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Speed and performance boost for enterprise storage market

Naresh Chouhan, Marketing Director, EMEA at Tegile, a Western Digital brand, explains why VARs and MSPs need to embrace NVMe

Flash storage
Flash storage

Over the last decade, adoption rates of flash storage in the enterprise have continued to rise, and the channel has played a key role in this growth. As prices fall, all-flash storage infrastructures will become increasingly practical and popular.

However, flash is just a starting point for high-speed enterprise data storage: Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe) is the next step, and a great addition to any reseller’s storage portfolio.

NVMe dramatically accelerates the rate at which data is delivered, giving MSPs and VARs that embrace the technology (and their customers) a competitive advantage before it becomes mainstream. Research firms, such as G2M Research, expect the market for NVMe to reach $60 billion by 2021, with 70% of all-flash arrays being based on the protocol by 2020.

What is NVMe?
NVMe is a storage protocol and host controller interface created and optimised for Solid State Drives (SSDs), or flash, and other persistent memory systems. This includes technologies still in development, such as Storage Class Memory (SCM).

SAS and SATA, the two most common controller interfaces found in datacentres today, were built for use with a spinning disk and have become costly bottlenecks for enterprises that increasingly rely on flash. Many resellers find that their designs take a hit when the cost of SAS or SATA is brought into the equation.

It is worth pointing out that NVMe is not brand new. In fact, it has been in development since 2009, long before flash storage became commonplace, and has now reached a point where adoption in enterprise datacentres is both practical and worthwhile.

More and more applications today provide real-time interactions and experiences to end users or run other workloads requiring fast storage that can read and write extremely large volumes of data almost instantaneously. This is where NVMe comes in.

Superior performance
The promise of NVMe lies in the superior performance and efficiency of the protocol in flash-based infrastructures.

SAS and SATA limit the full potential of flash since both interfaces process data in a serial manner – the data on a disk storage device cannot be accessed until a read head arrives at precisely the right spot on a platter. SAS and SATA process 32 and 256 commands respectively, within a single queue.

In contrast, flash is built as a parallel storage medium and NVMe is designed to fully utilise this approach. NVMe can simultaneously handle 64,000 queues of data, with each queue supporting 64,000 commands, clearly demonstrating its superiority over legacy protocols for flash-based storage infrastructures.

In addition to its performance advantages, NVMe offers dramatic improvements in efficiency compared to other controller interfaces. With a significantly shorter I/O request path, NVMe can halve the CPU commands of an organisation’s storage infrastructure and enable data transfers to overcome nearly any interrupt signals. Scalability is built into the DNA of the protocol, ensuring maximum flexibility for adopters.

Being a more modern storage architecture, NVMe was designed with end-to-end encryption built-in and requires less energy to run. With native security features and the ability to reduce TCO by building a more powerful system in a smaller footprint, NVMe addresses the concerns of today’s organisations across multiple verticals.

Channel perspective
What does this mean for VARs and MSPs? Big data is now a part of daily life and instances of fast data are just as common. Fast data workloads include processes tied to billing and anomaly detection, in addition to emerging technologies such as machine learning and the Internet of Things.

The multiple advantages of NVMe generate numerous new use cases and business models, from high performance computing to media and entertainment, big data analytics to artificial intelligence, fuelling ever growing interest amongst enterprises.

For the channel, it is vital to keep one step ahead of customer demand. Several of the dominant channel organisations were slow to heed the cloud computing trend, and this ultimately impacted their bottom lines.

It cannot be ignored that there are risks associated with being an early adopter of any new technology, especially for a reseller. In this instance, the issue of compatibility is of vital importance, raising the question of whether NVMe can interoperate with an organisation’s existing infrastructure and on its operating system. In fact, this consideration was considered when NVMe was designed, and most storage providers have agreed to abide by the technology’s protocols, eliminating compatibility issues.

VARs and MSPs are well equipped to fill the role of a trusted advisor to end users interested in new and emerging technologies. As NVMe becomes increasingly viable for enterprises, organisations will begin to look to the channel for guidance. NVMe is beginning to flourish and channel executives need to ensure they get on board in order to benefit from the possibilities that NVMe offers MSPs and VARs as well as their customers.

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