NVMe™ Technology: The Modern Storage Protocol Designed for the Modern Data Center


By Mark Carlson and John Kim

In the age of Big Data, cloud services, AI, and the Internet of Things (IoT), the data center market is booming. According to a 2019 report from Global Market Insights, the hyperscale data center market is expected to reach $65 billion USD by 2025.

NVMe technology is the storage protocol solution today’s data centers were lacking, and with the addition of NVMe over Fabrics™ (NVMe-oF™) technology, NVMe solutions are easier to implement than ever. According to veteran business technology journalist John Edwards, NVMe-oF “is shaping up to become perhaps the most disruptive data center storage technology since the introduction of solid-state drives (SSD), promising to bring new levels of performance and economy to rapidly expanding storage arrays.”

The Modern Data Center Requires a Modern Protocol

Storage protocols are needed in order to define data flow to and from servers and unlock the potential of the data center. However, as the datacenter has evolved, early-established storage protocols were not conducive to new hardware advancements. While hardware had improved, it resulted in increased storage I/O demands from more cores, leading to bottlenecks, latency problems and speed issues when using legacy storage protocols. These roadblocks hindered the data center from performing at full capacity.

The NVMe Protocol Solves Data Center Needs

NVMe technology was created to address these precise roadblocks. When first introduced in 2012, the NVMe scalable host controller interface revolutionized the storage industry, enabling the high-performance needs of the Big Data age.

NVMe technology offers many benefits in the data center, including:

  • Delivers faster access to data
  • Lowers power consumption
  • Reduces latency
  • Delivers higher Input/Output Operations (IOPS)

NVMe technology opens more roadways, supporting a whopping 64K I/O queues, with each I/O queue supporting up to 64K commands. These newly added roadways and command queues drastically reduce latency and bottlenecks, increasing productivity and efficiency of applications and servers.

NVMe Technology and Software Updates Facilitate Growth and Adoption

With the addition of the NVMe-oF protocol, the data center architecture will see a significant evolution. The NVMe-oF protocol allows optimal performance for both applications and the network when accessing NVMe storage via a network. By allowing the NVMe protocol to run over a switched fabric, the NVMe-oF protocol offers reduces bottlenecks and latency created from older storage fabric protocols. The NVM Express organization recently supported the addition of the NVMe/TCP transport to the NVMe-oF family, making NVMe-oF even more flexible than before. This was in response to hyperscaler requests, due to their scale-out architecture choices.

Upcoming specification updates in NVMe 1.4 and NVMe-oF 1.1 also take hyperscaler requirements into account. New features in NVMe 1.4 specification such as I/O determinism break up each drive into multiple different devices, allowing multiple I/O workloads to independently access the drive, reducing long-tail latency and improving Quality of Service (QoS).

Software infrastructure has evolved and adapted to support the NVMe protocol, demonstrating the industry’s support of this revolutionary technology. The Linux Operating System saw a software infrastructure update, and other software infrastructures such as Hypervisors have been updated to support NVMe technology as well. The NVM Express, Inc. infrastructure software has been accepted upstream in the Linux kernel.

These NVMe specification and software technology updates make NVMe technology simple and scalable, resulting in the increase of NVMe technology adoption rates. This is because tier-two data center customers are now also taking advantage of these new technologies when building out their data centers.

Register for our Upcoming Webcast

Take a deeper dive into these technology updates in the NVM Express, Inc sponsored webcast, Powering the Data Center with NVM Express™.

Webcast attendees will learn about:

  • The hyperscaler response to the NVMe specification
  • The evolvement of the NVMe specification to support data center deployment of SSDs
  • Additional features in the upcoming NVMe 1.4 specification such as I/O determinism and predictable latency

Join us at 9:00am PST on Tuesday, June 11 to learn how the NVMe standard has evolved for the modern data center.