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Enterprise SSDs Connected Over Fabrics
And that's why NVM Express over Fabrics is so exciting. It means you can take an NVMe enterprise SSD and take it out of the server. By connecting it using Ethernet or InfiniBand, you can treat reads like remote direct memory access (RDMA), said Mellor. "It's like a memory-to-memory transfer, and at 100 nanoseconds its nearly the same as a local direct flash access," he said. "If you have that, then instead of waiting 19 years you'd wait a couple of hours," he added. "NVMe fabrics are a great way of bringing storage nearer to the processor. They're revolutionary."
Systems built on the new NVM Express over Fabrics specs will receive a huge performance boost when the NVMe enterprise SSDs they contain are upgraded with next-generation solid state storage media to replace the existing NAND storage. Although there has been talk of HPE Memristor and IBM phase change memory (PCM) products, it's likely that the only next-generation medium to emerge in the near future will be Intel and Micron's 3D XPoint.
3D XPoint and Enterprise SSDs
When 3D XPoint-based enterprise SSDs do finally become available, this will increasingly blur a different boundary: the one between internal and external storage offerings. Fast NVM Express over Fabric storage will effectively work as shared DAS, offering slightly faster performance than SAS SSD DAS (and slightly slower than PCIe NVMe enterprise SSDs) even though the enterprise SSDs themselves will be physically located outside the server.
In fact, the NVM Express over Fabrics revolution started to happen even before the publication of the NVM Express over Fabrics specs. Offerings that make use of conventional enterprise SSD flash storage are already available from Apeiron, EMC DSSD, E8 and Mangstor Technology, with another from Tegile promised in the near future. The NVMe enterprise SSDs they require are readily available from vendors including Samsung, HGST, Intel, Toshiba, Micron and OCZ.
So, looking to the future, what will be the effect of this new style of low-latency, close-to-the-server, shared storage?
Mellor predicts nothing less than an I/O bound app revolution. In particular, the combination of NVM Express over Fabrics and Hadoop will result in very fast Big Data analytics. That's because instead of having to move data from Hadoop node to Hadoop node for processing, vast quantities of data will just sit in shared DAS storage — accessible over the fabric by any processor with minimal latency. It might also result in archive systems that are priced between power-down disks and tape, but offering instant access to the archived data.
All in all it's an exciting time for anyone involved in solid state storage. Expect to hear much more about NVMe enterprise SSDs accessed over fabrics. The publication of the specs is just the end of the beginning of developments.
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