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But NVMe is not just about the hardware. Schulz cautioned users to pay attention to software.
“Check if your operating system or hypervisor has drivers for NVMe devices, or if there are updates that can be applied,” said Schulz. “Drivers are available for the major Linux versions including RHEL, Centos and Ubuntu as well as for Windows 8/2012, VMware and other hypervisors.”
NVMe, then, requires both hardware and software parts. It is likely to be a good fit for many servers, particularly those being used for content provisioning, software defined storage platforms and database servers. But it isn’t about to eliminate SAS or SATA — at least not any time soon.
“NVMe will co-exist with your existing SAS and SATA devices and will operate as part of a tiered storage strategy,” said Schulz. “Start planning for NVMe in your future by shopping for NVMe-capable servers today.”
Training is another important part of future NVMe success. After all, NVMe is initially going to be deployed in business-critical applications where its higher cost can be justified by far greater performance that can be translated directly to the bottom line. You don’t want to be fumbling around with it in those kinds of environments.
“Ensure the support teams charged with maintenance and management of the platforms in which you plan to deploy NVMe are well trained,” said Rollins. “You need a staff that is already prepared, educated and able to handle any challenge that comes their way.”
No Golden Ticket
Those familiar with the Willie Wonka movies and books know all about golden tickets. And it’s understandable that some storage managers, on hearing about the marvels of NVMe will imagine that they are about to obtain one. But like any new breakthrough, expectations can often exceed reality.
Jeff Sisilli, Senior Director Product Marketing, Flash Solutions, DDN Storage, agreed that NVMe can be a powerful tool to satisfy performance hungry applications, reduce hardware requirements and shorten time to results. But he advised users to not look upon it as a golden ticket that will resolve each and every performance woe or application bottleneck.
“Despite the marketing buzz, it’s important to keep in mind that flash alone won't always accelerate your applications or make your workload faster,” he said. “Where actual speed-ups can be achieved is dictated by knowing your specific data patterns and identifying where the I/O bottlenecks are in your environment.”
In other words, homework and prior testing will pay dividends in terms of delivering the biggest bang for your NVMe buck. It's like choosing between adding racing tires to a Camaro or a Toyota Yaris. In the former, the tires may buy you sufficient performance to warrant the investment. In the latter, you are wasting your money.
Sisilli mentioned that DDN is unveiling its next generation storage, server and I/O acceleration platforms this fall. This will include a PCIe Fabric in which you can plug in an abundance of NVMe as a way to drive much more performance at lower latency.
“We’re talking lots and lots of performance,” said Sisilli. “48 NVMe slots compared to the typical 2 to 6 slots you see on today’s commodity servers.”
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