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NVM Express: pervasion of PCI Express in SSD based storage

NVM Express: pervasion of PCI Express in SSD based storage
by Eric Esteve on 03-22-2012 at 12:48 pm

The verification IP (VIP) for Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe) announcement from Synopsys is the first fruit issued from the acquisition of ExpertIO. With the proliferation of Nand Flash based storage equipment, or Solid State Drives (SSD), the move from pure SATA based solution was to be expected, sooner or later. Not because SATA protocol itself will fail to support future storage equipment, but because the PCI Express protocol is offering more capabilities, as highlighted by Earl Cohen, Chief Architect, Sandforce (now LSI Logic): “NVM Express is a critical building block for flash-based Enterprise storage through the use of the PCIe interface and a standards-based, highly efficient, scalable storage protocol. By providing a channel for applications to send intelligence about the data actually being stored, NVM Express promises to extend the value proposition of flash-based solid-state storage solutions in terms of reliability, performance and endurance.” Moreover, the SATA PHY roadmap, or the lack of PHY solution after SATA 3.0 running at 6 Gbps, was also a good reason to move to PCIe, already available at 8 Gbps today with gen-3.

Because, as soon as a new interface protocol is defined, the market need the related verification IP (VIP), the Synopsys release of VIP for Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe), is a cleaver move. “With the addition of the NVM Express protocol to its leading serial ATA (SATA) and serial attached SCSI (SAS) verification IP, Synopsys expands its portfolio in verification IP for storage protocols. The first-to-market release of NVMe verification IP was enabled by Synopsys’ recent acquisition of ExpertIO, which brought expertise and a strong portfolio of storage-based verification IP. ExpertIO has been an active member and contributor to the NVM Express architectural committee since its inception. NVMe provides a command set, queuing layer and register interface optimized for PCI Express-based SSDs. The NVMe verification IP is a new upper-level protocol layer that can be integrated with Synopsys’ industry-proven ExpertIO PCI Express verification IP”. Interesting to notice, Synopsys is also promoting PCIe VIP from ExpertIO, although the company had developed their own VIP product for PCI Express…

“NVM Express is a key enabler for high-performance PCIe SSDs,” said Amber Huffman, chair of the NVM Express Working Group and principal engineer of the Intel Storage Technologies Group. “The availability of verification IP for NVM Express at this stage of development will enable faster adoption of this exciting new technology. We expect to see NVM Express SSD products shipping later this year.” To comment this quote, I would just say that seeing SSD replacing HDD is certainly a good move, I mean as a end user who has seen his PC crashing due to a HDD failure. And seeing PCI Express pervasion into new storage application will open many more possibilities, as the PCIe specification is offering a lot more features than SATA, that cleaver architects will certainly exploit, it’s just a question of creativity…

By Eric Esteve from IPNEST