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Background: Read this article on Tom's Hardware that mentions SSDs, and during the process notes:

"[The] Silicon Motion's SM2263XT PCIe 3.0 SSD controller [...] adheres to a dual-core configuration sporting the Arm 32-bit Cortex-R5 architecture"

Reading the ARM Cortex-R article on Wikipedia it sounds like the processor is just like any other processor, except "cores are optimized for hard real-time and safety-critical applications. Cores in this family implement the ARM Real-time (R) profile, which is one of three architecture profiles"

From my admittedly outsider perspective, that sounds like a normal CPU. Apparently the SSD is a dual core like my desktop used to be.

Question: Can the cores on an SSD like this be accessed and used for general computation? (Not necessarily this specific SSD, just generally)

Note: Not sure if this is the correct StackExchange. Dithered between CS, Super User, Internet of Things, and Hardware Recommendations, yet none seem to have a computer hardware or hardware engineering, or similar.

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Yes, but if you have to ask, no.

SSD controllers run firmware contained in flash memory: it is the same kind of memory used for the SSD. If you know how to re-flash the controller, and know what i/o has been attached to that controller, you can communicate with it and use it.

This is not information that is normally publicly available.

But some controllers have been used to emulate two or more devices (both in production and in research projects). That is, not just an SSD.

PCIe is a general-purpose communication channel used for all kinds of things. So that SSD has a general-purpose communication channel, and that SSD is controlled by the controller which is able to re-map the SSD pages, so even if the actual i/o options are extremely limited, it can be programmed to communicate by mapping file data.

Since this is a demonstrated mal-ware channel, you can expect that restrictions are in place: at best it will be difficult to learn about, at worst there will be some kind of fuse locks and signature in place.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for the answer. If I really wanted to, I could probably figure out how to implement this kind of communication/operations. However, the question was mostly just a curiosity from seeing an article and reading "Its got two Arm Cortex-R5's?" Not sure how many humans realize your SSD has an "almost" cell phone processor. $\endgroup$
    – G. Putnam
    Oct 9, 2023 at 22:33

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