Bringing NMVe up to date with the needs of the data center
Enterprises have rapidly adopted solid-state storage, such as Flash and now storage-class memory (SCM), initially to augment hard disks and often then to replace them entirely with SSDs. This has brought significantly greater storage performance, and in some cases has enabled new ways of designing and building applications.
As part of this, storage designers have developed new technologies to allow fast modern servers to take advantage of the performance characteristics of SSDs, characteristics that differ significantly from those of spinning disks. Key among these new technologies is NVMe, a lightweight protocol designed to be highly future-tolerant, so it will work with forthcoming storage technologies as well as today’s.
However, there are issues in scaling-out NVMe storage within an enterprise server. NVMe uses the well-established PCIe standard for physical connectivity, but servers have a limited number of PCIe slots and connectors. Worse, most of these are internal to the system, which limits physical access, and NMVe devices must compete for them with the likes of graphics cards and network interfaces.
Something new is needed, therefore – a way to bring NVMe, and by extension PCIe, to the front of the data center rack. Enter EDSFF, a new small scale-out format for NVMe SSDs that allows them to plug right into the front of a server or storage system.
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