Add support for block-aligned flash in Internal Trusted Storage


Minos Galanakis


Arm Limited


Minos Galanakis <>


The proposal is describing a mechanism to enable the use of larger flash devices, imposing a requirement for word-aligned full-block program operations, in Trusted Firmware-M.


  • Allow page-aligned writes for up to 512 Bytes per page.

  • Guarantee data integrity and power-failure reliability.

  • Do not alter existing supported platform behaviour.

Current implementation

In the current ITS filesystem design, each filesystem create or write operation requires two flash blocks to be updated: first the data block and then the metadata block. Buffering is avoided as much as possible to reduce RAM requirements.

However, if the ITS_FLASH_PROGRAM_UNIT is 512 Bytes then the data will have to stored in a temporary memory location in order to be able to write that much data in one-shot.

Proposed implementation overview

  1. A new block-sized static buffer should be added to its_flash.c when ITS_FLASH_PROGRAM_UNIT is larger than currently supported.

  2. Methods calling the flash API such as its_flash_write() or its_flash_block_to_block_move() will populate the buffer instead of directly programming the flash.

  3. A new method its_flash_flush(), should be provided in order to flush the block buffer to the device.

  4. its_flash_flush() should be called twice: Once after a data block update and once more after the metadata block update is completed.

  5. The proposed design should require that the data block update is always completed before the metadata block update starts

  6. Writes to the block buffer should be atomic, and guarded against corruption by data from different blocks.


  • The proposed implementation will increase the RAM usage of ITS by the size of a block, only for platforms which require block-aligned writes.

  • Currently power-failure is detected by software by incrementing an 8-bit metadata header field (swap_count), as the last written byte. When the proposed block-buffer is used, the block is programmed in one-shot and the order the bytes are written on the physical device, is hardware dependent.

  • A set of guarantees are required by the supported flash ECC devices. The device’s flash APIs should provide a mechanism to capture and raise incomplete program operations, as well as write bytes in a sequential order.

For example, if a board powers down through a 512 page program operation, the next read operation should return an error rather than read invalid data.

Functional flow diagram

The logic of the proposal is described in the following diagram

    |   data write()       |
    |                      |        |------------------------------|
|-> |  its_flash_write  |     --->  | data[] -> its_block_buffer[] |
|   |                      |        |------------------------------|
|   |----------------------|
|   |                      |        |------------------------------------|
|   |   its_flash_flush    |  --->  | its_block_buffer[] -> flash dev IO |
|   |                      |        |------------------------------------|
|   |----------------------|
|             |
|             ------------------------------------
|                                                |
|                                                V
|   |----------------------|        |--------------------------|
|   | data write() complete|        | metadata write() complete|
|   |----------------------|        |--------------------------|
| <-|  Metadata write()    |                     |
    |----------------------|                     |
                                    |    Operation Complete    |

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