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The Speed’s the Thing: NVMe for Data Centers

By August 9, 2018Article

Nowadays, data is the fuel that businesses run on. Technologies like artificial intelligence, the internet of things, blockchain and machine learning all need data to be stored, processed and analyzed. Data is being generated exponentially with the rise in internet users in the last 7 to 8 years. An estimated 2.5 quintillion bytes of data is generated every day and by 2020 that amount could hit 1.7 MB of data.

This data tsunami puts forth challenges for IT infrastructure to provide lower latency and higher storage performance, as most enterprises need real-time data processing and faster access to stored data. Access to high-performance SSDs using legacy storage protocols like SATA or SAS are simply not enough.

NVMe enabled storage infrastructure

NVMe (non-volatile memory express) is a high-performance scalable host controller interface protocol that is needed to access high-performance storage media like SSDs over PCI bus. NVMe is the next-generation technology replacing SATA and SAS protocols and offers features required by enterprises that focus on processing high volume real-time data. The main differentiator for NVMe is the number of commands supported in a single queue. SATA devices support 32 commands, SAS supports 256 commands and NVMe supports up to 64K commands per queue and up to 64K queues. Queues are designed to take advantage of parallel processing capabilities of multicore processors. The NVMe protocol uses the PCIe interface. See chart below for insight into how NVMe together with PCIe has transformed data centers in just the past two years.

The NVMe protocol is characterized by the fact that existing applications are getting accelerated and enabled by real-time workload processing within an NVMe-enabled infrastructure, which can be a legacy data center. Such performance is achieved because NVMe consumes very few CPU cycles as compared to SATA or SAS. This feature allows businesses to get maximum returns from their existing IT infrastructure.


Sagar Nangare is Digital Strategist at Calsoft Inc. Read Sagar’s full evaluation of the opportunities of NVMe for data centers in this original post, from which this article is adapted. Recently, Calsoft released an ebook on NVMe and NVMe over Fabrics technology.

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