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NVMe: hitting the sweet spot


Article Type: Events          Published: 01-2018         Views: 888      

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A recent event at London's Ritz Hotel examined what 451 Research is calling 'the second wave of flash usage', and Storage magazine editor David Tyler was there to report back

Israel/California-based E8 Storage chose the splendour of the Ritz for its recent event at which representatives of the company, along with analyst experts and end users, explained how NVMe is going to change forever the landscape of flash usage in the corporate environment. Julie Herd, Director of Technology Marketing at E8 opened the proceedings with a brief corporate overview before diving into the 'main course' with a description of how the company's solutions exploit the strengths of NVMe, which she described as 'a completely different beast" from anything that has gone before.

Even as businesses are tending toward relatively slow growth, said Herd, of around 5% or less, data is continuing to grow at massively faster rates - anything up to 60% or more over the same periods. This has driven the demand for faster access of course, but while flash itself is a fast medium, traditional protocols have not allowed businesses to exploit that speed to anywhere near its potential. SAS and SATA, Herd reminded us, were developed for spinning disk systems, and they have proven to be of limited value in parallelised environments.

LATENT ISSUES
E8 Storage solutions represent a new architecture built specifically for high performance NVMe and as such, said Herd, make for systems that are "scalable in multiple dimensions". Their solution - essentially a block storage device with capacities up to half a petabyte - works pretty much straight out of the box, explained Herd: "The fact is that high performance flash doesn't require a whole lot of tuning!"

The solution is designed for Ethernet connectivity, the thinking being that Fibre Channel is not so simple or reliable an option, and that Ethernet is almost a de facto standard in most data centres.

Herd explained how the E8 MDS software layer (Meta Data Server) helps them to separate the data from the controller - reducing bottlenecks at the controller. While a typical all-flash array can often suffer from high latency problems, with E8 latency is massively reduced - indeed almost eliminated in some use cases.

Compute and capacity can be scaled independently as required, and E8 recommend a 'start small and grow' approach that allows users to easily and seamlessly add new E8 appliances to their existing infrastructure without downtime.

'RE-PLUMBING' FLASH
Tim Stammers of analyst firm 451 Research was next to take the stage and he reiterated some of Julie Herd's concerns about the existing flash marketplace. We are at the start of the second wave of flash usage, he argued, and only a small number of vendors (E8 included) are well positioned to take advantage of the coming shift. As 3D NAND has 'refreshed' the technology curve in storage, so we need to consider what Stammers described as 're-plumbing' flash in our systems: "We waste a lot of the potential of all-flash when we insist on using old disk protocols such as SAS and SATA."

NVMe is at the heart of the changes we need to see, he went on: "NVMe is designed not just for today's flash, but also for future storage technologies that are yet to be developed." Stammers also touched on the idea that NVMe could be said to simply be moving the bottleneck to the SAN, an issue he says will be addressed in future standards of NVMeOF (NVMe over Fabric): "It's not quite ready yet, but it is coming, and when the standard is established it could all but eliminate network latency."

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