NVMe: Taking a Seat at the Industrial-Embedded Table

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Not long ago, conventional thinking in the industrial-embedded-systems community was that non-volatile memory over PCI Express (NVMe) was overkill for industrial-embedded designs.  And it made sense then; storage-capacity demands didn’t justify NVMe performance at the expense of power consumption and software compatibility – areas in which the ATA Host Controller Interface, or AHCI, excels.

No longer.

Industrial IoT products are becoming so widely deployed and sophisticated technologically that the data they collect and process is growing exponentially.  And that means more storage – intelligent, secure storage.  Whereas, say, an 8GB solid-state drive (SSD) designed into a device out on the network’s edge would once have been sufficient, the dramatically higher volume of IIoT data raises the dual needs of higher capacity and greater performance – which NVMe can provide.  The demand for NVMe in the industrial space will be furthered by the expected ubiquity of NVMe; it will be the dominant SSD interface in client and enterprise space next year.  Additionally, it will enjoy integrated chipset support in newer mainboards being adopted for next-generation designs — video applications, for example, which certainly stand to benefit from NVMe’s higher throughput.

In the industrial-embedded world, the once-prevailing argument that less is more is turned on its head.  Granted, higher capacities, an automatic “plus” in consumer and enterprise storage, can still be a disadvantage in certain embedded designs; they cost more, require greater space and draw more power than lower-capacity SSDs – which are more than enough in many applications. But, newer NVMe storage solutions are starting to change the argument.

With capacity needs growing, the collection, storage and processing of the increasing amounts of IIoT data is expected to drive demand for a high-performance interface, which the NVMe command set protocol delivers.  While Virtium will continue to support AHCI, we envision NVMe will have a more prominent role in embedded and industrial designs – and we’re working aggressively on a new generation of SSDs that will take advantage of its performance advantages to meet the IIoT-storage needs of the future.