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NVMe paves the way for SSDs in the enterprise

Posted: 11 Dec 2012 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:solid state drives? host bus adaptors? non-volatile memory express?

The ecosystem provides a framework and support to SSD developers; including an enterprise 2.5-in. SSD form factor specification that was released in December 2011. This standard, which has received broad industry support, also focuses on issues such as connector specifications and hot pluggability to give high availability and important user serviceability benefits. Additionally, standard open-source NVMe compliance suite and UNH's recently-formed NVMe Interoperability Lab help ensure compliance and interoperability.

NVMe usage models
There are several usage models for NVMe PCIe SSDs. These help to illustrate the real-world benefits of the host controller interface standard:

???High performance storage in a concentrated/central storage systemIn a tiered enterprise storage system, using an array of PCIe SSDs for the high-performance tier can greatly enhance the overall storage system performance. The seamless interoperability between the switches used for system connectivity and the PCIe flash controllers are key. By employing NVMe supported by compatible flash memory controllers such as 16- or 32-channel devices, developers can remove performance bottlenecks and reduce latencyin some instances by over 50%.
???Server direct-attached cacheOptimised for read intensive workloads, single-host server flash caching solutions based on PCIe SSDs reduce latency and increase throughput dramatically in enterprise storage applications. As server direct-attached cache is installed on more servers in an environment, the result is a highly scalable I/O processing model. By continually and automatically determining which data is in most frequently used and then caching it on the server-based PCIe card, the performance of read intensive applications can be significantly improved. Server direct-attached cache solutions are typically able to reduce response times from milliseconds to microseconds by bypassing the overhead of network storage access. Employing NVMe helps to bring out the best performance potential in the technology by effectively tightening its integration into the system. Once again, NVMe ensures that throughput is maximised and latency is minimised, while using standard software drivers.
???Server high performance driveThese applications utilise front-loadable PCIe SSDs in the standardised 2.5 inch format. This approach provides a serviceability level equivalent to traditional drives, eases integration and enhances scalability. An NVMe interface allows the hot-swappable SSDs to connect directly to the PCIe host bus while maximising performance and offering standard enterprise-class features. PCIe provides a direct connection between the solid-state storage, the CPU and system memory.
Supported by an established and growing ecosystem, and a range of dedicated devices, the NVMe scaleable host control interface standard is able to provide the performance necessary to maximise the potential of PCIe SSDs in enterprise applications.

The growing demand for high performance enterprise storage is partially addressed with existing proprietary PCIe SSDs; however, prior to the availability of NVMe and compatible devices, proprietary drivers have presented a significant obstacle for broad adoption. Now, SSD developers have a standard high-performance host control interface, enterprise flash controllers, support framework, and tools required to clear those performance bottlenecks and meet the ever-increasing demands for accessing vast amounts of data at high speed.

1. V. Filks and J. Unsworth, "When Implementing SSDs, Ease of Use Is More Important Than Cost-Effectiveness," Gartner (Dec 2011).
2. Gamess TableIO workload is a computational test. System type: E5-2680 2-Socket Romley-EP QUAL SDP, BIOS: rev x040, CPUs: Two 8-Core C1, 2.7GHz, UNCORE: 2.7GHz, QPI: 8.0 GT/sec, RAM: 32GB, DDR3-1333MHz (8 x 4GB DIMMs), Disks: root mounted on 7200 RPM SATA disc/home1 mounted on a 4-disc RAID0 file system, Red Hat Enterprise Linux Server release 6.2, Santiago, Fusion-IO 640GB IODrive FS1-003-641-CS-0001, NVMe 64GB.

About the author
Kam Eshghi is Senior Director of Marketing in Enterprise Computing Division of IDT. Kam leads IDT's business strategy, marketing and business development for flash controllers and PCIe switches. Kam drove the creation of IDT's PCIe Enterprise Flash Controller product line and helped establish IDT as a leader in this market. Kam holds a M.S. in Electrical Engineering & Computer Science from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a Master's in Business Administration and B.S. in Electrical Engineering & Computer Science both from University of California at Berkeley.

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