The modern data center is evolving rapidly. Technologies such as artificial intelligence, automation, and big data analytics are putting more pressure than ever on IT infrastructure to cope with huge volumes and varieties of data, while real-time applications require instant results.
As such, traditional ways of storing and accessing data are no longer adequate to keep pace with this environment. Therefore, many firms will need to rethink how they handle data, and in particular, how they ensure it gets to where it needs to be quickly and cost-effectively. For many, the solution to these issues is likely to be NVMe.
What is NVMe and why do you need it?
Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe) is a way of accessing solid state drive storage media. It offers high scalability, high capacity and low latency performance that promises a much more efficient way of connecting the host to the memory subsystem and has been designed from the ground up for non-volatile media such as NAND and Persistent Memory.
As the amount of information stored in data centers continues to grow, high-performance solutions such as NVMe are likely to become indispensable for many enterprises. In environments where results are needed quickly, continued use of legacy protocols for accessing this data will quickly become unable to cope.
For example, an SATA SSD interface offers theoretical transfer speeds of 750MBps, though in practice, speeds of around 600MBps are more typical. NVMe, on the other hand, can deliver sustained read-write speeds of 2,000MBps.
This makes it ideal for applications where real-time results and ultra-low latency are a must. Among the use cases for NVMe technology are Internet of Things devices such as industrial equipment, robots and autonomous vehicles, as they need many gigabytes of fast solid-state storage to function effectively.
As the technology evolves and gets cheaper, NVMe may also be adopted in everything from smart energy meters to home utilities as it becomes a fast and cheap way to connect flash storage.
5 common mistakes that prevent NVMe success
NVMe shouldn't be seen as a magic bullet to solve all your storage needs. If you aren't careful or don't put the time in to use it properly, you won't be able to see its full potential. In fact, poorly-deployed NVMe can lead to unnecessary extra costs or even hamper performance. Here are five common mistakes to avoid to ensure you’re effectively using NVMe.
1. Buying on cost alone
While cost will always be a consideration with procuring new solutions, this shouldn’t be the only factor you take into account. There are significant differences between NVMe offerings in terms of quality or service, I/O consistency and endurance. Therefore, less expensive options may deliver poorer results and lead to higher long-term costs if they need to be replaced more quickly.
2. Not understanding what NVMe is and is not
It's important to remember that NVMe is a communication protocol, not a storage media device. This may seem obvious, but it's still an issue that trips up buyers who are coming to the technology for the first time. Indeed, when terms such as 'flash storage' and 'flash drive' are commonly used interchangeably, it can be easy to assume that all NVMe storage devices or arrays use NAND flash, but this is not the case.
3. Deploying NVMe on top of traditional flash architectures
It may be tempting to cut corners by deploying NVMe tools on the same architecture you've previously used for traditional flash storage solutions. However, this will mean you won't be able to make the most of the technology, as these controllers are only able to handle low levels of I/O processing. This will result in increased latency and act as a barrier to performance.
4. Using non-compliant NVMe products
Ensuring that all the products you use are fully compliant with NVMe is vital, yet this isn’t as easy as it appears. Some offerings that claim to be fully compliant may in fact be little more than proprietary solutions that don't deliver the expected performance and endurance benefits. Therefore, you should ensure that your choices can interoperate with products from other vendors and have passed UNH-IOL (University of New Hampshire InterOperability Laboratory) NVMe compliance testing.
5. Not pooling SSD storage across the data center
Finally, it's important to think about how you place your NVMe tools within the data center, as independently using direct-attached NVMe-enabled SSD storage in servers won't be an effective use of technology. Instead, you should look to pool SSD storage across the entire data center. This will create a cache of SSD storage in front of higher-capacity drives in order to provide cost-efficient improved performance.