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New fabric-based protocol expected to upgrade flash storage

The rise of NVMe over Fabrics in the market seems all but inevitable, say experts, given the value of a storage protocol designed specifically for SSDs.

Jeff Rowe | May 21, 2018 12:00 am

It's widely believed in the storage world that NVMe SSDs will one day supplant SATA and SAS-based SSDs as the default flash media. Does the extension over fabrics have the same certain future? 

That’s the question tech writer asked and answered in a recent commentary in which she argued, “rather than a separate product entirely, NVMe over Fabrics should be considered the natural next step for NVMe technology. Extending over Fabrics means integrating NVMe technology into storage networks, such as Ethernet and Fibre Channel. This process carries the NVMe commands over longer distances and is a popular NVMe deployment option for organizations looking to use NVMe in large, scale-out environments.”

The key, she said, is that “NVMe over Fabrics can address high-performance requirements and maximizes the value of expensive flash storage by extending it to an organization's storage network. There are areas of concern, such as manageability and the skills required of the team running the network, but the advantages are clear.”

As for the development of NVMe, Sullivan says it was “developed to address weaknesses in the iSCSI protocol, which was developed with hard disks in mind. Because combining SCSI with speedy flash storage often resulted in bottlenecks, NVMe was developed. NVMe-oF goes a step further than NVMe, correcting latency and performance problems associated with SCSI and providing stronger connectivity over a larger network.”

The upshot from an industry perspective, Sullivan suggests, is that just as flash technology transformed storage, NVMe-oF is set to cause a stir. “To fully take advantage of the benefits of NVMe over Fabrics, shared storage architectures must change. Storage architecture vendors will need to adjust their offerings, taking into account performance optimization and switching from legacy protocols to the updated NVMe protocols. While vendors of more flexible software-defined storage may have an easier time incorporating these changes, those in the hyper-converged infrastructure business could also see benefits from embracing the technology.”

In addition, she argues, NVMe over Fabrics stands out as an example of modern innovation in storage, and a sign that the market will continue to develop in the coming years.

Of course, as with any major IT development, the biggest question here is whether widespread adoption of the technology is on the horizon. According to Sullivan, while it was developed with flash storage in mind, “NVMe technology isn't designed exclusively for flash, which should keep it up to date and adaptable as time goes by.”