Samsung's new eMMC drives promise faster mobile storage

— 6:00 AM on February 18, 2015

Samsung's has developed a new line of eMMC solutions that promises to accelerate the storage performance of next-gen mobile devices. The fingernail-sized memory cards are basically self-contained SSDs, and according to Samsung VP of Memory Marketing Jim Elliot, they're the first based on the latest eMMC 5.1 standard. The spec is so fresh it's not even listed on Jedec's website.

Elliot says eMMC 5.1 adds command queuing, a feature that's been around in SATA drives forever. Instead of executing commands in the order they arrive, queueing collects multiple commands and executes them in the order that makes the most sense. Performance should improve as a result, especially in multitasking scenarios. This Marvell presentation (PDF) from last year's Flash Memory Summit indicates that the eMMC 5.1 queue is 32 commands deep, just like SATA's Native Command Queuing implementation.

As one might expect, the new drives have better performance ratings than the eMMC 5.0 units Samsung announced in 2013. Sequential reads are unchanged at 250 MB/s, but writes are up from 90 MB/s to 125 MB/s. Random I/O rates have risen more dramatically, from 7k/7k IOps for reads/writes to 11k/13k IOps.

Storage capacities are unchanged at 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB. That probably means 128GB mobile devices will continue to be few and far between.

Samsung is "in the process of preparing to ship [its] first eMMC 5.1 products to some smartphone and tablet OEMs," according to Elliot. The drives will presumably be used in Samsung's own products, as well.

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