Industrial SSDs

Industry-leading Storage for the most demanding applications

StorFly® SSDs come in three classes:  CE (MLC), XE (pSLC) and PE (SLC). TuffDrive® solutions are ideal for heavy-duty networking and embedded applications that require a modest amount of storage for non-SATA designs.

Virtium’s SSDs are made for extreme conditions in industrial embedded applications – including industrial temp (-40ºC to 85ºC), shock and vibration proofing. All SSDs feature StorKit™ SSD Software that includes: vtGuard®, vtSecure® vtView® and vtTools™ modules, built for optimization, security, monitoring and prolonging SSD life and easy qualification.

SSD Selector

Available Q4, 2020.


SSD Learning Videos

Videos Courtesy of Hyperstone:


Q1: Is there a utility/tool or operation guide for SMART command?

A1: A SMART attribute description for StorFly drives is available. Customers can issue standard SMART commands to get SMART data.

Q2: What is Virtium’s over-provisioning percentage?

A2: SSD manufacturers implement various methods to improve performance, and one of these is to allocate more free space, a process known as over-provisioning.​ Virtium’s over-provisioning percentage for standard part numbers is typically 7% of the capacity. For custom part numbers, this value can be set to any value that customers need.

Q3: What is the spare capacity of an overprovisioned drive (resulting in reduced user capacity) used for?

 A3: The over-provisioned capacity that nets 240GB, for example, is primarily used for flash management to help reduce write amplification and improve wear-leveling efficiency as well as increase the number of spare blocks for bad/worn block replacement resulting in improved drive endurance.

Q4: Can a SATA 6Gb drive be configured for 3Gb access only (i.e. can automatic selection of either 6Gb/3Gb be disabled)?

 A4: Fixed 3Gb mode can be supported in a custom configuration (under custom part#).

Q5: How does StorFly SATA negotiate the SATA link speed?

A5: During the power-up sequence, the host will issue Identify Drive, Mode Sense, and Read commands. The StorFly device will respond with Identify Device data (specifically word 76 – Serial ATA capabilities) as shown in the StorFly datasheet. The drive will negotiate from its highest SATA link mode (SATA-III/6Gb) first and then work down to lower modes until a successful negotiation is established.

Q6: Do StorFly drives support TRIM?

 A6: All StorFly drives support TRIM.

Q7: How do StorFly drives maintain steady performance over the life of the drive? Does Virtium precondition its drives?

 A7: All Virtium drives are preconditioned (program/erase drive 2 times) during test so documented performance numbers are based on “steady-state” performance meaning that no appreciable performance degradation should occur over life of drive. If a customer wishes to see the same steady-state performance in their application then they should also precondition the drives before deploying. Otherwise, the TRIM feature in the drive firmware helps to minimize performance degradation, although there may be some small latency effects at certain times when the drive is conducting flash management activities including TRIM, garbage collection, mapping table updates, etc. This is true of all SSDs from any vendor.

Q8: Does Virtium fully test each drive before shipping it out?

 A8: Yes, Virtium’s production test covers a full drive write on every drive. This means we write and verify every LBA of each drive before we ship out. We also test at industrial temperatures for I-temp rated configurations.

Q9: When do Virtium drives become read only?

 A9: Drives become read only when spare = 0, regardless of life remaining.

Q10: Do Virtium drives stop working when the SMART attribute life remaining is zero?

 A10: The drive will still run when life remaining = 0 and will continue to run for a while. However, it is not recommend to keep running when life = 0 as it can fail any time after that.

Q11: Could you clarify the difference between SMART attribute 0xA1 and 0xF9?

 A11: SMART attribute 0xA1 (161) = Number of remaining spare blocks SMART attribute 0xF9 (249) = Percentage of remaining spare blocks​ If the initial spare block count is 100, then both values will be identical – 50 spare blocks remaining equals 50%. If the initial spare block count is 110, then the values will be different – 50 spare blocks remaining equals 45%. Additionally, users can benefit from Virtium’s vtView software, which provides a time-based estimate of the remaining spare blocks versus a percentage.

Q12: What is the NAND endurance of MLC, iMLC, and SLC and how do I read it?

A12: CE class (MLC, *1X with 3-year warranty) Example: 240 GB, 601 TBW / 2.3 DWPD (3 years) XE class (iMLC, offers 7X endurance compared to CE with 5-year warranty) Example: 240 GB, 4207 TBW / 9.6 DWPD (5 years) PE class (SLC, offers 30X endurance compared to CE with 5-year warranty) Example: 256 GB, 23,880 TBW / 51 DWPD (5 years) *Endurance baseline = one entire drive-write-per-day for the entire warranty period. Results are higher/lower based on various read/write workloads.

Q13: What is the difference between M.2 keys: B, M, and B+M?

A13: Currently an M.2 SSD has either one of three key types: B, M, or B+M. 1) ‘B’ keying (pins 12-19) gives PCI Express SSDs up to 2x lanes of bandwidth. 2) ‘M’ keying (pins 59-66) provides PCI Express SSDs with up to 4x lanes of bandwidth. ​​​ Note: Even with 2x lanes of bandwidth, a ‘B’ keyed M.2 SSD still gives 10Gbit/s performance, whereas the 4x lanes on ‘M’ give up to 20Gbit/s. 3) M.2 SSDs with B+M keying maximize compatibility in both slots, and will operate with 2x lanes of bandwidth.​​ See image below. connectors

Q14: What is Virtium’s secure erase and how does it work?

A14: The user issues a SATA command to implement a secure erase, which will physically erase all user data blocks including spare areas. Virtium’s secure erase is persistent over power cycles. If the drive loses power during the erase, it will automatically resume erasing upon subsequent power cycles.

Q15: What is AHCI?

A15: AHCI is a technical standard that specifies the operation of Serial ATA (SATA) host bus adapters in a non-implementation-specific manner. AHCI stands for Advanced Host Controller Interface. ​AHCI mode must be enabled to use Native Command Queuing (NCQ) or Hot Plugging (aka Hot Swapping) functionality as well as Power Management in SATA storage devices.

Q16: Why does Virtium use tantalum capacitors in our designs?

A16: We use tantalum capacitors as a part of our vtGuard power down protection technology for StorFly and TuffDrive SSDs. Tantalum capacitors have the best energy density for small form factor SSDs like eUSB, CF, M.2, mSATA, Slim SATA, and CFast. Tantalum capacitors also offer a wide operating temperature range making them ideal for use in industrial environments. 

Q17: What type of conformal coat does Virtium use?

A17: The material is acrylic Humiseal 1B31.​ 

Q18: What is MIL-STD-810? Which Virtium products are compliant?

A18: MIL-STD-810 is a US military standard that specifies a set of environmental conditions (i.e. extreme temperatures, high shock/vibration) that the product must meet for compliance. All Virtium StorFly SSDs support the MIL-STD-810F environmental standard. Tests conducted include EMI, temperature, operating/non-operating shock, operating/non-operating vibration, and altitude testing.

Q19: What is garbage collection?

A19: ​Flash memory is grouped into pages, which is the smallest amount of flash that can be written. Pages are collected into blocks, which is the smallest amount of flash that can be erased. Flash memory must be erased before it can be programmed. Due to these two different sizes, during operation, pages are rewritten to other pages and the older pages are left behind in the block. Garbage collection is the process where the controller reclaims blocks by moving all valid pages from a block so that it can be erased and used again to store new data. This combining of the still valid blocks into a new block will increase writes to the flash beyond what the user is requesting, also known as write amplification. This is analogous to HDD defragmentation where all the files are realigned to improve performance. In SSDs, this realigning of data is creating space for new data to be stored in the flash.

Q20: What is write amplification (WA) or write amplification factor (WAF)?

A20: ​Write amplification (WA) is defined as the number of writes to the flash divided by the number of writes by the user. A perfect system would have a WAF of 1​. ​Sequential writes have a WAF near 1 due to the ease of aligning the write data to the page and block boundaries. As entire blocks get rewritten, entire blocks can be erased and the garbage collection is minimized. Random writes will generate a much higher WAF due to all the garbage collection required to move valid data to create spare blocks to be written to. See FAQ on garbage collection.

Q21: What happens when the SSD's spares run out during a large file transfer?

A21: ​When an OS writes a big file, it typically breaks down the big file into several write commands. If the spare SMART attribute reaches 0 during this large 50MB file write operation, the first few write commands (0 to 10MB, before spare is 0) should still go through. The last few write commands (10 to 50MB, after spare is 0) will abort, resulting in an incomplete file.

Q22: Will vtView work with first generation VSFA series SSD?

A22: ​vtView is not supported on first generation VSFA series.

Q23: How to tell if a drive is in SATA II 3Gbps?

A23: ​Check ATA-ACS word ID:76 bit 3 which should show “0”. This bit is automatically disabled when the drive is reinitialized with max SATA interface speed of 3Gbps.
Encryption FAQs

Q1: How does self-encryption differ from other common SSD (e.g. software) encryption solutions?

A1: Self-encrypting drives include dedicated AES encryption engines that do not require software to run on the host. Dedicated hardware encryption typically has superior performance compared to software based solutions. Software can also be corrupted or negated whereas hardware cannot as software runs under an operating system that is vulnerable to viruses and other attacks. Furthermore, an operating system, by definition, provides open access to applications and thus exposes these access points to improper use. Hardware-based security can more effectively restrict access from the outside, especially to unauthorized use.

Q2: What is unique about Virtium’s SED solution?

 A2: SED is the industry’s only true industrial SSD solution supporting all SATA formats including those like Slim SATA, mSATA and CFast that are not typically supported by competitive solutions. Virtium is also one of the few that supports all StorFly drive classes including SLC (PE), iMLC (XE) and CE (MLC).

Q3: What are some key features and corresponding benefits of the SED product?

 A3: In order of importance: Feature 1: integrated AES encryption engine with self-encrypting capabilities Benefit: no burden on host system and no extra host encryption elements required. Feature 2: supports rapid sanitization via “crypto-erase” as well as standard secure erase Benefit: sanitizes SED in milliseconds, at very low power and is unaffected by power loss to SED; secure erase wipes all NAND blocks including spare area. Feature 3: supports all SATA formats, not just 2.5” and M.2 like most competitors Benefit: first industrial SSD supporting full range of embedded form-factors providing system designers with options previously unavailable. Feature 4: supports all StorFly drives including SLC (PE), iMLC (XE) and MLC (CE) Benefit: wide range of endurance and performance options to meet most any application and price target. Feature 5: supports industrial operating temperatures (-40Cº to 85Cº) Benefit: extends new levels of security to designs in extreme operating conditions.

Q4: Which Virtium products does SED support?

A4: SED supports StorFly SATA and PCIe SSDs as well as TuffDrive USB solutions. 

Q5: Is the encryption automatic or does it require a user command?

A5: Encryption is automatic and does not require any special commands by the user/host.

Q6: Can the encryption be disabled?

 A6: Encryption cannot be disabled in the SED solution. Each SED solution has an equivalent non-encryption solution that can be ordered under its own part number.

Q7: How is the key on the drive protected?

 A7: The original encryption key value is generated in the factory by an on-board random number process; it never leaves the drive. When the drive is configured by the user (or IT), the authorization key is used to encrypt the encryption key inside the drive, so the key is never stored in the clear. The encryption key can be changed by the user administration function (IT department), which ensures that anybody who might have had possession of the drive before the user puts it into service could not have obtained any information that might help in later retrieving data from the drive.

Q8: What happens to data in flight?

A8: Different and proven techniques (e.g. SSL/TNS) are used to protect data in flight. Self-encrypting drives are focused on data at rest.

Q9: How is the access to the drive secured to allow only the Authorized user to access it? Is there a boot-up password that is entered via a BIOS dialog?

A9: When the BIOS requests the Master Boot Record (MBR) from the drive, the drive instead returns the pre-boot record to the user. This pre-boot record is a complete, though quite restricted OS, usually something simple like MS-DOS or LINUX. The pre-boot image requests the Authentication Credentials from the user, which are passed to and checked directly by the drive logic. If accepted, then the drive returns the MBR and the OS is loaded. Important point: This pre-boot authentication is the FIRST thing that happens and is controlled by the drive directly. This has the added advantages of not modifying the MBR, which many software encryption products do, and allowing the MBR to be encrypted like all other user accessible data. Virtium also supports customizable “secure boot” options built on the OPAL trusted send/receive command. As the SED does not provide protection from unauthorized viewing, it is recommended to use the supported ATA security commands set passwords for preventing unauthorized access which, when used in conjunction with data encryption, makes the data on the drive unreadable for unauthorized users.

Q10: What happens to data if the DEK is stored in drive space that goes bad? Is the data lost or is there any way to recover?

A10: An SED is used to protect the one copy of data stored on that one drive. Good security practice dictates that important data is backed up somewhere else for recovery. To mitigate the occasional bad sector issue, Virtium’s SED stores the encryption key in several storage locations, thus greatly minimizing the chance that all encrypted copies are lost.

Q11: How is data recovery from a crashed SED handled?

A11: If the encrypted data, the DEK, and the Authentication Key are not available, then the data is NOT recoverable from that one drive. However, good security practice encourages valuable data to be backed up. Simply retrieve the back-up copy.

Q12: Is drive sanitization now a thing of the past?

A12: Drive sanitization is still required but is much easier now. Using supported vendor commands, the host can randomize the SED’s internal AES key – rendering the data unreadable (erased for all intent and purposes) almost instantly and at very low power. Virtium’s sanitization method satisfies the NIST 800-88 sanitization requirements. The same vendor command also initiates a secure erase of the SSD which includes the wiping of data from all NAND blocks including the spare area.

Q13: What happens if the sanitization / secure erase is interrupted from a loss of power, does it need to be manually restarted?

A13: Virtium’s sanitization method is persistent across power cycles, meaning that if the SED loses power, the sanitization/erase will resume automatically upon power being supplied to the SED.”

Q14: What is the time difference between sanitizing an encrypted vs non-encrypted drive?

A14: The time difference depends on the size of the drive. It takes less than a second to erase/ overwrite the DEK in an SED, irrespective of the capacity. It can take hours-to-days to overwrite a large capacity non-SED drive. 

Q15. Are there any countries where encryption based products cannot be shipped?

A15: SEDs have received EXPORT licenses from the U.S. Dept/Commerce/BIS but there are some countries that the U.S. federal government does restrict shipments to as they are considered dangerous. There are several web sites that track this information and it is best that the user check before shipping any encryption products. One should also keep in mind that an SED is not a general purpose encryption tool. The cipher-text is not available to the user; rather, it exists on the drive media.

Q16: What security standards are supported with SED?

A16: Virtium SEDs are compatible with the pre-boot authentication environment and authentication features in the Trusted Computing Group (TCG) Opal 2.0 standard. Sanitization features also satisfy NIST Special Publication 800-88 Revision 1 sanitization requirements.