NVMe over Fabrics Adoption Makes In-Roads with NetApp E-series


Another milestone in the life of NVM Express over Fabrics (NVMe-oF) technology has occurred. NetApp has become the first large enterprise external storage system vendor to support NVMe-oF. Late last month they announced their new E-5700 hybrid storage array and EF-570 all-flash array. Both feature front side NVMe-oF connections to clients. Only four months have passed since I wrote about the last NVMe-oF milestone (first UNH NVMe-oF interoperability plugfest), a successful multi-vendor interoperability test at the University of New Hampshire InterOperability Laboratory (UNH-IOL). It is not unusual for a new technology’s milestones to cluster closer together as its evolution to mainstream nears completion and accelerates. Large enterprise storage vendor support is extremely important for a new technology because it signals to main stream data centers that it is becoming mature and less risky to try out and deploy. It also stokes the competitive fires with the other enterprise storage vendors, creating a domino effect of initial support, then expanding features, and innovation.

NVMe-oF Technology

For a refresher on NVMe-oF, my colleague John Kim, has authored several blogs detailing how the technology enables the new high performance SSD interface, Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe), to be connected across RDMA-capable networks. A YouTube video description is also available.

I attended NetApp’s Insight conference a few weeks ago and got a firsthand look at the E-5700 and EF-570.

Figure 1: The NetApp EF-570 all-flash array now supports NVMe-oF

On the conference show floor, NetApp had an impressive demo of the EF-570’s NVMe-oF capabilities, showing 21GB/s of bandwidth and 1 million IOPs with less than 100µs of latency.

Several startups and Original Design Manufacturers (ODMs) are already shipping NVMe-oF solutions with impressive performance using a Just-a-Bunch-of-Flash (JBOF) or hyperconverged (Server SAN) configuration. And some enterprise storage vendors, such as Pure, have NVMe-oF now at the “back end” of their storage arrays, connecting storage controllers to shelves of NVMe SSDs. But, until now, none of the major array vendors offered generally available NVMe-oF connectivity to client/servers.

Figure 2: NetApp EF-570/E-5700 can connect to Linux servers at 100Gb/s using Mellanox InfiniBand adapters and switches.



With the completion of another millstone for NVMe-oF, the technology seems to now be accelerating to mainstream success. A widely supported open industry standard, tested for multi-vendor interoperability, supported by mainstream enterprise storage vendors, with performance to match the new Non-volatile memory storage technologies. What’s not to like?


About Rob Davis

Rob Davis is Vice President of Storage Technology at Mellanox Technologies and was formerly Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at QLogic. As a key evaluator and decision-maker, Davis takes responsibility for keeping Mellanox at the forefront of emerging technologies, products, and relevant markets. Prior to Mellanox, Mr. Davis spent over 25 years as a technology leader and visionary at Ancor Corporation and then at QLogic, which acquired Ancor in 2000. At Ancor Mr. Davis served as Vice President of Advanced Technology, Director of Technical Marketing, and Director of Engineering. At QLogic, Mr. Davis was responsible for keeping the company at the forefront of emerging technologies, products, and relevant markets. Davis’ in-depth expertise spans Virtualization, Ethernet, Fibre Channel, SCSI, iSCSI, InfiniBand, RoCE, SAS, PCI, SATA, and Flash Storage.

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