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How NVMe technology and NVMe over Fabrics will change storage

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What's next for NVMe and NVMe over Fabrics

Nonvolatile memory express was designed specifically for flash storage and plays to flash's strengths. NVMe moves data closer to the processor, streamlining operations, reducing CPU overhead and speeding up SSDs, with lower latency and higher IOPS.

IDC recently predicted that, by 2021, more than half of primary storage revenue will come from storage based on NVMe technology. "It makes sense for enterprises to understand what this technology can do for them, so that they can integrate it into their own environments most cost-effectively," said Eric Burgener, an analyst at IDC, in a report titled "NVMe Over Fabric."

Cost continues to be a limiting factor. But as of late last year, prices for NVMe technology were declining. In its recent report, "NVM Express Spring 2018 Ecosystem Snapshot," G2M Communications Inc. predicted NVMe enterprise flash storage devices will reach price parity with SAS devices in 2018.

The market has grown considerably just in the last six months, according to G2M. More than 90 companies are in it, offering 293 products, the technology research house said.

So where is NVMe technology headed? The protocol must move beyond individual hosts with direct-attached NVM subsystems to distributed data centers. That's where NVMe over Fabrics (NVMe-oF) comes in, extending NVMe across Ethernet, InfiniBand and Fibre Channel.

NVMe-oF maps commands and responses to a host's shared memory. It facilitates communications between an NVMe host and a network-connected NVMe storage device. It extends the distances over which devices based on NVMe technology can be accessed and makes scaling to a larger number of devices possible.

According to recent tests done by Demartek, a storage and networking analyst company, NVMe over Fibre Channel delivered 58% higher IOPS and 34% lower latency compared with the SCSI Fibre Channel protocol. It accelerated existing workloads and only required a software upgrade.

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