NVME (Non-Volatile Memory Express)

NVME (NON-VOLATILE MEMORY EXPRESS)
Introduction

NVMe  (Non-volatile memory express) is a  form of data storage and transfer protocol which is optimized, high performance and highly scalable. It first came into the marker in the year 2011.  The storage devices using this data transfer protocols employ PCIe bus to transfer data between the computer and the storage device. Though it is quite new, this data storage protocol is feature rich and is connected directly to the CPU via the PCIe. It was built from ground up for high-speed performance so that you can enjoy fast data transfer.  For your information, NVMe is unbelievably faster than your typical SSD and HDD by more 2x (SSD and HDD uses the SATA interface to transfer data).

Engineers have progressively managed to increased both speed and size of the memory. While doing this, they have unceasingly increasing the efficiency and miniaturized memories. It all started with vacuum tubes that were prohibitively colossal. Have you heard the first computer was in the size of house? Well, that is undoubtedly true. The memory storage was in the size of a shopping cart.  However, in the 1947 and 1948, John Barden, William Shockley and Walter Brattain made the first transistor.  This was the game changer in the electronic world.  What followed was unimaginable miniaturization of all electronics including the computer memory storages. After years of research and development, there is now NVME (Non-volatile memory express).

NVME

NVME  standards for non-volatile memory Express. It is a new type of high speed storage media that has comparatively many advantages. However, NVMe is more of a method of transferring rather than the device itself.

NVMe ( Non volatile memory express) drive

Well, why are the NVMe better than HDD and SSD storage?

SSD media and HDD are connected to the motherboard via SATA cable. However, the ultramodern NVMe is effectively connected to the CPU directly via the PCIe protocol. NVMe was design with the aim of lowering the prohibitive latency that was provided by the SATA connection.

History and evolution of NVMe.
The NVM express Inc

I was not surprised to find out that NVMe was created by a non-profit organization today known as  NVM express Inc. Initially, the NVM express Inc was known as the NVMHCI ( non-volatile memory host controller interface) workgroup.

The NVMe founding members included Seagate Technology, Dell, SanDisk, Cisco Systems, EMC, Samsung Electronics, PMC-Sierra, Western Digital’s HGST subsidiary, Oracle, Intel, NetApp, LSI, and Micron Technology. Later on, NVMe workgroup changed its name to NVM express Inc.

NVMe work group successfully held a Plugtest in 2013. During the Plugtest, many companies managed to have their products tested whether they were NVMe  specification compliance. The work group also tested the interoperability with other NVMe products.

NVM express 1.0 features and enhancements

Though the first (1.0) version of the NVMe was released in the year 2011, NVMHCI  workgroup had started to develop the protocol in the year 2009. NVMe  1.0 had the following features;

– administration command set

– queueing interface

– NVMe command interface and

– many impressive security features.

NVM express 1.1 and 1.2 features and enhancements

The year that following year, NVMe workgroup released the second version of NVMe -NVMe 1.1. The gorgeous attributed featured in the new version include the support for SSD  with more than one PCIe ports. The objective the group hard in mind when adding this was to enable several paths for input and output and namespace sharing. The NVMe 1.1 was adequately equipped with the automated power state transition so that during the idle time the energy consummation could be reduced significantly. Additionally, the power autonomy ensured that two or more hosts could efficiently coordinate access to shared name space so that fault tolerance could be improved. Moreover, NVMe 1.2 supported end -to-end data encryption and live firmware updates.

NVM express 1.3 features and enhancements

The non-profit organization released the third version, NVM express  1.3 in the year 2017. The attributes that were prominently featured included the directives and virtualization. The new device also highlighted the sanitized operations.

According the reference sheet released by the group, sanitize operation meant that do data was recoverable.  Some of the user data in other storage forms can be recovered from cache, controller memory buffer or non-volatile media. This operation, however, was meant to be carried or when the storage is reused for other purposes or when it was being retired.

The streams attribute ensures that the read or write s tagged with related data in various locations. This feature uses the stream identifier.

Virtualization features indicated how the device could be shared using virtual and physical controllers in a virtual machine.

NVM express 1.4 features and enhancements

NVM express 1.4 is the latest version released in mid-2019.  This version host numerous new features that distinguished it from previous versions. The new features include;

  • Persistent memory region
  • IO determinism
  • Asymmetric namespace Access
  • Namespace write protect
  • Persistent event log
  • Rebuild Assist
  • Read recovery level etc.
NVM express Form factor

If you do not know what form fact is, read more on what is form factor in computer here.  Just as the motherboards have a variety of form factor, so does NVMe.  NVM express SSD has many form factors. Among  them  are the M.2, U.2, U.3  AIC.

M.2  form factor

M.2 was initially known as the NGFF ( next generation form factor). It is the new type of internally mounted expansion card. M.2 form factor was meant to replace the mini-SATA standard that previously existed. Unlike the old school HDD and SDD storage, M.2 drives are not connected to the motherboard via SATA cable; they can plugged directly into motherboard using a dedicated M.2 connector slot.

NVMe ( Non volatile memory express) drive
m.2 Slot in a motherboard

M.2 storage drive have two ways to directly plug them in the motherboard; SATA interface or the PCIe.  However, this depends on functionality and the type of the M.2 drive. In additional to providing faster connectivity and high performance, M.2 offers less cluster PC interior.

Moreover, M.2 form factor can be used for other purposes other than the SSD data storage.  There are Wi-Fi cards that come in m.2 form factor. Note, the M.2 SSD that are connected to motherboard via SATA are not any faster that that 2.5 drives. The only difference is that they take very less space. For faster NVMe experience, you have to make sure that the PCIe is used.

U.2 protocol

U.2 form factor was designed to fit into the standard SATA and SAS bay. As a matter of fact, you might be shocked to find out that U.2 SSD uses the 3.5 and 2.5 inch enclosures. This protocol was designed to test whether the NVMe drive could be implemented with little to no reengineering as possible. The difference between the U.2 protocol and m.2 is that is that m.2 only supports 3.3v power source while u.2 supports both 3.3 v and 12 v. Also, U.2 are hot-swappable which is not the case with the M.2 protocol.

NVMe ( Non volatile memory express) drive
U.2 slot for NVMe drive and protocol
AIC

Unlike the above three form factors, AIC was meant to permit manufacturers to make their own cards that could compatibly work in the PCIe bus without being concerned with the limitations. The designed cards are of various uses such as additional process or other chips.  Such cards are meant to improve the performance of the SSD.

EDSFF form factor

EDSFF not a commonly used form factor. In full, EDSFF stands for enterprise and data center SSD form factor. This form factor is advocated for by international tech giants including the Samsung, Intel, Dell, HP, Lenovo among others. Just like the M.2 EDSFF was brought into the market to enhance the performance and capacities to storage system is the enterprise level.  The commonly known categories in this form factor is the intel E1.L and E1.S. Can you have NVM express attributes over network? Well let us see in the next section.

NVMe over Fabrics

The NVM express Inc intended to extend low latency and high-performance capabilities across network fabrics. The group intended to have servers and other storage systems over Ethernet, Fiber channel and InfiniBand experience high performance and low latency as well. The aim was to have data transported across devices in a network as was in NVMe . This protocol was meant to allow you  to access several storage devices attached to another computer via RDMA (remote direct memory access) using a single computer.  The access can be accomplished using transport protocols such as;

  • TCP, NVMe/TCP
  • FC-NVMe
  • Ethernet
  • InfiniBand
Sizes

The largest size of NVMe you can get  in the market is 16Tb. However, other smaller sizes are also available. available sizes are 2Tb, 1Tb, 500 Gb, 250 Gb among others. You can use  high capacity drives  for servers.

Why are the NVM express so expensive?

I know you are also wondering why do this earth moving data storage and access protocol so expensive. Well to begin with, the development of new data transfer protocol and storage takes time and a lot of resource from the manufacturers. Therefore, they need to recover first the investment cost. Secondly, the NVMe controllers are faster and hence are slightly more expensive. While they exhibit impressive performance in the gaming PC, they perform no more in a different way than a normal SATA SSD storage. Therefore, if you are not using one for gaming purposes, go for a normal SATA  SSD storage.

However, there are a number of advantages that are attribute to NVM express storage. The first one is the PC aesthetic. Your PC will appear neat with few cables laying around. secondly, better thermal control. The NVMe has the storage pads exposed and hence are easy to cool.

Where to buy one

There are so many places you can get yourself a NVM express drive. in additional to the traditional electronic shops, you can also purchase one online.

Amazon

You can find the following  NVMe brands available in the Amazon; Samsung,  Crucial P5, Teamgroup, Western Digital, and Seagate. Additionally, the following brands are also available in Amazon, Sabrent Rocket, Silicon power, PNY CS2130, Corsair Force series, Aorus and Addlink. The above brands offers capacities ranging between 2tb and 500 Gb.

click any of the above brands and sizes to buy.

Samsung 2 Tb 1 Tb 500 gb
Western Digital (WD) 2 Tb 1 Tb 500 gb
Seagate 2 Tb 1 Tb 500 gb
Silicon power 2 Tb 1 Tb 500 gb
Aorus 2 Tb 1 Tb 500 gb

I know it is hard to select the best one that suits you need. while all of them offers good performance, the established brands such as the Seagate, Samsung and western digital (WD) offers a very high degree of reliability.

Best Buy

Ali-express

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