What is NVMe?
NVMe (non-volatile memory express) is a high-performance logical device interface designed specifically to take advantage of the speed of solid-state storage disks (SSDs) compared to their mechanical disk drives (HDDs) counterparts by reducing data transfer bottlenecks.
AHCI vs NVMe
AHCI (advanced host controller interface) has been the most common technical standard for data storage for some time now; however, it was not designed with SSDs in mind. Assuming you’re using a SATA interface to connect a HDD (or even a SSD), the expected data transfer rate is about 600 MB/s.
NVMe, on the other hand, was designed from the “ground up” to take full advantage of the performance of SSDs and “offers about 5x the bandwidth and can approach transfer speeds of 3 GB/s” (Source: Forbes).
The speed gains could not be possible without “command queueing.” According to NVM Express, the working group for the NVMe specification, the interface “includes support for parallel operations by supporting up to 64k commands within a single I/O queue to the device.”
“Unlike SAS or SATA, which treat flash in a serial manner, NVMe is designed to take advantage of the awesome power of parallel processing. This means it can handle 64,000 queues of data, and each queue can process 64,000 commands – at the same time. To put this in perspective, SAS and SATA can only hold a single queue, with just 32 and 256 commands, respectively.” (Source: Datacenter Knowledge)
NVMe in Data Center and High Performance Computing
According to Jim O’Reilly, “NVMe will continue to replace SAS and SATA as the interface for enterprise drives” in 2018.
Intel says NVMe SSDs ”eliminate processing bottlenecks and improves performance in demanding applications like big data, high performance computing (HPC), virtualization, storage, cloud, and gaming.” (Read more about Intel SSDs)
CIARA’s KRONOS 840-G4 workstation comes equipped with M.2 form factor connectors, ready to accept NVMe SSDs and the MAGMA FS series of storage servers is configured with 36 hot-swappable NVMe drive bays for up to 570 TB of flash storage.
With NVMe, flash storage is ready for data centers and other HPC environments.
NVMe SSD Considerations
The migration from an existing configuration to NVMe is not as simple as just switching out a disk drive. Here are 5 points to consider in assessing your readiness to move to NVMe SSDs.
- Form factor
The most common form factors for NVMe SSDs are M.2, U.2, and add-in card (AIC).
As the illustration above shows, the U.2. form factor shares the same physical dimensions as standard 2.5-inch HDDs so it can be installed in standard drive bays or trays.
Add-in cards occupy a PCIe slot on the motherboard and either come pre-equipped with memory modules, as shown above, or as an adapter card with space for a M.2 SSD module.
The M.2 form factor plugs directly into the motherboard, or into an AIC.
- Hot-swappable or fixed?
If you need hot-swappable SSDs, the only option is the U.2. form factor.
The M.2 form factor SSDs actually come in different sizes. Because it that form factor can be used for devices other than storage, there are different “keying” options. Fortunately, size is part of the name and you will read specifications such as “M key type 2242, 2260, 22110.”
The M.2 connector for SSDs will be “M key,” because NVMe uses PCIe x4, The numbers following the key the key type refer to the width and length of the module, expressed in millimeters. For instance:
|2242||22 mm||42 mm|
|2260||22 mm||60 mm|
|22110||22 mm||110 mm|
Make sure you have enough physical space for the M.2 SSD.
- Check the BIOS/UEFI
Systems based on the Z97 or X99 chipset, or newer, should support booting from a NVMe SSD. A quick search using the chipset name and “boot from NVMe” will bring up detailed instructions for BIOS/UEFI settings.
- Operating system and available drivers
A 64-bit operating system is required for NVMe and fortunately NVMe is supported by ChromeOS, Linux, Windows, Unix and VMware. A NVMe driver may be required – verify with the SSD manufacturer to ensure they have a driver to match your system’s OS.
Workstations, servers, and storage will all benefit from accelerated performance when configured with NVMe SSDs resulting in faster system boot, speedier application load times, and super smooth multitasking.
Get in touch with a CIARA representative for help in selecting the right hardware to suit your needs.