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Solid-state driver vendors choose NVMe for servers

Posted: 22 Apr 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Non-Volatile Memory Express? solid-state drives? NVMe?

Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe) is gaining popularity among solid-state drive (SSD) vendors using the standard for servers and workstations.

NVMe is a standardised register interface, command and feature set for PCIe-based storage technologies such as SSDs, designed specifically for non-volatile memory. It is optimised for high performance and low latency, scaling from client to enterprise segments.

HGST is focusing its efforts on the server side, having begun shipping its NVMe-compliant Ultrastar SN100 Series PCIe SSDs, which are particularly aimed at mission-critical data centre workloads such as scale-out databases, said Jeff Sosa, director of product line management at HGST.

The company announced the product in September as part of its flash fabric launch. Built using Toshiba NAND chips, the new SSD with NVMe extensions enable the software to interface with the drive's flash management to provide better performance and the endurance required by enterprises.

Sosa said the interest in NVMe has picked up as more vendors have begun supporting the standard. Another reason the momentum has increased, he said, is customers better understand the operational benefits of NVMe and how it addresses the limitations of SSDs with only PCIe. One of the advantages of NVMe is that it gets storage closer to the processor and as a result reduces latency, which lowers the performance gap between processor speed and storage that has been enhanced by flash.


Samsung Electronics releases M.2 NVMe PCIe SSDs for PCs and workstations.

While PCIe SSDs have a lot of advantages, including fast access to data, said Sosa, they often require proprietary drivers and software, whereas NVMe comes with drivers built in. NVMe SSDs are easier to plug and play, he said, and customers are specifically asking for NVMe, which is making PCIe even more attractive.

Sosa said HGST's NVMe Ultrastar SSDs could conceivably be used for any enterprise workload but the biggest demand is for mixed random I/O such as databases and virtualisation. Over time, he expects NVMe SSDs to move into the consumer space as prices get lower, but that could take a couple of years.

Samsung Electronics, meanwhile, is now shipping NVMe PCIe SSDs for the PC market in the M.2 form factor. Ryan Smith, director of NAND marketing, said NVMe is going to have an impact on every aspect of computing. Samsung announced its first NVMe SSD for servers in July 2013 with Dell as one of its first customers in early 2014.

Samsung's NVMe SSD technology has already found its way into the recently announced HP Z Turbo Drive for workstations, which the PC maker said delivers four times the performance of traditional SATA SSDs. Smith said the performance benefits of NVMe PCIe are unmatched by anything SATA can now provide.

He said sequential workloads in particular are seeing the benefits of NVME PCIe, with SATA having capped out on sequential speed. NVMe technology is now poised to take off now that all of the pieces of the ecosystem have matured, Smith added. PCs such as ultra-slim notebooks are being specifically designed to accommodate NVMe SSDs.

Just over a year ago, the NVM Express Work Group decided to incorporate itself to further the NVMe specification. The NVM Express Organisation announced 1.2 of the NVMe specification last November. It includes features for both enterprise and client systems. On the enterprise side, there are live firmware updates and a feature that provides reduced latency when many NVMe devices are used in an environment with one or more PCIe switches. New features on the client side include enhanced power management and other mobile-oriented capabilities, such as a feature that supports designing high-performance SSDs without local DRAM.

- Gary Hilson
??EE Times U.S.

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