Technologies change over time, so deciding when to implement new technology provides different benefits and risks. Adopt a new technology too early and you might find that it can’t provide consistent benefits maybe due to an immature ecosystem, interoperability or even unstable engineering. Adopt too late and you may not get the full lifecycle benefits and be forced to amortize the technology over too little time and your costs will not be as low as they could be. Let alone fall behind your competitors.
Ideally, you’ll invest in a platform that you can take advantage of as it continues to grow over time and gives you the longest economic cycle with the lowest costs.
You may not have put “consider NVMe” on your new year’s resolutions, but perhaps you should for 2019. If you need a refresher, NVMe is an updated way of accessing your flash storage. NVMe moves away from the HDD era SAS and SATA connectivity of limited commands and “single lane roads” and replaces it with designed for flash “multi-lane highway” based on PCIe. See the video below:
For this reason, NVMe is a great fit for low-latency workloads such as databases, transaction systems, virtualization, and other performance hungry workloads.
When to Embrace New Technology
But enough of the alphabet soup, why would you embrace any new technology — and when?
You’ll see in the technology adoption curve different maturities that will determine the risk and economic lifetime tradeoffs. Early adopters may have the longest economic lifetime, but come with implementation risk I mentioned above. Early Majority implementation of new technology provides a long economic lifetime with reduced implementation risk, and is the preferred path for many customers. For instance, while high performance storage platforms using NVMe-over-Fabric (NVMe-oF) are early in their adoption cycle, they show substantial promise for improvements in both performance and TCO. In contrast, NVMe SSD systems, platforms and devices are rapidly growing in adoption and are more widely deployed.
To get the biggest advantage from a new technology, you probably want the Early Majority position, but keep in mind not all new technology will impact your business the same way. Some implementations can require you to refresh other parts of your infrastructure, and this may become costly, complicated to manage, or even create further silos in your data infrastructure. This is where the good news about NVMe comes in, and why it’s quickly moving from early adoption to early majority.
You Can Easily Deploy Some NVMe Today and More Tomorrow
The great thing about NVMe storage systems is they can be implemented without a specialized networking infrastructure — traditional Ethernet or Fibre Channel connectivity will do. No changes are required to the application, your existing file or block applications will work just fine.
The move to NVMe-oF may require more planning to reap projected benefits, and may make more time. To fully implement NVMe-oF an updated storage networking fabric may be needed with upgraded switches and HBAs. You don’t have to wait for the complete NVMe-oF infrastructure to get many of the benefits of NVMe. Plan on an incremental adoption to get maximum return with minimum disruption.
Understand the Cost Implications
When moving to new technologies, it is critical to first assess what they can do for the business. NVMe has a long list of potential benefits – consolidating database systems or powering many more virtual machines to reduce costs, enabling new fast data insights, or running critical transaction systems at a speed impossible before. These positive business impacts need to be part of your total cost of ownership evaluation.
The other consideration is as you move from left to right in the technology adoption curve, the price of the technology tends to decline so your early investments to identify appropriate applications can expand over time to incorporate new uses as the cost declines. Additionally, the platform you initially acquired will probably get enhancements over time with new capabilities so another economic benefit from investing at the Early Majority phase.
How We’re Innovating in NVMe, and What That Means for You
Western Digital is in a unique position that we engineer and innovate across the technology stack – from silicon, to flash drives and all the way to our systems. This allows us a very intricate understanding of how these technologies work and interact with one another, and we can build solutions that are optimized and more efficient.
NVMe is a great example of this approach, and how it manifests itself in our portfolio:
For instance, you can take advantage of Western Digital Ultrastar® SSDs with NVMe today for extreme performance and ultra-low latency for hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI). Our latest two drives show the breadth of options and how our innovation, such as building our own customized controller from scratch, deliver customers with far better capabilities and efficiencies.
If you have a software defined storage need, our Ultrastar NVMe storage server leverages that same NVMe technology to deliver a performance-driven “cluster-in-a-box” system.
The fullest expression of NVMe in the data center is an NVMe array. You benefit from low implementation risk and high economic value. Our IntelliFlash™ N-series offers wonderful performance that is a great fit for your low-latency demanding applications. It doesn’t require making any changes to existing applications, and can it be extended with SAS-based performance flash or dense flash expansion shelves (as dictated by your performance requirements) to build out your N-Series platform for various tiers of applications.
If you’re looking at NVMe storage today, Western Digital can help you engage with a new technology at the optimal time, and you can feel assured you’re depending on a proven source.
2019 is the Year of NVMe
Timing the technology lifecycle isn’t a guarantee of success, but it certainly can help you get the most from your technology investment. We’re here to help you implement NVMe today and support your early evaluations and proof of concept for NVMe-oF to keep your business competitive. Your best bet is to align yourself with a market leader like Western Digital as we continue to drive the future of data infrastructure. Remember 2019 is the Year of NVMe, make sure NVMe is on your to-do list.
Erik is the Senior Director, Product Marketing of Western Digital's Data Center Systems, with 25+ years of experience in high tech storage.