Data Center Strategy: Explanation of NVMe over Fabrics (NVMe-oF)

Posted on May 5, 2021 by rawee.k

NVMe is often used in servers to connect a flash drive to the PCIe bus as direct attached storage, giving the server a more efficient way to use flash media. However, the NVMe protocol is not limited to simply connecting flash drives, it may also be used as a networking protocol.

Can your organization get all the performance and efficiency potential of an NVMe investment by replacing legacy storage and sharing flash storage across servers?

Is now the time for to replace legacy storage with NVMe SSDs and NVMe over Fabrics (NVMe-oF) technologies? First, let’s examine how you can achieve improved performance and efficiency by sharing your NVMe investment across servers.

Researching flash-based solutions to achieve new levels of performance and efficiency? Here’s what data center administrators need to know to evaluate NVMe flash storage solutions. Questions? Drop us an email at sales@pogolinux.com

Introducing NVMe over Fabrics (NVMe-oF)

With an NVMe “fabric”, any server can access any SSD with no dedicated connections needed. Simply connect the JBOF DAS to the switch in the server cabinet and it is accessible by any server.

Connectivity – NVMe-oF takes the capabilities of NVMe and shares a flash array over an Ethernet fabric to a collection of servers, instead of drives landlocked to a single server at the same time.

Fibre Channel – For environments already invested in fibre channel (FC) infrastructure, most modern switches and IP switches already have updated firmware to support NVMe-oF network protocol. FC is designed for storage and can support both legacy SCSI traffic and NVMe traffic simultaneously. Since most organizations will integrate NVMe-oF into an existing data center, current support of both protocols enables them to make the conversion at a pace comfortable for them.

Enabled by NVMe over Fabrics (NVMe-oF), IT organizations are able to create a very high performance storage network with latencies that rival direct attached storage (DAS). Now, JBOF DAS can be shared, when needed, among servers.

When to use NVMe-oF?

So, when should you migrate off traditional storage? When IT planners aggressively switch to NVMe-oF is largely a function of need and timing. Data center operators concerned about system performance know that investing in high-performance flash array makes the most sense where the storage target is the current bottleneck.

Flash Array – The first step to NVMe for most organizations is an NVMe Flash Array with traditional networking connections to the storage network. While these systems generate IOPS approaching the millions, the reality is that there are very few workloads that require more than the performance of these systems.

Storage Target – An NVMe-oF storage target can be dynamically shared among workloads – providing an “on-demand” or composable storage resource that provides additional benefits, including flexibility, agility, and greater resource efficiency. By leveraging both NVMe SSDs with NVMe over Fabrics (NVMe-oF), data center operators to create a very high performance storage network with latencies that rival SAS or SATA-based direct attached storage (DAS). Typical workload that benefit from the adoption of an end-to-end architecture are high-read workloads or large block applications.

Next, how do you get all the performance potential out of an all-flash NVMe architecture solution?

Choosing an all-flash NVMe Architecture Solution

Low latency or high transfer rates are of little benefit if they swamp the target application. While these systems generate IOPS approaching the millions, the reality is that there are very few workloads that require more than the performance of these systems. However, there is an emerging class of workloads that can take advantage of all the performance and low latency of an end-to-end NVMe system.

If you’d like to learn more about how to maximize your data center infrastructure by up to 90% while minimizing its footprint, give us a call at (888) 828-7646, email us at sales@pogolinux.com or book a time calendar to speak. We’ve helped organizations of all sizes deploy composable solutions for just about every IT budget.