Part V – NVMe overview primer (Where to learn more, what this all means)

March 21, 2016 – 8:07 pm

server storage I/O trends
Updated 1/12/2018
This is the fifth in a five-part mini-series providing a NVMe primer overview.

View Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V as well as companion posts and more NVMe primer material at

There are many different facets of NVMe including protocol that can be deployed on PCIe (AiC, U.2/8639 drives, M.2) for local direct attached, dedicated or shared for front-end or back-end of storage systems. NVMe direct attach is also found in servers and laptops using M.2 NGFF mini cards (e.g. "gum sticks"). In addition to direct attached, dedicated and shared, NVMe is also deployed on fabrics including over Fibre Channel (FC-NVMe) as well as NVMe over Fabrics (NVMeoF) leveraging RDMA based networks (e.g. iWARP, RoCE among others).

The storage I/O capabilities of flash can now be fed across PCIe faster to enable modern multi-core processors to complete more useful work in less time, resulting in greater application productivity. NVMe has been designed from the ground up with more and deeper queues, supporting a larger number of commands in those queues. This in turn enables the SSD to better optimize command execution for much higher concurrent IOPS. NVMe will coexist along with SAS, SATA and other server storage I/O technologies for some time to come. But NVMe will be at the top-tier of storage as it takes full advantage of the inherent speed and low latency of flash while complementing the potential of multi-core processors that can support the latest applications.

With NVMe, the capabilities of underlying NVM and storage memories are further realized Devices used include a PCIe x4 NVMe AiC SSD, 12 GbpsSAS SSD and 6 GbpsSATA SSD. These and other improvements with NVMe enable concurrency while reducing latency to remove server storage I/O traffic congestion. The result is that application demanding more concurrent I/O activity along with lower latency will gravitate towards NVMe for access fast storage.

Like the robust PCIe physical server storage I/O interface it leverages, NVMe provides both flexibility and compatibility. It removes complexity, overhead and latency while allowing far more concurrent I/O work to be accomplished. Those on the cutting edge will embrace NVMe rapidly. Others may prefer a phased approach.

Some environments will initially focus on NVMe for local server storage I/O performance and capacity available today. Other environments will phase in emerging external NVMe flash-based shared storage systems over time.

Planning is an essential ingredient for any enterprise. Because NVMe spans servers, storage, I/O hardware and software, those intending to adopt NVMe need to take into account all ramifications. Decisions made today will have a big impact on future data and information infrastructures.

Key questions should be, how much speed do your applications need now, and how do growth plans affect those requirements? How and where can you maximize your financial return on investment (ROI) when deploying NVMe and how will that success be measured?

Several vendors are working on, or have already introduced NVMe related technologies or initiatives. Keep an eye on among others including AWS, Broadcom (Avago, Brocade), Cisco (Servers), Dell EMC, Excelero, HPE, Intel (Servers, Drives and Cards), Lenovo, Micron, Microsoft (Azure, Drivers, Operating Systems, Storage Spaces), Mellanox, NetApp, OCZ, Oracle, PMC, Samsung, Seagate, Supermicro, VMware, Western Digital (acquisition of SANdisk and HGST) among others.

Where To Learn More

View additional NVMe, SSD, NVM, SCM, Data Infrastructure and related topics via the following links.

Additional learning experiences along with common questions (and answers), as well as tips can be found in Software Defined Data Infrastructure Essentials book.

Software Defined Data Infrastructure Essentials Book SDDC

What this all means

NVMe is in your future if not already, so If NVMe is the answer, what are the questions?

Ok, nuff said, for now.


Greg Schulz – Microsoft MVP Cloud and Data Center Management, VMware vExpert 2010-2017 (vSAN and vCloud). 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. Courteous comments are welcome for consideration. First published on any reproduction in whole, in part, with changes to content, without source attribution under title or without permission is forbidden.

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