Networking 101: What is NVMe?

NVMe, short for non-volatile memory express, is a relatively new tool designed for accessing high-speed storage media. NVMe offers advantages over existing protocols that we will explore in addition to the answers to many of the most commonly asked questions surrounding NVMe, the challenges that data-centric businesses face, and how this tool can help.

Businesses continue to navigate their data-driven environments, that’s no secret. And data growth will undoubtedly continue. Add to that mix the fact that today’s users expect instantaneous response, despite the fact that the app must become more complex and as the applications themselves become vastly more complex and resource dependent. In this evolving landscape, businesses have to continually evolve with the demands, focusing on how data is captured, preserved, accessed, and protected.

Let’s unpack what NVMe is and how it can support your data-centric organization.

What is NVMe?

NVM is a type of memory that holds on to its content when the power fails. NVMe is the function that stores the data and allows you to access it. NVMe is the interface for SSDs. Essentially, NVMe is a type of NUMA (Non Uniform Memory Access) that is optimized, scalable, and feature-rich for use with a broad range of enterprise and client systems. NVMe has the ability to support up to 64K commands per queue, while requiring only 13 commands to deliver optimal performance.

 Also read: How Data Centers Must Evolve in the Cloud First Era

How Did NVMe Develop?

NVMe was the first protocol that truly met the need for high-speed storage media. The original tools, such as flash-based SSDs tapped into SATA/SAS physical interfaces, protocols, and form factors, which reduced the needs for changes in the existing enterprise storage systems. However, they lacked the speed that is a non-negotiable requirement in today’s network environments.

Storage technology has leapfrogged drastically over the past ten years. Before the development of SSDs, hard drives were the only storage type accessible. A wide range of limitations came with that option — most limiting was speed and efficiency. When SSDs arrived on the scene, they changed the game for storage media, offering their powerful speed and convenient form factor. NVMe has taken those elements a step further to offer an optimized resource with both power and speed.

Also read: Hyperconverged Infrastructure is Reshaping IT Management

How Does NVMe Work?

NVMe is the communication conductor between the storage interface and the System CPU. It uses high-speed PCIe sockets, independent of the storage form factor. Because of its independence, tasks performed using NVMe drivers are faster, do more work and complete the task faster than older storage models using older drivers, such as AHCI (Advanced Host Controller Interface) a feature of SATA SSDs. NVMe was designed specifically for SSDs making it the new industry standard for both servers in the enterprise data center and in client devices. The reason NVMe storage is so popular is because it saves time. Unlike its predecessors, NVMe leverages today’s multicore CPUs and gigabytes of memory (in addition to solid-state storage). NVMe storage also optimized more powerful and streamlined command sets to efficiently bring data to its source.

Also read: Network 101: 5 Essential Wireless Protocols 

What are NVMe’s Benefits and Drawbacks?

The benefit of NVMe is its ability to capitalize on parallel data paths to the underlying media, offering better performance in terms of acceleration. It makes existing applications and enables new applications to work more efficiently. Wasted compute cycles eat into the budgets of business that require more to support a sluggish IT infrastructure in terms of storage and power. NVMe can optimize the application workloads with a smaller infrastructure footprint, offering the organization a reduced cost and accelerated functionality.

Benefits of NVMe include:

  • Higher performance through write amplification reduction
  • Higher capacities by lower over-provisioning
  • Lower costs due to reduced SSD controller DRAM footprint
  • Improved latencies

While NVMe offers a bevy of benefits, there are some mistakes to avoid, such as:

  • NVMe is a communication interface and storage protocol, and should not be treated as a storage media device.
  • Price is not the best or only way to choose your NVMe SSD. Performance requirements of application workloads feature as the main criteria used in the determination.

Enterprise systems in today’s environment are data hungry. The demands for better, faster, and more complex data will continue to tax networks and applications. Even high-performance SSDs struggle to perform with legacy storage protocols is this challenging environment. NVMe offers the power, connectivity, and efficiency needed to slay bottlenecks for a myriad of computing environments. Designed for high performance and non-volatile storage media, NVMe is the protocol that rises to the forefront in today’s demanding enterprise, cloud and edge data ecosystems.

Read next: Simplifying Data Management with Hybrid Networks

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