As new storage products filter into the industrial embedded segment it’s important to note a few things. As with any new technology, terms may be used inaccurately. Take PCIe and NVMe for example – sometimes these terms get confused. PCIe is an electrical interface that is defined by generation and number of data lanes. For example, PCIe 3.0 x 4 means Gen 3 PCIe with four lanes. NVMe, in contrast, is a command set protocol. It is specifically designed to take advantage of the very high performance that can be achieved in high-capacity PCIe products. It is a protocol that supports, for example, a 64K queue depth.
Virtium’s first generation StorFly PCIe SSDs will support AHCI – the ATA Host Controller Interface. It’s really the protocol that is supported by the peripheral controller hubs that connect to Intel, AMD and other chipsets. Since it is ATA, the software commands are the same as for SATA and even PATA (for the most part).
So using AHCI vs. NVMe on a particular PCIe interface is a trade-off of performance vs. software familiarity. And customers can only really take advantage of it if the capacities are high enough. Oftentimes, these higher capacities are not necessary for industrial embedded designs. Also, although NVMe is supported in Windows 8.1, Mac OS and even some Linux builds, customers with custom operating systems may have a big challenge implementing NVMe.
These challenges will smooth out as NVMe takes a stronger hold on the industrial embedded market. Virtium is currently developing its own approach to NVMe so it can fully support this protocol once it’s ready for embedded-product primetime.