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Safe guarding Mission Critical Data with Secure Solid State Drives

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w w w. m r c y. c o m WHITE PAPER 2 Protecting Data Today's military sensor and other high-performing processing systems generate massive amounts of data. Just a few years ago, Defense Ad- vanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) released details of Autono- mous Real-time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance (ARGUS-IS), that used an 18 Giga-Pixel camera capable of generating image sensor data at a rate of more than 30 GB per second. While it is typical to compress or process a small portion of the image, there are advantages to saving the raw data for future analysis. Currently, NAND flash is the only practical storage media capable of storing such large amounts of data in real- time. For this reason, it's not surprising that NAND flash, packaged as a Solid State Drive (SSD), are now a common component in defense equipment. Add security and SSDs become the ideal big-data secure storage solution for defense applications. What are Defense Grade SSDs? The proliferation of low-cost Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) SSDs makes them an appealing choice for use in defense applications; how- ever COTS SSDs are not always up to the task. COTS SSDs are designed for consumer and enterprise usage models and cannot always meet the requirements of defense applications. Defense applications are far more demanding than COTS environments and loss of data, or failure of the device, can have catastrophic consequences. An alternative to COTS SSDs is the Defense Grade SSD. Defense Grade SSDs are designed to a different set of requirements. Table 1 summarizes some of the key differences between COTS and Defense Grade SSDs. Table 1: COTS Vs Defense Grade SSDs Design Requirement Minimum COTS SSD Design Requirement Minimum Defense Grade SSD Design Requirement Cost Performance (ideal usage scenario) Performance (worst case usage scenario) or Media Endurance/Lifespan Overall Reliability Environmental robustness Physical ruggedization Security: • Production supply chain • Secure delivery options • Resilience against attack • Data at rest protection • Data protection with power off • Data protection with power on Long term availability (EOL) Customizability/Flexibility Requirement importance: = Insignificant, = Minor, = Moderate, = Severe COTS SSDs are designed to be inexpensive with a focus on performance in an ideal usage scenario. Defense Grade SSDs, by contrast, must meet a much wider range of requirements. Defense Grade SSDs need long term availability (EOL or End-Of-Life mitigation), enhanced security, rug- gedization, sustained performance, long term media endurance, and the best reliability possible. These characteristics can't be tacked on after a design is complete, they must be planned for, and incorporated into the product from the beginning of the design process. With a primary re- quirement for low cost, COTS SSDs often fall short of expectations when exposed to the real-life conditions of defense environments. An in-depth review of the application requirements for storage devices in defense applications highlights some of the differences between Defense Grade SSDs and COTS SSDs. Secure and rugged Environment is the most obvious difference between defense and COTS applications. COTS SSDs are designed to spend their life in climate con- trolled data centers, office environments, or at home. In these environ- ments, SSDs operate at stable temperatures, and seldom, if ever, are exposed to repeated severe shock and vibration. By contrast, shock, vi- bration, and temperature variations are frequent and extreme in defense environments. COTS SSDs operate over commercial temperature ranges and specify vibration ratings of 3 Grms (2-800 Hz) and a shock rating of 1500 G @ 0.5ms. Defense Grade SSDs specify continuous sustained operation over the entire industrial temperature range (-40 to +85 ˚C) with vibration ratings from 15-40 Grms (10-2000 Hz), and shock up to 3000 G @ 0.5 ms. Sustainability Equipment in defense applications can take 3-6 years or more to tran- sition from concept to full production. To avoid costly requalifications, components designed into these applications need long term availabil- ity. COTS SSDs typically have a product lifecycle of 1 to 3 years. This means that in the time it takes a defense design to go from concept to production a COTS SSD might attain EOL status twice. Defense Grade SSDs are designed to support long life-spans of 10 years or more. This is accomplished by incorporating commonly available components, and often, Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGAs) instead of Application Specific Integrated Circuit (ASICs). The reprogrammable nature of FPGAs allows Defense Grade SSDs to quickly recover from any controller bugs and to adapt to changes in new generations of NAND media. This is important because generations of NAND media reach end-of-life status every 24-48 months. Sometimes a customer ap- plication cannot accommodate a change to the NAND media. In these cases, the Defense Grade SSD manufacturer works with the customer to mitigate the EOL by banking a stock of NAND to provide for an extended product lifecycle. By contrast, COTS SSDs manufacturers abruptly end production of a SSD model and move to a next generation device. Determinism throttled by the warranty Another difference between COTS SSDs and Defense Grade SSDs is that of performance reduction under non-ideal usage scenarios. There are a few root causes to the performance loss. One source is warranty throttling. COTS SSD manufacturers can implement a feature in the SSD firmware that tracks the power-on time and number of bytes written to the NAND media. The SSD firmware includes algorithms designed to assure that the SSD fulfills its warranty period. For example, if the war- ranty period is 3 years, the firmware will slow down (throttle) perfor-

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