The latest analyst forecast contest Question of the Month (QoM 16-001) is on whether NVMe PCIe-SSDs will GA in enterprise storage over the next 12 months? For more information on our analyst forecast contest, please check out the post.
There are a couple of considerations that would impact NVMe adoption.
Availability of NVMe SSDs?
Intel, Samsung, Seagate and WD-HGST are currently shipping 2.5″ & HH-HL NVMe PCIe SSDs for servers. Hynix, Toshiba, and others had samples at last year’s Flash Memory Summit and promised production early this year. So yes, they are available, from at least 3 sources now, including enterprise class storage vendors, with more coming online over the year.
Some advantages of NVMe SSDs?
Advantages of NVMe (compiled from NVMe organization and other NVMe sources):
- Lower SSD write and read IO access latencies
- Higher mixed IOPS performance
- Widespread OS support (not necessarily used in storage systems
- Lower power consumption
- X4 PCIe support
- NVMe over FC Fabric (new RDMA) support
Disadvantages of NVMe SSDs?
Disadvantages of NVMe (compiled from NVMe drive reviewers and other sources):
- Smaller form factors limit (MLC) capacity SSDs
- New cabling (U.2) for 2.5″ SSDs
- BIOS changes to support boot from NVMe (not much of a problem in storage systems)
Not many enterprise storage vendors use PCIe Flash
Current storage vendors that use PCIe flash (sourced from web searches on PCIe flash for major storage vendors):
- Using PCIe SSDs as part or only storage tier
- Kamanario K2 all flash array
- NexGen storage hybrid storage
- NetApp (PCIe) FlashCache
- Others (?2) with Volatile cache backed by PCIe SSDs
- Others (?2) using PCIe SSD as Non-volatile cache
Only a few of these will have new storage hardware out over the next 12 months. I estimated (earlier) about 1/3 of current storage vendors will release new hardware over the next 12 months.
The advantages of NVMe don’t matter as much unless you have a lot of PCIe flash in your system, so the 2 vendors above that use PCIe SSDs as storage are probably most likely to move to NVMe, but the limited size of NVMe drives, the meagre performance speed up to storage available from NVMe, may make NVMe adoption less likely. So maybe there’s a 0.3 probability * 1/3 (of vendors with hardware refresh) * 2 (vendors using PCIe flash as storage) or ~0.2.
For the other 5 candidates listed above, the advantages for NVMe aren’t that significant, so if they are refreshing their hardware, there’s maybe a low chance that they will take on NVMe, mainly because it’s going to become the prominent PCIe flash protocol, So maybe that adds another 0.15 of probability * 1/3 * 5 or ~0.25. (When I originally formulated the NVMe QoM I had not anticipated NVMe SSDs backing up volatile cache but they certainly exist, today.)
Other potential candidate for NVMe are all start ups. EMC DSSD uses PCIe fabric for it’s NAND support, and could already be making use of NVMe. (Although, I would not classify DSSD as an enterprise storage vendor.)
But there may be other start ups out there using PCIe flash that would consider moving to NVMe. A while back, I estimated there’s ~3 startups likely to emerge over the next year. It’s almost a certainty that they would all have some sort of flash storage., but maybe only one of them would make use of PCIe SSDs. And it’s unclear whether they would use NVMe drives as main storage or for caching. So, splitting the difference in probabilities, we will use 0.23 probability * 1 or ~0.23.
So total up my forecast we forecast for NVMe adoption in GA enterprise storage hardware over the next 12 months to be Yes with 0.68 probability.
The other likely candidates that will support NVMe are software defined storage or hyper converged storage. I don’t list these as enterprise storage vendors but I could be convinced that this was a mistake. If I add in SW defined storage the probability goes up, to high 0.80s to low 0.90s.