SCSIFlash: modernising outdated memory hardware in the field

9th February 2024
Harry Fowle

Solid State Disks has introduced the SCSIFlash-Fast, a modern alternative designed to replace or upgrade old electromechanical hard disk drives (HDDs) that utilise the SCSI interface.

Initially offered with 68- and 80-pin connectors, this solution boasts write speeds reaching up to 80MB/s. It leverages the established SCSI drive structure and incorporates industrial-grade CFast or M.2 SSD memory, offering storage options from 2GB to 1TB. The device is equipped with adaptable hardware features, enabling Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) or those tasked with maintaining legacy systems to seamlessly substitute or enhance outdated HDDs from the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s, thereby boosting system dependability and security.

The urgency for this solution was clear when speaking with James Hilken, Sales & Marketing Director at Solid State Disks, at Southern Manufacturing & Electronics 2024. Many sectors are being hit with the reality that their outdated memory solutions are coming to a true ‘end-of-life’ scenario in which even refurbished replacements aren’t available, hence the need for a new solution.

“There are several computer-based systems in use within aerospace, defence, manufacturing, medical, telecommunications and other sectors that were designed decades ago and were fitted with then state-of-the-art SCSI hard disk drives. With their moving parts, these long-obsolete drives are increasingly failing. Our SCSIFlash-Fast drive is a highly reliable swap-in replacement for virtually any SCSI hard disk drive that’s more than 20 years old.”

The SCSIFlash-Fast is tailored to each order, designed to precisely mimic the SCSI HDD it is meant to replace, eliminating the need for any modifications to the host system. This feature is crucial for systems where alterations are either not permitted (due to certification of the system's functionality, which is more common in these older, less standardised systems) or are not cost-effective. Solid State Disks’ SCSIFlash-Fast is adaptable to the specific SCSI version of the host system, including SASI, SCSI-1, SCSI-2, or Ultra3, and allows for disk sector sizes of 256, 512, 768, 1024, 2048, or 4096. It also offers flexibility in configuration, such as the preloading of data, to meet the specific needs of the replacement or upgrade scenario.

“We have made it possible to remove an old-tech SCSI drive and insert a SCSIFlash-Fast and the host system will not detect the difference,” adds Hilken. “Also, because ours is a solid-state drive it is far more reliable than the drive it replaces, is more secure, draws less power and is quieter. It can also be networked, thanks to an optional Ethernet port, which means it can be accessed remotely for backups and system reboots, for example.”

This Ethernet capability is something that Hilken strongly believes brings these older systems back into the modern age, allowing them to perform things such as routine backups and have access to improved data transfer methods. Before this, these older systems would be more or less completely cut off from these methods.

The 80-pin SCSIFlash-Fast variant.

The device also hosts the capability to automatically switch between 16- or 8-bit data operations and supports both single-ended (SE) and low voltage differential (LVD) signalling. A single SCSIFlash-Fast unit can accommodate multiple SCSI addresses and logical unit numbers (LUNs), enhancing its adaptability in various system configurations. Furthermore, its microcode can be easily updated in the field through a USB connection, ensuring that the device can be kept up-to-date with the latest software enhancements.

Requiring a 5VDC power supply, the SCSIFlash-Fast is energy-efficient, consuming only 0.8W, in addition to the variable power draw of the storage media, which depends on the type of memory used. It is designed to fit seamlessly into systems, with a form factor that matches the industry-standard 3.5” disk drive, measuring 102 x 147 x 25mm.

For Hilken though, the importance of being able to offer a solution to a growing problem that is catastrophic if left unchecked is the key factor. Integral industries in both private and governmental sectors are being hit by a problem that will only continue to grow more out of hand. Avionics, military, industrial, and healthcare are fundamentals of the modern age that are still running on technology from up to 40 years ago, keeping these afloat, and importantly up-to-date, is crucial to longevity. Whilst this solution is primarily targeting the increasingly obsolete 8-bit SCSI problem, there is also increasing demand for 16-bit solutions as well, something that Solid State Disks’ solution is ready to address. Hilken is enthusiastic that as the demand shifts, so to will Solid State Disks’ offerings to meet them.

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