What Is NVMe?

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NVMe (nonvolatile memory express) is a new storage access and transport protocol for flash and next-generation solid-state drives (SSDs) that delivers the highest throughput and fastest response times yet for all types of enterprise workloads.

Today, in both consumer apps and business, users expect ever-faster response times, even as the applications themselves become vastly more complex and resource dependent.

To help deliver a high-bandwidth, low-latency user experience, the NVMe protocol accesses flash storage via a PCI Express (PCIe) bus, which supports tens of thousands of parallel command queues and thus is much faster than hard disks and traditional all-flash architectures, which are limited to a single command queue.

The NVMe specification takes advantage of nonvolatile memory in all kinds of computing environments. And it’s future-proof, extendable to work with not-yet-invented persistent memory technologies.

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Benefits of NVMe for data storage

It’s about time – NVMe storage is big news in the enterprise data center because it saves time.

  • Unlike protocols designed in the days of mechanical hard disk drives, NVMe leverages not just solid-state storage, but also today’s multicore CPUs and gigabytes of memory.
  • NVMe storage also takes advantage of streamlined command sets to efficiently parse and manipulate data.

NVMe use cases

NVMe storage is already being used in business scenarios where every microsecond counts:

NVMe over Fabrics (NVMe-oF)

NVMe is more than faster flash storage – it’s also an end-to-end standard that enables vastly more efficient transport of data between storage systems and servers.
  • NVMe over Fabrics extends NVMe’s performance and latency benefits across network fabrics such as Ethernet, Fibre Channel, and InfiniBand.
  • Provides higher IOPS and reduced latency from the host software stack all the way through the Data Fabric to the storage array.

NVMe over Fibre Channel (NVMe/FC)

With the recent release of NetApp®ONTAP®, NetApp’s AI data management platform provides NVMe over Fibre Channel support today.

Many enterprises have built their entire infrastructure around Fibre Channel because of its performance and reliability, plus its support for fabric-based zoning and name services.

Applications such as databases run much faster when using the NVMe/FC protocol compared to FCP (SCSI protocol with an underlying Fibre Channel connection). ONTAP NVMe/FC traffic can co-reside with FCP traffic on the same Fibre Channel fabric, so it’s easy to get started with NVMe/FC. For many customers with ONTAP AFF systems, this is simply a nondisruptive software upgrade.

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