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NVMe-focused Toshiba storage node software due in '18

Toshiba plans to deliver storage node software designed to extend the high performance and low latency benefits of NVMe-based solid-state drives over a network fabric.

Toshiba Memory America’s non-volatile memory express over fabrics (NVMe-oF) target software is due in the first quarter of 2018. The University of New Hampshire Interoperability Lab recently certified the unnamed Toshiba storage software with RDMA over Converged Ethernet (RoCE) network interface cards (NICs) in the storage node.

The Toshiba software runs in a target storage server and virtualizes the NVMe-based PCI Express (PCIe) solid-state drives (SSDs) from the box into a single pool, according to Joel Dedrick, a system architect for NVMe-oF at Toshiba. He said the Toshiba storage node software would enable popular datacenter orchestration systems to provision the NVMe SSDs and manage the drives, their wear and various other functions.

“Our goal here is to make the world a better place for NVMe,” he said.

Vendors such as E8 Storage, Mangstor and Vexata bundle software on NVMe hardware, but few standalone software applications for NVMe exist. Toshiba’s software competition will include startup Excelero, whose NVMesh product also virtualizes and pools NVMe-based SSDs and aims to enable applications to access them at high speed and low latency over a network fabric. Excelero cites its patented Remote Direct Drive Access (RDDA) technology as a performance differentiator. Dedrick said Toshiba’s storage node software takes a different architectural approach, and the company’s expertise in managing physical flash will also set its product apart.

Impetus for Toshiba storage software

Dedrick said Toshiba decided to get into the storage software business because it views NVMe over Fabrics as “an enormously important development” that will spur data centers to convert from traditional SCSI to latency-lowering NVMe to transfer data between clients and storage devices.

SCSI was designed with hard disk drives (HDDs) in mind, and newer NVMe targets faster solid-state storage, using a more streamlined command set to process I/O requests. NVMe requires less than half the number of CPU instructions that SCSI does with SAS drives. NVMe also supports 64,000 commands in a single message queue and as many as 65,535 I/O queues, whereas a SAS device typically supports a maximum of 256 commands in one queue.

NVMe over Fabrics is designed to extend the latency-lowering, performance-enhancing advantages of NVMe over a network fabric. Toshiba recommends 100 Gigabit Ethernet for deployments with multiple NVMe-based SSDs in the storage node, although no minimum speed is required.

“The larger the number of drives that you aggregate in a single place, the bigger the network pipe is going to want to be going in and out of there,” Dedrick said.

The new Toshiba storage node software will target enterprises with high-performance databases, according to Dedrick.

Dedrick said Toshiba plans to test and certify servers that run its storage node software, and potential enterprise customers could request it through their OEMs. He said Toshiba also plans to license the software to ODM/OEM partners, which could sell it as a value-added option for their standard offerings.

Toshiba did not disclose pricing for the storage node software.

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