IT has always been hit by marketing waves that speak of new systems that will revolutionize the way everything works. Well, in IT as in real life revolutions are few and far between and it’s the steady creep of technology that brings most developments into widespread use. But some technology advancements impact parts of the IT infrastructure that are so important that any new development there needs careful consideration. Hence the question, are you ready for NVMe?
NVMe, the new standard for communications between servers and storage, offers many potential benefits over the existing widely used SAS and SATA. And performance is chief amongst them. But as with any new tech, when it first hits the streets or, more accurately, data centers, it arrives with a price premium. The questions usually then become: has the technology reached a level of maturity that justifies bringing it into use, and assuming it has, where does it make sense to use it first?
The crucial thing here is to have an accurate picture of the workloads being run and their importance to the business. Without this – and of course, without an understanding of how their performance could differ using NVMe – it can be very difficult, if not impossible, to justify any investment.
So where have the common starting points been for the use of NVMe so far? A recent study carried out by Freeform Dynamics showed that NVMe is most widely deployed supporting very low latency-sensitive transaction systems. Business-critical real-time analytics, data-intensive modeling and engineering were the workloads where NVMe was next most widely deployed, with demanding analytics workloads not far behind.
These kinds of workloads are a perfect fit for NVMe because they require fast access to data, and often to very large volumes of data. We also saw some take-up in large-scale virtual machine and desktop virtualization environments, and it’s likely that usage will expand fairly quickly here as the price differential between NVMe and traditional Flash platforms diminishes.
In the medium term and longer, NVMe usage could well expand to cover nearly all use-cases where users are actively engaged with data, especially if, as is distinctly possible, NVMe becomes standard in storage platforms across the board.
But, and this is an important caveat, the potential of NVMe storage can only be fully exploited if the rest of the IT infrastructure supports it. In particular, servers and networks must be able to take advantage of NVMe-enabled data capabilities such as very low latency and high data parallelization. For once, a lack of skills is unlikely to hinder adoption, as for many use cases there is little need for specialist NVMe knowledge.
The key to adoption, as ever, is to understand where to start. NVMe is now ready for the enterprise. The bigger question is, are you ready for NVMe? And, just as importantly, are your suppliers ready to help you make use of NVMe?