When discussing the next step in storage for enterprise environments, the discussion invariably turns to the rate of adoption of NVMe in these environments. NVMe’s adoption rate in enterprise environments has been slower than expected by industry analysts. So the question is why?
Historically, new technology is greeted with caution, especially technology that initially appears to require a forklift upgrade to be fully utilized. This is the case with NVMe storage where, despite the potential for significant increases in write and read performance, it is still so new that even relatively new hardware platforms are not designed to easily integrate NVMe storage. .
Moreover, according to a recent investigation According to Vanson Bourne, organizations considering adopting NVMe storage face two main challenges: scalability and cost. Respondents also indicated that they need more flexibility and manageability when scaling NVMe.
It should come as no surprise, then, that NVMe is one of those emerging storage technologies where many organizations have a “jury is still out” attitude about whether the time is right to make such an investment.
The good news is that not only do solutions appear to address the concerns mentioned above, but system architects are looking to integrate NVMe now with an eye on future applications and workflows.
If you’re wondering if now is the right time to invest in NVMe, the following points may help you decide:
1. Review your existing technology infrastructure
When you invest in 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 new, there may be native M.2 or U.2 slots on the server’s motherboard. Or, if you have PCIe slots available, you can use an adapter to add a drive. You would only add one or two disks per server, so you’ll need to figure out the best use of that storage.
There are NVMe JBOFs available, although they can be quite expensive individually before considering the network infrastructure needed to make the expense worthwhile. The infrastructure would require at least 32 Gb Fiber Channel HBAs or 100 Gb Ethernet NICs and switches configured as SANs to match the performance available from NVMe storage.
2. Analyze current and future applications in your business
If an organization’s critical applications don’t fit easily into daily workflow and instead create inefficiencies, NVMe isn’t likely to help. Poor application performance not only affects business processes, but can, by extension, contribute to lost revenue and lower customer satisfaction.
Evaluate the performance of your current applications: are they reliable, easy to manage and enable productivity? Otherwise, it may be better to invest time and resources in your applications first. However, if you are confident in the performance and management of your business applications today, take a look at your application roadmap. Now may be the time to invest in new storage technology.
3. Determine your ability to handle a new system
One of the reasons SAS-based storage has gained such a large market share is that it’s inherently bulletproof. The protocol has matured over the years to transparently handle technical issues and integrate with management functions such as error handling, device discovery, and media management, to name a few key areas.
NVMe storage is different because it relies on trade-offs in manageability to achieve eye-catching performance capabilities. With far fewer native management capabilities than older technologies, all of NVMe’s power can be wasted through poor administration. With proper planning and vendor support, it is possible to get both the performance and manageability you expect from your storage.
4. Assess your budget against your needs
Often, budgetary considerations can cloud the decision-making process. If you need the highest possible performance, NVMe storage provides that on SSDs. However, SSDs are more flexible, cheaper, and easier to deploy, especially if the infrastructure isn’t ready to fully integrate NVMe.
While adding NVMe increases the potential for long-term revenue generation, the higher initial investment would ultimately result in a lower total cost of ownership (TCO). If high-performance storage isn’t factored into revenue generation, it makes sense to wait until you’re further along the technology adoption curve.
Timothy J. Klein is President, CEO and Co-Founder of ATTO Technology, Inc.
A seasoned entrepreneur, Klein has led ATTO since its inception in 1988 and is a key member of several Western New York executive boards and industry associations. Prior to founding ATTO, he worked as a systems engineer at Barrister Information Systems, a minicomputer and software developer. Before that, Klein worked as a design engineer at Motorola. He earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University at Buffalo.