Flash Consultants Honor Requirements Pioneer Amber Huffman



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Amber Huffman’s entry into engineering was unintentional—and lucky for the semiconductor {industry}: She’s an extrovert in a area that usually attracts introverts however wants individuals to come back collectively to collaborate.

Organizers of final month’s Flash Reminiscence Summit not too long ago gave Huffman a lifetime achievement award  for her work in defining and driving essential {industry} requirements, starting together with her early work at Intel.

She didn’t set out be part of the semiconductor {industry}, nevertheless, and even the broader expertise sector.

“I didn’t know any engineers rising up,” Huffman informed EE Occasions, noting that her household raised pigs in Iowa.

As a lady, Huffman meant to  turn out to be a physician or lawyer. Her English trainer, nevertheless, identified her aptitude for math and science and the supply of associated scholarships. “I positively wanted a scholarship, and so I went into engineering.”

An Intel scholarship targeted on girls in science and engineering got here with an internship that led to twenty years throughout the similar group on the firm—the place Huffman discovered to drive requirements and ecosystems. “I found out that I used to be good at herding cats,” she mentioned.

In recognition of her contributions to Intel and the data-storage {industry}, she was named Intel Fellow in 2016—solely the third lady nominated for that honor in Intel’s historical past, organizers of the Flash Reminiscence Summit famous final month. She’s been granted 25 patents in storage structure and associated applied sciences, they added.

Huffman’s extroverted nature has confirmed helpful for bringing individuals collectively, particularly those that want to be left alone to give attention to their work, like writing code, she mentioned.

Her early days at Intel targeted on Serial ATA (SATA) and led to the event of its programming interface, the Superior Host Controller Interface (AHCI). SATA would turn out to be the dominant shopper and nearline knowledge heart exhausting drive interface and led to Huffman receiving an Intel Achievement Award. In 2004, she co-led growth of CE-ATA for disk drives utilized in small electronics gadgets just like the Apple iPod.

This was just the start of a profession that’s concerned fostering collaboration amongst various stakeholders to develop requirements which have turn out to be ubiquitous in modern-day computing.

Huffman mentioned a recurring problem is that individuals speak previous one another: “As engineers, now we have a pure tendency to essentially admire the issue in what we do versus discovering the widespread floor and the simplicity and coming collectively and making it less complicated.” Her focus has been serving to individuals discover the commonality and having the ability to synthesize the complicated—in order that they arrive collectively to interrupt down an issue and mover sooner as a group.

Understanding the significance of collaboration

Amber Huffman (Supply: Craig Mitchelldyer)

Now main Google’s {industry} engagement within the knowledge heart ecosystem, Huffman has witnessed an enormous shift within the dynamics of the semiconductor {industry}.

“It was once you may simply type of go in your silo and develop one thing after which let one thing come out,” she mentioned. “However now issues are altering so shortly that collaboration is simply changing into increasingly essential, after which determining strategically the place you differentiate.”

Collaboration is essential, partly, as a result of the gamers concerned in growing requirements are not simply these within the semiconductor area. The software program firms and hyperscalers are additionally main forces in driving the ecosystem. An instance is the discharge of NVMe 2.5, which is focused for October, on the 2023 OCP International Summit. “Google’s becoming a member of in,” Huffman mentioned.

Improvement of latest options should be buyer pushed by collaboration, she added. “We all know that individuals can’t construct a unique function set for every buyer. It’s simply too costly and too complicated.” That’s why Google, Microsoft, Meta, Dell, HP and different firms are coming collectively to convey readability.

Huffman mentioned she was “flabbergasted” when knowledgeable she was up for the life achievement award as a result of her achievements aren’t hers alone. “I’ve been so blessed with so many collaborators and we’ve moved the ecosystem ahead,” she mentioned. “It’s fairly cool to observe what we’ve all finished collectively.”

Guaranteeing success of flash

Jim Helpful, principal analyst at Goal Evaluation and presenter of the award, mentioned the Flash Reminiscence Summit honors not solely individuals who have invented expertise or led a major effort or firm, but in addition those that have enabled flash to succeed. This contains authentic requirements, in addition to these began by others.

“Amber is a stellar instance of anyone who has finished that together with her work in requirements,” Helpful mentioned.

The very best instance of Huffman’s achievements on the requirements entrance was co-leading the creation of the Open NAND Flash Interface (ONFI) consortium in 2006 to outline a typical for flash reminiscence chips, he mentioned. “Earlier than that, when you had been utilizing a Samsung half, you then couldn’t use the Toshiba half in the identical socket as a result of they had been simply very incompatible.”

Even when you caught with the identical vendor, he added, their newest half can be incompatible with the socket for the earlier half: “You’d have to revamp your circuit board. The ONFI normal mentioned, ‘We’re placing a cease to that. All people’s elements are going to play in the identical socket’.”

Huffman chaired ONFI’s working group to outline, create and drive the usual that was shortly adopted by the ONFI member firms. She was additionally instrumental in securing an industry-wide ONFI-JEDEC specification that’s confirmed important to creating flash reminiscence chips cheap.

In 2007, Huffman based the NVM Host Controller Interface (NVMHCI) workgroup to outline a client-caching interface to be used with ONFI-compatible Flash modules. Though client-caching noticed restricted industrial success, the emergence of PCI Specific (PCIe) SSDs in 2009 gave her the chance to leverage “Enterprise NVMHCI” to convey these SSDs to the mainstream—an effort that led to NVM Specific (NVMe), the place Amber led its route and served because the specification editor till 2017. She continues to steer the group, because the president of NVM Specific, Inc.

Different notable requirements work by Huffman contains main the event of storage type components just like the M.2 type issue. In 2017, she based, chaired, and led the Enterprise & Datacenter SSD Kind Issue (EDSFF) Working Group, which defines form-factor requirements primarily based on a standard connector, in addition to options to assist a variety of lengths primarily based on system want.

Build up AI, ML

Huffman views the vast adoption of NVMe as some of the important milestones of her profession as a result of it’s the constructing block of the cloud—and finally AI and machine studying (ML).

The generative AI taking place at the moment wouldn’t be doable with out SSDs, she mentioned, including: “It’s fairly cool to see the way in which that the trendy world is enabled in societal infrastructure by one thing that you simply labored on.”

Huffman doesn’t see a lifetime achievement award as an indication that it’ time to decelerate; she has issues to do. “I actually admire the way in which that the ecosystem, once we come collectively, can rework issues,” she mentioned.

ONFI and NVME are simply two of the numerous highlights, she mentioned, and shifting over to Google is increasing the panorama: “There’s a a lot bigger purview, even past reminiscence and storage.”

Huffman cited her fortune of being surrounded by individuals who created psychologically secure environments, particularly in her early days at Intel. Such a supportive atmosphere is crucial to encouraging variety within the sector—for not solely individuals of coloration and girls but in addition introverted males, she mentioned.

Having battled most cancers in 2014—an ordeal that included chemotherapy and a hysterectomy—Huffman took little break day and was effectively supported by her colleagues. “We can assist maintain extra individuals excelling on this {industry} by supporting individuals by life’s inevitable challenges and failures at work, too,” she mentioned.


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