Marvell Announces NVMe Controller for DRAM-Less PCIe 3.0 x2 SSDs

Marvell Announces NVMe Controller for DRAM-Less PCIe 3.0 x2 SSDs

Marvell has announced its new controller for affordable and miniature SSDs, the 88NV1160. The chip can be used to build small form-factor SSDs in M.2 as well as BGA packages. The 88NV1160 supports all modern and upcoming types of NAND flash, LDPC error correction, NVMe protocol and other advantages of modern SSD controllers, but it does not require external DRAM buffers so to reduce BOM costs of upcoming SSDs.

The Marvell 88NV1160 is a quad-channel controller that supports PCIe 3.0 x2 interface, NVMe 1.3 protocol (in addition to AHCI) as well as various types of NAND flash memory, including 15 nm TLC, 3D TLC as well as 3D QLC with ONFI 3.0 interface with up to 400 MT/s transfer rates. The 88NV1160 controller is powered by dual-core ARM Cortex-R5 CPUs along with embedded SRAM with hardware accelerators to optimize IOPS performance. The chip supports Marvell’s third-generation LDPC error correction technology (which the company calls NANDEdge ECC) in a bid to enable high endurance of drives featuring ultra-thin TLC or 3D QLC memory.

Specifications of Marvell 88NV1160 at Glance
Compute Cores Two ARM Cortex-R5
Host Interface PCIe 3.0 x2
Protocol of Host Interface AHCI, NVMe 1.3
Supported NAND Flash Types 15 nm TLC
Supported NAND Flash Interfaces Toggle 2.0 and ONFi 3.0, up to 400 MT/s
Page Sizes Unknown
Number of NAND Channels 4 channels with 4 CE per channel (16 targets in total)
ECC Technology LDPC (third-generation LDPC ECC by Marvell)
Maximum SSD Capacity 1024 GB (when using 3D QLC ICs with 512 Gb capacity)
Maximum Sequential Read Speed 1600 MB/s
Maximum Sequential Write Speed Unknown, depends on exact type of memory
Power Management Low power management (L1.2) design
Package 9 × 10 mm TFBGA package
Voltages 3.3V/1.8V/1.2V power supply (according to M.2 specs)

The 88NV1160 controller is specifically tailored for upcoming affordable SSDs, which is why it does not officially support SLC and 2D MLC NAND. Maximum capacity of a 3D QLC-based SSD featuring the 88NV1160 controller is expected to be around 1 TB, which should be enough for entry-level SSDs (as well as solid-state storage solutions for premium tablets, ultrabooks and other types of computing devices). As for performance, Marvell mentioned 1600 MB/s maximum read speed for such SSDs.

The new chip from Marvell is made using 28 nm process technology and is shipped in 9 × 10 mm TFBGA package, which can be used to build SSDs in BGA (M.2-1620 and smaller) packages as well as drives in M.2-2230/2242 form-factors. The 88NV1160 controller uses 3.3V/1.8V/1.2V power supply, in accordance with the M.2 standards.

The 88NV1160 is not the first controller from Marvell that does not require any external DRAM buffers. The company also offers low-cost 88NV1120 with SATA interface as well as 88NV1140 for PCIe 3.0 x1 SSDs. All of the aforementioned controllers are based on two ARM Cortex-R5 cores, feature Marvell’s third-gen LDPC implementation and support modern types of NAND flash memory (15nm 2D TLC and 3D TLC/QLC). However, the new 88NV1160 is the newest DRAM-less controller from the company, which is designed for rather advanced SSDs with up to 1600 MB/s read speed. Still, the 88NV1160 is clearly a solution for affordable drives because unlike the high-end 88SS1093 (or its less advanced brother, the 88SS1094) it does not support 2D MLC and SLC NAND flash and cannot take advantage of eight NAND channels (which is why it does not need PCIe 3.0 x4).

Comparison of Modern SSD Controllers from Marvell
  88NV1120 88NV1140 88NV1160 88SS1093
Compute Cores Two ARM Cortex-R5 Three cores
Host Interface SATA PCIe 3.0 x1 PCIe 3.0 x2 PCIe 3.0 x4
Protocol of Host Interface AHCI AHCI, NVMe 1.3 NVMe 1.1
Supported NAND Flash Types 15 nm TLC
Number of NAND Channels 2 channels
4 CE per channel (8 targets in total)
4 channels
4 CE per channel (16 targets in total)
8 channels
4 CE per channel (32 targets in total)
ECC Technology Marvell's third-gen LDPC-based ECC technology
Host Memory Buffer No Yes Yes
Package 8 × 8 mm
9 × 10 mm
Compatibility M.2/BGA SSDs M.2/2.5" SSDs

The developer did not reveal when it expects the first SSDs based on the 88NV1160 controller to hit the market, but it indicated that the chip is available for sampling globally. In addition, the company indicated that it offers turnkey firmware to its customers so to enable faster time to market.