Embedded Technology

Spotlight On: SMART modular technologies


ell me about SMART Modular Technologies, what are the main aims of the company and what has been its biggest

achievement so far?

SMART Modular Technologies has a 30+ year track record of providing memory and storage product support to many Tier 1 OEMs as well as industry start-ups.

We maintain long-term support relationships with companies like Cisco, NetApp, IBM, Ciena, and many others. These OEMs deeply appreciate the full range of SMART’s expertise and experience in key industry segments such as networking, telecom, storage, high performance computing, embedded computing and others. SMART helps many smaller companies, bringing the expertise we have developed in supplying the most demanding customers in key markets to customers of any size.

We design, develop and support a vast range of products incorporating leading-edge technologies across the full product lifecycle, to trailing edge less demanding designs while ensuring long-term availability. SMART also provides full product logistics support that aligns to meet customers’ very specific and rigorous requirements.

Briefly describe the embedded and memory products that have been launched or are currently in development/ production. What real world problems have they solved?

We make use of the latest memory technologies to deliver next-generation products. Today our customers are looking for solutions that align with new emerging interconnect standards including CXL, Gen-Z, OpenCAPI and CCIX. SMART has products like the Gen-Z Memory Module (ZMM), the OpenCAPI DDIMM (Differential DIMM) and is working on a CXL memory product. These interconnect standards help our customers deliver higher performance and ensure flexibility by addressing system bandwidth and latency challenges.

32 July/August 2020

CIE’s editor interviewed Arthur Sainio, director of product marketing, SMART modular technologies on the latest in embedded technology, the benefits of industry partnerships, and the future of the industry post pandemic

Arthur Sainio, director of product marketing

SMART has also been an industry leader with Persistent Memory which is a key enabler for system acceleration. Applications such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) benefit significantly from the use of non-volatile DRAM technology. Data-intensive workloads, such as Extract, Transform, Load (ETL) and checkpointing, use the persistent memory region within main memory to improve performance and eliminate bottlenecks because the NVDIMM operates at DRAM latencies (<100ns) and DRAM bandwidth (25.6GB/s). SMART offers a portfolio of Flash products where endurance, reliability and performance are aligned uniquely with specific application requirements. In addition to our removable products, we have a broad range of embedded solutions. Available in commercial and industrial grades, our embedded flash-based products, include M.2 SATA, mSATA, slim SATA, PCIe NVMe and eUSB form-factors.

What are the main applications for your products? What industries are you interested in providing for? Can you give a real-world example of the type of end-use application you would provide for?

Components in Electronics

SMART’s memory and storage products are used in a wide variety of applications. Memory is used as a place to keep volatile hot or warm data that is being collected, processed, analysed, transmitted, or transferred. DRAM memory is used as a system’s main memory because of its high-speed access, which accelerates performance. Some industry examples include High Performance Computing (HPC), industrial control, and networking and telecom switching and routing equipment. In HPC servers RDIMMs (Registered Dual inline Memory Modules) are used as main memory storage for genomic research, aviation design, weather modelling, and many other scientific applications where data is stored while it is being worked on. Similarly, SMART’s storage products, built with non-volatile Flash technologies, are used in many different applications. They are used primarily to store boot code, operating systems and cold data. The industries that use SMART’s storage products include telecom, networking, defence, industrial control and data centres. One example is a data management and protection platform used in the networking segment (pictured below). This system is using SMART’s 240GB M.2 2280 PCIe NVMe for boot drive and for data storage.

Have you worked in collaboration with any other industry players? Was it successful?

Yes. SMART collaborates extensively with industry and ecosystem partners, suppliers, and customers. Some partners include Intel, AMD, Xilinx, Samsung, Kioxia and several others. These relationships ensure we have access to the best semiconductor technology, as well as ensuring that partners, such as processor manufacturers, have the memory solutions they need to support their own production.

We have a long-term track record of profitability through many industry cycles.

This has been achieved by adapting quickly to changing situations and executing effectively to support our customer base through these cycles. Partnering with other companies is a key element of this success.

What is the main difficulty facing the embedded industry and what do you see as the next big trend in embedded technology?

The migration of Flash technology to quad-level cell (QLC) is one challenge for the embedded industry which requires high endurance and reliability. Although this new technology will reduce the cost per GB of storage, the lower endurance can be an issue for write-intensive embedded applications.

Long term end-product lifecycle support for both Flash and DRAM has always been an ongoing challenge for industrial system architects. While industries such as computing can migrate relatively easily to the next generation of technology, industry systems need to ensure long-term availability of the products they design in. Ensuring long-term availability is one of the benefits of working with a supplier like SMART that understands the issues embedded developers face.

What has been the impact of coronavirus on your production and general operations? We’ve seen minimal impact. Our factories have remained open and our staff is providing full customer support. We are refining and accelerating our business continuity plans to address the rapidly changing situation. It is important to us that we take measures focused on the well-being of our employees, while continuing to deliver products and services that our customers need. We have introduced many preventative measures to ensure our staff are kept as safe as possible.

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