NVM Express Changing The SSD Landscape

June 30, 2011
NMV Express is a new standard that delivers PCI Express access to flash memory. It targets embedded devices, PCIe cards and 2.5-in drive form factor eliminating SAS/SATA requirements.

Micron is a leader in flash and RAM storage. It's latest offering, RealSSD P320h, supports the NVM Express (see NVM Express Delivers PCIe SSD Access) standard.

The RealSSD P320h targets the enterprise where file and database servers are being stocked with massive collections of flash drive. Flash has really pushed the performance envelope and NVM Express gives it another boost. The Non-Volatile Memory Host Controller Interface (NVMHCI) Work Group speced out the NVM Express (NVMe) standard and it has an impressive following including little outfits Intel. The Linux driver is available and the Windows driver is in the works.

Integrated Device Technology (IDT) is behind, or actually on, the RealSSD P320h. That and lots of Micron flash memory chips fill up the board. This is similar to Fusion-io's ioDrive (see Smart Storage) except that Fusion-io requires a custom drive that puts more intelligence in the host. IDT's chip is a full controller so things like load leveling are handled by the board.

It may take a little while before other chips like IDT's are available but embedded designers should be very interested. PCI Express is on all high performance processors and NVMe eliminates at least two chips in the mix: a SAS/SATA host controller and the drive controller. True, embedded designers often have the option of accessing flash memory directly but this incurs design complexity, host overhead and can create havoc when it comes to system modularity and upgrades.

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