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June 11, 2018 | Written by: Michelle Reinhold

NVMe: So What Does it Actually Stand For:

 

A. NeVer Mind Exceptionalism

B. Non-Volatile Memory Express

C. Never Vote for ME

And the answer is B.  In all seriousness, NVMe, though having been around for nearly a decade; most have not heard of or those that have are likely not utilizing it in their environment due to cost. As it relates to Information Technology, costs are always coming down and NVMe is no different and if implemented in a hybrid mode, initial costs can be decreased as well.

So, what is NVMe exactly and why should a company consider implementing NVMe in their enterprise storage environment?

Flash storage and Solid-State Drives (SSD’s) were introduced years ago to greatly, key word here is greatly, increase data storage performance.  SSD’s are currently used in laptops, desktops and now even servers and storage arrays.  Unfortunately, greatly is not enough and SSD’s are being looked at as a stepping stone to increase storage performance.  The problem is that most flash storage/SSDs currently use SAS or SATA controller interfaces to access flash storage.  SAS/SATA work great for spinning drives because that is what they were designed for. Although a laundry list of differences, here are a few key ones to focus on:

  • Command Queue Depth
    • SATA – 32
    • SAS – 254
    • NVMe – 65,000
  • Command Queue Length
    • SATA – 1
    • SAS – 1
    • NVMe – 65,000
  • Transfer Performance
    • NVMe on PCIe Gen4 may see transfer performance of 32Gbps
    • SATA supports 6Gbps
    • SAS currently supports 12Gbps (22GBps coming soon).

So what you can see from the key differences we focused on is that NVMe is over twice as fast and will only increase with future generations of PCIe and for future reference, PCIe Gen5 is supposed to be  standardized in 2019 to support 128Gbps.

Regardless of the performance aspects of flash over spinning drives, and specifically NVMe or SATA and SAS, the trend based on Gartner research reflects that most are purchasing flash and SSD’s.

If you haven’t standardized on flash/SSD’s now is the time to start transitioning from the traditional spinning drives.  This may seem overwhelming but here is the good news.  You are probably already using flash/SSDs and just didn’t know it. If you have a newer laptop/desktop it’s probably using SSD.  However, they are likely SATA or SAS interfaces and therefore you just not seeing the optimal speeds of NVMe.

Newer server models are being standardized with SSDs (again mostly SATA and SAS).  In some cases, these servers are all flash, but even then they are utilizing SATA/SAS SSDs along with a write-logging NVMe device to increase write performance.

High-end enterprise class storage providers are now starting to utilize a hybrid SATA/SAS SSD with NVMe write logging devices as well. In addition, although still very expensive. Some manufacturers of storage are even implementing full NVMe storage solutions that connect to servers using a fabric interconnect. Full NVMe storage solutions are still capacity limited and very expensive. But as history proves itself capacity will only increase and prices will decrease. It won’t be long until an affordable all NVMe storage solution (whether separate storage array or server integrated) will be available for enterprise environments.

To translate that to manufacturers currently providing high-end, high-performance solutions – we look at Cisco’s HyperFlex solution.  Cisco’s HyperFlex HX240c M5 has all flash nodes in a clustered VMware architecture that will offer performance gains that were never available before.

To find out more about high performance storage, NVMe and Cisco’s HyperFlex solution contact BIG at www.businessinformationgroup.com.