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August 2018, Vol. 17, No. 5

NVMe flash storage is shaking things up

The development of the nonvolatile memory express protocol is a huge step forward in allowing enterprises to maximize the benefits inherent to flash storage. NVMe puts storage closer to the CPU, reduces latency and increases the amount of parallel sessions available to storage devices. NVMe over Fabrics, meanwhile, is designed to retain the benefits of centralized storage by allowing the client host to talk directly to NVMe flash storage across a high-speed network. This is all good. But adopting NVMe flash storage does raise a number of questions. For example, what is the best approach to take when integrating NVMe flash storage in a particular IT infrastructure? And, perhaps, most imperative to the majority of enterprises, how well will the NVMe flash storage protocol and the devices that support it work with existing data center technologies?

From the get-go, the intrinsic possibilities and benefits of the all-flash data center seemed enormous and attractive. The idea that production databases would respond instantly to requests for unstructured data is extremely appealing to enterprises. Falling flash prices; the advent of unprecedented storage densities, with 16 TB flash drives commonplace and 50 TB-plus drives in the offing; and technologies such as compression and deduplication that work well in a flash environment make all-flash seem more reasonable than ever. The flash-only data center raises two significant issues that must be addressed, however. It makes equipping disaster recovery sites far more expensive and raises the question of why would you want to pay a premium price to maintain cold and stale data on expensive flash storage when a (still) much cheaper hard-disk option would suffice.

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