June 22, 2017

New NVMe Spec Emphasizes Data Analytics

George Leopold

The latest release of a non-volatile memory interface and storage protocol emphasizes the enterprise shift to analytics, virtualization and other data-intensive workloads while riding the coat tails of the robust solid-state storage sector.

NVM Express 1.3 unveiled this week adds new virtualization and “streams” features along with a “native” capability for erasing data from a solid-state drive, creating options for reuse or decommissioning. “The NVM Express working group is laser-focused on the specification’s continued evolution to address the dynamic workloads and scenarios that NVMe serves,” Amber Huffman, president of NVM Express, noted in a statement releasing the new spec on Wednesday (June 21)).

Along with enterprise and cloud applications, mobile platforms increasingly used to access distributed applications also are supported by the latest interface spec. The group said version 1.3 enables “bootstrapping” of an SSD “in a low resource environment” while maintaining low latency and expected performance.

Proponents also said the new spec includes forward compatibility with next-generation bus speeds, including PCI Express 4.0 data transfer standard that was released earlier this month. That spec is expected to double available bandwidth, delivering 16Gb/s of link bandwidth, peaking at 64 GB/s per 16-lane slot. (The group behind the data transfer spec said it expects to release PCI Express 5.0 in 2019.)

The interface spec, the NVMe group’s first full-blown overhaul since November 2014, also beefs up SSD access via the related Fabrics framework used to transfer data between a host computer and specific SSD devices. That capability also moves data via InfiniBand or Ethernet-based networks.

According to market researcher IDC, NVMe has emerged as the most widely used SSD interface as measured in terms of unit shipments. At the same time, the overall SSD market is expected to reach $25 billion by 2019 as data-intensive workloads dominate datacenters and hybrid clouds.

Hence, the standards group said it latest specification addresses faster storage requirements as users struggle to access huge data volumes. All told, the new spec includes ten new features, most of which are optional and can be mixed or matched depending on the workload or application.

For example, the virtualization capability is intended to improve storage flexibility by assigning resources for specific use cases. That feature would allow developers to assign SSD resources to specific virtual machines, the group said.

Meanwhile, the streams feature is designed to boost the endurance of NAND-based SSDs by breaking up a single-write stream into multiple data streams tagged as either sequential or random. The concept targets data on cloud-hosted applications.

That capability “can reduce write amplification for host managed workloads,” the NVMe group noted.

The group also said it would host a webcast on June 28 to explain the latest features of NVMe 1.3. Advanced registration for the tutorial is required.

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