WAKEFIELD, Mass. — The NVM Express Work Group has decided to incorporate itself to further the NVM Express (NVMe) specification for accessing solid-state disks (SSDs) on a PCI Express (PCIe) bus.
According to David Akerson, strategic marketing engineer for Intel’s NVM Solutions Group, incorporation will provide the working group with more clout as it works to evolve the NVMe specification. “It gives us gives credibility and better ability to work with other standards bodies.”
NVMe is a standardized register interface, command, and feature set for PCIe-based storage technologies such as SSDs, designed specifically for non-volatile memory. It is optimized for high performance and low latency, scaling from client to enterprise segments.
Akerson said the NVM Express Organization is currently developing revision 1.2 of the base specification, while at the same time standardizing in-band and out-of-band management of PCI Express SSDs, including LEDs and thermal control. These specifications are targeted for release in the second half of 2014.
The work group began as a special interest group under the guidance of Intel and always operated as a neutral organization, said Akerson, but the newfound autonomy should provide the organization’s nearly 100 members even more peace of mind when sharing intellectual property.
Initial inception of the group dates back to 2007, formed around the idea that PCIe was the storage interface that could provide the best scalability and greater bandwidth for next-generation non-volatile memory. Akerson said one of the reasons a SIG was formed was because the work fell outside the mandates of existing organizations, such as the Storage Networking Industry Association. The initial specification was known as the Non-Volatile Memory Host Controller Interface (NVMHCI) specification, which was released in April 2008, with technical work beginning in the second half of 2009. Version 1.0 of the NVMe specification was released in March 2011, and version 1.1 was release in October 2012.
The NVMe Ecosystem includes drivers for Windows, Linux, Solaris, VMware, and UEFI; controllers developed by LSI; and SSDs from HGST, Intel, Micron, Samsung, SanDisk, Seagate, and Toshiba. Samsung introduced the first NVM Express drive in July 2013, while the LSI SandForce SF3700 controller family supports NVMe. Conformance and interoperability work will continue at the University of New Hampshire Interoperability Lab. Akerson said the availability of standard drivers eliminates the need for OEMs to qualify drivers for each SSD vendor. Server OEMs include Cisco, Dell, EMC, Fujitsu, NetApp, and Oracle.
The LSI SandForce SF3700 controller family supports NVMe.
NVMe offers a number of performance benefits, said Akerson, with features such as full duplex, multiple outstanding requests, and out-of-order processing, as well as scalable port width and scalable link speed, while reducing latency. It is also low-cost and energy efficient, he told us.
Elements in development for the next revision of the specification include namespace management, namespace inventory notice event, firmware activation without reset, and more power management enhancements, including power state performance, transitional energy, and runtime power removal. SGL enhancements will include metadata optimization.
Michael Yang, senior principal analyst at IHS, told us existing technologies available now from vendors such as Fusion-io, use proprietary hardware and software. Having a standard will facilitate faster adoption, as will the incorporation of the working group, he said. “It’s difficult to roll out technologies widely without standards.”
Yang said there is industry consensus on the benefits of NVMe, and there are a number of compelling use cases for it, primarily around acceleration, much as Fusion-io has demonstrated. He said all areas of IT have can potentially benefit from it.
Akerson said the NVM Express Organization is open to new members and will continue to be led by its current promoters, Cisco, Dell, EMC, HGST, Western Digital, Intel, LSI, Micron, NetApp, Oracle, PMC-Sierra, Samsung, SanDisk, and Seagate.