NVMe Wont Replace Flash By Itself They Complement Each Other

August 9, 2017 – 10:58 am
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NVMe Wont Replace Flash By Itself They Complement Each Other

server storage I/O data infrastructure trends

various NVM flash and SSD devices
Various Solid State Devices (SSD) including NVMe, SAS, SATA, USB, M.2

There has been some recent industry marketing buzz generated by a startup to get some attention by claiming via a study sponsored by including the startup that Non-Volatile Memory (NVM) Express (NVMe) will replace flash storage. Granted, many IT customers as well as vendors are still confused by NVMe thinking it is a storage medium as opposed to an interface used for accessing fast storage devices such as nand flash among other solid state devices (SSDs). Part of that confusion can be tied to common SSD based devices rely on NVM that are persistent memory retaining data when powered off (unlike the memory in your computer).

NVMe is an access interface and protocol

Instead of saying NVMe will mean the demise of flash, what should or could be said however some might be scared to say it is that other interfaces and protocols such as SAS (Serial Attached SCSI), AHCI/SATA, mSATA, Fibre Channel SCSI Protocol aka FCP aka simply Fibre Channel (FC), iSCSI and others are what can be replaced by NVMe. NVMe is simply the path or roadway along with traffic rules for getting from point a (such as a server) to point b (some storage device or medium e.g. flash SSD). The storage medium is where data is stored such as magnetic for Hard Disk Drive (HDD) or tape, nand flash, 3D XPoint, Optane among others.

NVMe and NVM better together

NVMe and NVM including flash are better together

The simple quick get to the point is that NVMe (e.g. Non Volatile Memory aka NVM Express [NVMe]) is an interface protocol (like SAS/SATA/iSCSI among others) used for communicating with various nonvolatile memory (NVM) and solid state device (SSDs). NVMe is how data gets moved between a computer or other system and the NVM persistent memory such as nand flash, 3D XPoint, Spintorque or other storage class memories (SCM).

In other words, the only thing NVMe will, should, might or could kill off would be the use of some other interface such as SAS, SATA/AHCI, Fibre Channel, iSCSI along with propritary driver or protocols. On the other hand, given the extensibility of NVMe and how it can be used in different configurations including as part of fabrics, it is an enabler for various NVMs also known as persistent memories, SCMs, SSDs including those based on NAND flash as well as emerging 3D XPoint (or Intel version) among others.

Where To Learn More

Learn more about related technology, trends, tools, techniques, and tips with the following links.

What This All Means

Context matters for example, NVM as the medium compared to NVMe as the interface and access protocols. With context in mind you can compare like or similar apples to apples such as nand flash, MRAM, NVRAM, 3D XPoint, Optane among other persistent memories also known as storage class memories, NVMs and SSDs. Likewise with context in mind NVMe can be compared to other interfaces and protocols such as SAS, SATA, PCIe, mSATA, Fibre Channel among others. The following puts all of this into context including various packaging options, interfaces and access protocols, functionality and media.

NVMe is the access for NVM flash
Putting IT all together

Will NVMe kill off flash? IMHO no not by itself, however NVMe combined with some other form of NVM, SCM, persistent memory as a storage medium may eventually combine as an alternative to NVMe and flash (or SAS/SATA and flash). However, for now at least for many applications, NVMe is in your future (along with flash among other storage mediums), the questions include when, where, why, how, with what among other questions (and answers). NVMe wont replace flash by itself (at least yet) as they complement each other.

Keep in mind, if NVMe is the answer, what are the questions.

Ok, nuff said, for now.
Gs

Greg Schulz – Multi-year Microsoft MVP Cloud and Data Center Management, VMware vExpert (and vSAN). Author of Software Defined Data Infrastructure Essentials (CRC Press), as well as Cloud and Virtual Data Storage Networking (CRC Press), The Green and Virtual Data Center (CRC Press), Resilient Storage Networks (Elsevier) and twitter @storageio.

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