The JEDEC Solid State Technology Association has introduced a new data storage specification that could bring super-speedy, removable storage to compact devices that have typically had storage soldered to the mainboard until now.

XFM Embedded and Removable Memory Devices provide an NVMe over PCI Express interface in a smaller, thinner form factor than the M.2 cards typically used for that today. That could enable removable, upgradeable storage for a wide range thin and light devices.

For example, JEDEC says the new solution could be used in game consoles, virtual reality or augmented reality headsets, or video recording devices such as drones or compact security cameras. They could also show up in thin and light notebooks, which are increasingly likely to have storage soldered to the system board as they get thinner and lighter.

XFM stands for Crossover Flash memory, and the full specification is available as a free download from the JEDEC website. It describes an XFM storage device (XFMD) that measures just 18mm x 14mm x 1.4mm, or just a little larger than a microSD card, and a little bit thinner (15mm x 11mm x 2.1mm).

But unlike microSD cards, an XFMD uses a PCIe Gen4 1-lane or 2-lane physical interface and NVMe logical interface, enabling higher data transfer speeds and support for power management features. And unlike soldered storage, an XFMD uses a socket system, making it possible to replace broken storage devices or upgrade to higher-capacity storage in the future.

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  1. The concept of this being a primary storage device in a product seems very dubious to me, from a manufacturing cost and marketing perspective.

    I read the datasheet on their website, and it looks like the idea is that this is going to be implemented as a package that is pressed into a PCB-mounted socket, similar to a swappable eMMC socket. And the datasheet makes no mention of DRAM cache, either on-chip, or on-system.

    So I think we can assume 2 things about this.

    It’s going to be a semi-permanent on-motherboard interface, which requires invasive entry from the user (a service door, at best). So this would likely only be used as a primary storage device, and not likely as a user-accessible expansion.
    At best, it will perform similarly to DRAM-less SSDs, but probably not even that well. So somewhere between eMMC and DRAM-less SSDs?

    Are PC makers eagerly awaiting an expensive alternative to eMMC, with a higher implementation cost (PCIe interface needed), and the added design/QA costs of making their products user-serviceable?

    The industry has shown us that they want to move away from user-serviceable storage, and towards soldered on-board NVMe SSD, which has a lower cost of implementation.

    A higher cost of implementation, and presumably lower performance? I don’t see it.

    Would this ever be used as a secondary expansion slot? A device that has enough PCIe lanes for its primary SSD, and one PCIe lane leftover for an empty user-upgrade slot? Doubtful. I don’t see PC/laptop/tablet makers spending that kind of money on an expansion slot. They want you to pay THEM for the correct amount of storage you require.

    I see this being used by niche hobby SBCs, but not the mainstream laptop/tablet market.

  2. Chinese Single-Board-Computers (Raspberry Pi) got a “de facto” standard eMMC socket the last couple of years. This is much needed to be universally adopted fast.
    M.2 2242 is good enough too, but not widely used at all.
    Best of luck to the frame.work 🙂

  3. I’d welcome it if phones, laptops and other computers could use it as their primary or only storage. If phones had this as the norm, they’d HAVE to let people install new operating systems to phones. Even if it meant phones had to give up the SD card slot.