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Getting ahead of the SSD interface performance curve requires foresight and careful planning. As NVMe technology evolves, new adopters are looking for ways to ease the changeover. Nonvolatile memory express has emerged as the open logical device interface specification that future generations
of storage systems will be built upon, promising significant performance acceleration at economics that cannot be equaled by earlier generation SAS/SATA systems. In fact, when compared with NVMe SSDs, SAS and SATA have become legacy design interfaces. And IT experts are taking notice.
A growing number of enterprises are beginning to recognize that, if they truly want to benefit from SSD performance, they need to move toward NVMe technology with a direct attachment to the Peripheral Component Interconnect Express (PCIe) bus.
“This … gets you as close as possible to the CPU,” explained Ian McClarty, president of PhoenixNAP Global IT Services. The approach, he added, dramatically reduces latency and increases speeds through multiple PCIe lanes, thereby relieving the bottlenecks faced by SAS/SATA interface users.
Making the move
The transition to NVMe SSD technology will likely take place gradually over the next several years. Luckily for current SAS/SATA users, they don’t have to face the immediate prospect of ripping and replacing their existing storage technology or attempting a forklift upgrade. “Instead, [new adopters] should look to implement future-proof architectures that will allow them to scale with new innovations in flash technology,” said Jeff Baxter, chief evangelist of ONTAP at storage and data management software provider NetApp. “Some existing NVMe-ready solutions will allow customers to nondisruptively add new NVMe storage arrays directly into existing scale-out architectures and expand or move workloads as appropriate from current HDD or SAS/SATA-attached SSD arrays to NVMe SSD-based arrays over time,” he added.
Before launching an NVMe transition, IT leaders should first determine whether their incumbent storage array is NVMe-capable. “In other words, is the array capable of seamlessly adding #NVMe SSDs without requiring a major reconfiguration or data migration?” asked @NarayanVenkat, @WesternDigital ‘s vice president of #datacenter systems for @Tegile #flash storage arrays. “If so, then simply replacing a few of the SAS/SATA SSDs with NVMe provides the benefits of instant performance acceleration without any disruption to applications.”
Unfortunately, Venkat added, most incumbent storage systems aren’t capable of seamless NVMe SSD support, since the products weren’t designed from the outset with NVMe SSD compatibility in mind.
Navigating compatibility pitfalls
If an incumbent storage array isn’t fully NVMe-compatible, as is typically the case, the only practical solution is to upgrade to an NVMe-based storage system that has been designed from the outset to take advantage of the speed and performance of NVMe SSDs. With this approach, managers can easily migrate applications and data to their new NVMe-based storage systems. “Migration is simple for virtualized environments, like VMware, as administrators can move virtual machines, along with applications and data, with a few clicks,” Venkat observed.

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