufacturer.

I admit that certain SSD manufacturers seem to have slightly more
clue, but that does not change the fact that we need to implement a
filesystem on top of another filesystem.

> But I've also been thinking about exactly what we _do_ want. We
> certainly want something a little more capable than the raw interface to
> NAND flash that ONFI provides.
> For a start, we want ECC to be built-in. We don't want to have to do
> correction in software, and we want a 'copy page' command that's
> actually useful -- we want it to apply ECC corrections rather than
> copying any flipped bits faithfully. Although we probably do want the
> _option_ to read the raw data still, without attempting to correct it.

> We _also_ want the capability to do GC and block replacement for
> ourselves, taking the opportunity to optimise the file system layout as
> we do so. So we want to be _told_ about how many errors were fixed when
> we read a block, and we also probably want to be told if we have to
> recycle an eraseblock for other reasons (write disturb, etc.)
> However, it's acceptable for the device to automatically move data for
> us, if the OS lacks that capability or doesn't want to bother.

Hmm, that's going to be a nightmare. Either let the OS sort it out or
let the Firmware deal with it.
> We don't _necessarily_ mind if the device hides bad blocks for us, and
> if it maintains a logical<->physical mapping of eraseblocks. That kind
> of thing has been done by hard drives for years, and it's simple enough
> that they _ought_ to be able to get it right. Although the reliability
> testing on Toshiba LBA-NAND shows that it's obviously possible to screw
> it up too :)

Hmm, we have seen in the past how poorly implemented the logical <->
physical mappings have been and how naive the wear levelling approach
was in such devices. I'm not too confident that the manufacturers
actually have improved that in a significant way.
> It occurs to me that the interface that UBI presents to the higher
> layers is actually a fairly close fit to what we want from hardware.
> And where it _isn't_, there's something to be said for changing UBI to
> match what we want. With notifications for 'block recycle needed', for
> reading blocks without actually returning the data, just to check if the
> ECC shows any bitflips, etc.)

Which makes me wonder whether we could have access to the CPU which
runs inside of SSDs and just implement UBI on it. :) 

Open Source Firmware for SSDs would allow us to optimize the
filesystem <-> storage device interaction even better.



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