Toshiba thinks that we need a new storage form factor. The Toshiba XFMEXPRESS the company will be showing off at Flash Memory Summit 2019 this week as it hopes to drum up support for a new standard of compact SSDs designed for an increasingly mobile world.
At STH, our Toshiba BG4 review is in the publishing queue. That product is a single BGA package SSD that can be mounted either on a motherboard for a small footprint or placed on a M.2 2230 (30mm) card to make it removable.
The problem that the company is facing is that embedded is great for footprint but is hard to service. Conversely, while M.2 is a big footprint advantage over 2.5″ SSDs, it is too big for many compact devices. The Toshiba XFMEXPRESS standard is designed to be both small and servicable while providing PCIe Gen3 and Gen4 speeds up to x4 lane widths.
A manufacturer can decide to use x1 to x4 PCIe lanes for their device and utilize either PCIe Gen3 or Gen4. With a PCIe Gen4 x4 link, there is a total of 8GB/s theoretical performance on tap.
There is an entire connector design that goes into the solution that is being developed by Toshiba and JAE. This connector maintains a small footprint, allows the SSDs to be serviced, and is designed with features like a metal top plate to aid in thermal dissipation, a problem M.2 SSDs are facing now.
The net result is a future removable SSD that is smaller than a US quarter dollar coin. Between the small size of the SSD and the low-profile connector that will enable thinner notebooks.
Notebook manufacturers are looking for ways to reduce PCB size to increase battery area or make devices smaller, and Toshiba hopes that XFMEXPRESS will be the answer. It also allows embedded device manufacturers and notebook makers to design a device with a single PCB and make storage a configure-to-order option.
The need here is easy to see. If you read STH’s Gigabyte MA10-ST0 Review, for example, you can see a solution where the eMMC was soldered onto the motherboard. If the eMMC fails, it requires a full motherboard replacement. Likewise, Gigabyte needs to build and stock a different SKU if it wants to change eMMC capacity. With Toshiba XFMEXPRESS those service and inventory issues are alleviated and moving to a PCIe-based solution adds significant more capacity and performance.
Key in this is that the ecosystem needs to expand. Toshiba coming out with this is good, but we need other manufacturers to join and customers to demand this solution for XFMEXPRESS to take off. That is one good reason we are seeing this just before Flash Memory Summit.