The general view is that being on this list (and performing the testing associated with it) has become a necessity for earning validation by major OEMs. Large OEMs will have their own, specific performance, endurance, or usability requirements, and they want the NVMe Integrators List testing to take care of the basic interoperability and conformance requirements. If a product can't pass the NVMe Integrators List tests, then it isn't ready for further validation by the OEMs.
TRP: What real-world business challenges are solved by NVMe technology?
DW: Consolidation. NVMe is going to further enable the low-latency, all flash data centre that the industry has been buzzing about. Today, many data centres are replete with hard drives – not because of their capacities, but because they need so many drives to 'fill the pipe' (i.e. a need for many drives all delivering a little bit of data, in order to deliver data fast enough).
The throughput enabled by an SSD with a controller that is streamlined for SSD operation (which, essentially, is what NVMe is) will allow data centres to literally do more with less. There was a great slide during Dell's keynote at the Flash Memory Summit back in August that illustrates this. Today, a Half-Petabyte of storage is handled by 7 2U servers. As the move to all flash servers is accompanied by increases in SSD capacity and decreases in flash costs, that Half-Petabyte served by 7 servers becomes a full petabyte served by a single server. Cooling, power, and maintenance costs are slashed.
TRP: In your opinion, what does the evolution of NVMe testing indicate for the future of data storage technology?
DW: We're going to see NVMe really start to make an impact in the enterprise data centre. End users are expecting to soon be able to use NVMe drives the way they're accustomed to using SAS and Fibre Channel drives. That's driving our additions and modifications to the UNH-IOL NVMe test program.
We want the test program to adequately prepare products for deployment, so we're actively investigating the additions of hot plug, NVMe boot, dual port redundancy and reservations to our suite of testing services because these are necessary enterprise features.
TRP: What other efforts or collaborations does the lab undertake to advance NVMe technology?
DW: In addition to working closely with companies on ensuring product interoperability, the UNH-IOL contributes extensively to technology standards development through participation in a variety of standards bodies and forums.
For example and in the case of NVMe, we have a strong partnership with the NVM Express Organisation, which is a great forum for talking to and collaborating with a wide variety of companies: memory companies, controller companies, OEMs, OS vendors, IP companies, and test tool vendors.
Getting ideas from these participants not only allows us to build a program that is relevant and progressive, but also helps us to continue the validation of NVMe as a robust and interoperable solution for enterprise and data centre application performance challenges.
Ongoing collaborations not only develop new standards, but provide insights and perspectives to guide future growth opportunities for the technology, for the lab and its member companies, and for the industry at large.
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Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website builders and web hosting when DHTML and frames were in vogue and started narrating about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium.