By John Woodall, VP of Engineering, Integrated Archive Systems, NetApp A-Team member
It’s no surprise people are making noise about NVMe. And with good reason – NVMe is about to turn the storage industry on its head.
For the uninitiated, NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express) is a protocol, like SAS or SATA, that enables you to access non-volatile media via PCIe (Peripheral Component Interconnect Express). As storage continues to move towards flash and away from disk, NVMe (and later NVMe/f, or NVME over fabric) will become increasingly prevalent and important for delivering faster, more reliable storage performance.
As expected, NetApp is already on top of this emerging technology, and is shipping NVMe-capable devices today. The recently announced FAS9000, FAS8200, and FAS2600 storage arrays include NVMe-connected flash in the form of Flash Cache. What used to be an SSD or NAND flash drive on a PCIe card is now NVMe at the cache level. When it’s broadly deployed, NVMe reduces response time and latency, which gives you more flexibility and options for how and where you can deploy your applications and data. Because NetApp already uses NVMe for Flash Cache, it’s better positioned than its competitors to take advantage of other high-performance storage-class memory products as they emerge. Check out this Tech OnTAP Podcast (Episode 72) on NVMe as well as this NetApp blog if you want to learn more about what NetApp is currently doing around NVMe.
You may be wondering, “Aren’t other vendors also using NVMe-connected flash in their products? Where’s the differentiator for NetApp?” Taking a cue from radio legend Paul Harvey, I want to talk about “the rest of the story” from the point of view of a NetApp partner.
NAND flash without NVMe is like a rev limiter in a sports car. While the engine in your Porsche or Ferrari might have X00 horsepower, the rev limiter keeps you from flying off the highway and into an embankment by capping the amount of power you can actually use. Using NAND flash with NVMe is like removing that rev limiter, unlocking your storage to deliver maximum IOPS, throughput, and speed.
While speed is nice, when I buy a car I’m thinking about the total experience, not just how fast it can go. I want air conditioning, comfy leather seats, a nice stereo, maybe a backup camera, and all the other features that make it enjoyable, easy to use, and reliable as a daily driver. In the context of storage, that means things like built-in data protection, efficiencies, software-defined capabilities, and frictionless consumption models. Just going fast is relatively easy. Doing it safely and efficiently takes vision, leadership, and innovation.
Likewise, today’s technology buyers think differently about storage. They care more about APIs, plug-ins, and the applications they are trying to develop than the storage it sits on. Yes, if you step back and look at it, the underlying architecture of the storage platform matters, but at the end of the day, it’s the total experience they really care about. From a customer standpoint, NVMe makes that experience faster and better, but it’s the rich data management features that make the experience seamless and easy. That’s NetApp’s secret sauce, and it has been since the company was founded nearly 25 years ago.
Sure, NVMe is really great, and it helps to know that NetApp is on the cutting edge. And it’s important to me as a partner to know that NetApp is well-positioned to capitalize on NVMe and NVMe/f as it evolves and matures, and that they’re expanding partnerships with companies like Samsung to develop the next generation of flash. But when it comes right down to it, NetApp’s history of making the process of managing and storing your data simpler and more efficient is what makes the conversation interesting to a customer or a partner.
It’s not just about how fast the car can go, it’s about how I feel when I’m driving it every single day. It’s about the ability to get from point A to point B safely and securely. And, of course, it’s about enabling you to go as fast as you can whenever you want to. It’s the complete experience that matters – whether you are driving a car or managing petabytes of data. And when it comes to data management, it’s an experience that no one else but NetApp can touch.
John is the Vice President of Engineering at Integrated Archive Systems (IAS) in Palo Alto, California. He leads the engineering product strategy, portfolio, and technical direction for IAS, helping customers design new and innovative solutions for cloud and on-premises IT.
John is a rock and roll fanatic, and can often be seen banging his head with the best of them. His favorites include The Who and U2.