TORONTO – Solid state storage presents problems when the need arises to recover data, so a new special interest group has been formed to address the challenges.
Last week at the Flash Memory Summit [LINK], the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) and its Solid State Storage Initiative (SSSI) announced the creation of a new Special Interest Group around Data Recovery/Erase to foster development of tools and standards.
Data recovery firms have had conversations with makers of solid-state drives (SSDs) for a number of years around the processes and tools for resurrecting data, said Gillware Data Recovery’s Scott Holewinski, chair of the DR/E SIG. “The issue we've been having is there are no standards around it."
In a telephone interview with EE Times, he said an annual session at the summit wasn’t enough to keep the momentum going; the SIG will formally bring everyone together to improve recovery of data from solid state storage. The decision to include erase with data recovery made sense because the same capabilities are required for both disciplines.
Holewinski said the main challenge with SSDs is the data is constantly being moved around. All of the features that extend the life and endurance of SSDs makes recovering specific data difficult. “On hard disk drives the data is laid out more linearly." Adding to the problem are self-encrypting drives (SEDs) that further thwart techniques to recover data from SSDs, many of which are custom tools developed by data recovery firms, he said. “We are left with very few options. Unless we get assistance from the manufacturer, there’s very little we can do to recover information."
Functions such as wear-leveling and bad block management re-map everything on an SSD all of the time, elaborated Jim Handy, principal analyst with Objective Analysis. “Add to that the garbage collection, including the “Trim" command, and you have the possibility that good data may be inadvertently erased any time power is applied to the SSD."
Data recovery from SSDs requires custom tools and techniques for firms such as Drivesavers, making it more expensive
By getting the recovery experts together with SSD designers, he said, SNIA hopes it can develop standards that simplify the task of data recovery, or at least prevent it from becoming impossible.
Holewinski said the high level goal of the SIG will be to improve recovery and erase for solid state storage. The latter is just as important, he said, because government and security-conscious enterprises are looking for ways to selectively and irrevocably erase information. “On SSDs it can be very difficult to go in and identify all of the remnants of a file."
The first milestone for the SIG will be to build a business case for data recovery and erase to show there’s a market for it, otherwise drive makers won’t commit engineering resources, said Holewinski. “From there we can work with standards bodies."
He emphasized that the techniques developed to recover data from SSDs will not be backdoors that circumvent security or authentication, 99% of the time it is corruption that impedes data retrieval, not authentication failure.
For now, data recovery on SSDs remains an expensive proposition, especially in comparison data recovery off of spinning disk, starting at $2,000. Holewinski said drive manufacturers have worked with his firm to create a specific tool for a specific SSD, but it’s always a one-off solution that is expensive to develop.
—Gary Hilson covers memory and flash technologies for EE Times and is the editor of Memory Designline.