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Msystems migrates DiskOnChip to open-source drivers

Sep 27, 2006 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 16 views

Flash pioneer Msystems is migrating its newest DiskOnChip flash storage chips to open-source drivers. Set for production this month, and targeting Linux phones, the mDOC H3 runs complex and commercially-sensitive flash management algorithms on an embedded ARM7-based controller, rather than… in the host driver.

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Bruce Perens and other open source leaders have long suggested that vendors cache commercially sensitive algorithms in microcontroller firmware, rather than in closed, binary-only host drivers. Closed drivers cause technical problems on many levels, and many in the open source community believe they run counter to the spirit, if not the letter, of Linux's GPL license.

Still, hardware vendors often rely on closed drivers, particularly when extreme market pressures cause rapid product design cycles. In the flash market, the proliferation of devices over the last several years has created extreme demand for higher densities and lower costs — all of which has led to lower innate device reliability, and a greater need for intellectual property capable of extracting as many reliable read and write cycles as possible, Msystems notes.

Msystems's currently shipping embedded flash drive (EFD), the mDOC H3, implements the company's “TrueFFS” wear-leveling filesystem and other flash management software needed to support multi-level cell (MLC) flash technology in closed Linux drivers.

However, as a result of an update to the mass production mDOC H3 chips set to ship this month, sensitive flash-filesystem IP has been migrated into the flash chips' embedded ARM7-based controller, allowing the chips to present a high-level NOR flash API to the OS (as indicated in the following diagram), and allowing for an open Linux driver.

The evolution of EFD drivers
(Source: Msystems)

Additional details about the flash market, Msystems technologies aimed at increasing flash reliability, the new mDOC H3 product, and the soon-to-be-released open-source mDOC H3 Linux drivers, can be found in a technical whitepaper from Msystems, available here at

Opening the door for the latest NAND flash in open source mobile platforms

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