When discussing what the next step in storage is for enterprise environments, invariably the discussion turns to the adoption rate of NVMe in those environments. NVMe adoption rate in enterprise environments has been slower than industry analysts expected and so the question is why?
Historically, new technologies are met with practical caution, especially technology that initially seems like it may require a forklift upgrade to utilize fully. Such is the case with NVMe storage where, despite the potential for a significant increase in write and read performance, it is still so new that even relatively recent hardware platforms are not designed to easily integrate NVMe storage.
What’s more, according to a recent survey by Vanson Bourne, organizations looking at adopting NVMe storage face two main challenges: scalability and cost. Respondents also noted that they need greater flexibility and manageability when NVMe is scaled.
It should not be surprising, then, that NVMe is one of those emerging storage technologies where many organizations have a “jury is still out” attitude as to whether now is the right time to make such an investment.
The good news is that not only are solutions appearing to address the concerns mentioned above, system architects are figuring out how to integrate NVMe now with an eye on future applications and workflows.
If you’ve been wondering whether now is the right time to invest in NVMe, the following points might be helpful in making a decision:
1. Review your existing technology infrastructure
When investing in any new technology you want to make sure it supports your existing technology investment. Would your existing hardware and application infrastructure allow you to take full advantage of what NVMe has to offer or would it create more challenges?
If your server hardware is relatively recent, there may be native M.2 or U.2 slots on the server motherboard. Or, if you have PCIe slots available, you could use an adapter to add a drive. You’d only add a drive or two per server and so you’ll need to determine the best use of that storage.
There are NVMe JBOFs available, although they can be quite costly individually before you consider the network infrastructure necessary to make the expense worthwhile. The infrastructure would need at least 32Gb Fibre Channel HBAs or 100Gb Ethernet NICs and switches configured as a SAN to meet the performance available from NVMe storage.
2. Analyze current and future applications across your business
If an organization’s business-critical applications do not integrate smoothly into the daily workflow and, instead, create inefficiencies, NVMe is not likely to help. Poor application performance not only affects business processes but can by extension contribute to revenue loss and a decline in customer satisfaction.
Evaluate the performance of your current applications: are they reliable, easy to manage and enable productivity? If not, you may be much better off investing time and resources in your applications first. However, if you have confidence in the performance and management of your business applications today, take a look at your application roadmap. Now may be the time for a new storage technology investment.
3. Determine your ability to manage a new system
One of the reasons why SAS-based storage has built up such a strong market share is that it is basically bullet-proof. The protocol has matured over the years to seamlessly handle technical issues and integrate with management functions like error handling, device discovery and media handling to name a few key areas.
NVMe storage is different as it relies on trade-offs in management capabilities to achieve the eye-catching performance capabilities. With far less native management abilities than older technologies, all of the power of NVMe can be wasted through poor administration. With the proper planning and vendor support, it's possible to get both performance and the management capabilities that you've come to expect from your storage.
4. Evaluate your budget against your needs
Oftentimes budget considerations can cloud the decision-making process. If you need the highest performance possible, NVMe storage provides that over SSDs. However, SSDs are more flexible, cheaper, and easier to deploy especially if the infrastructure is not ready to fully integrate NVMe.
If adding NVMe increases the potential for generating revenue over the long term, then the higher initial investment would eventually result in a lower total cost of ownership (TCO). If high-performance storage doesn’t factor into revenue creation, then it makes sense to wait until you are farther along in the technology adoption curve.
Timothy J. Klein is president, CEO and co-founder of ATTO Technology, Inc.
An experienced entrepreneur, Klein has led ATTO since its inception in 1988 and is a key member on a number of Western New York leadership boards and industry associations. Prior to founding ATTO, he was employed as a systems engineer with Barrister Information Systems, a developer of mini computers and software. Prior to that Klein worked as a design engineer with Motorola. He received his B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University at Buffalo.