NVMe Work Group Releases NVMe Windows and Linux PCIe SSD Drivers

The NVM Express working group has announced the release of Windows and Linux PCIe SSD drivers based on the NVM Express standard.

The Windows driver was a collaborative effort of IDT, Intel, and LSI Sandforce and will be available under a BSD license. It will support all the mandatory features of the new spec.

The Linux driver will be released under the GNU General Public License and is set to be included in the next mainline release of the kernel.

The NVMe driver is expected to offer significant performance improvements over previously released implementations.

Now, the base NVMe spec had previously been completed in March 2011, these drivers being the culmination of that work. As many of you know, while the SCSI interface is reasonably fast, it was, for the most part, designed with mechanical storage in mind. That being said it is easy to see how the interface has become the primary bottleneck for solid state storage. Sure, features such as TRIM can be retrofitted onto the interface, but the fact remains that the creators of the SCSI interface, the SCSI Trade Association, probably weren’t expecting the latest iteration of their standard to be pushed to the limits right out of the gate, much less be seen as a limiting factor.

This situation is a perfect example of how SSDs have really taken the industry by surprise, and while it’s done the best it can to adapt, many think it’s high time for an interface built specifically for SSDs, and that’s what the NVM Express Working Group promises to deliver. There are, of course PCI Express SSDs on the market right now, though all of them are using proprietary storage interfaces which means that lot more R&D needs to go into the supporting driver.

NVMe hopes to remedy this situation by delivering a specification which provides a standard interface to hardware registers, defining command sets and feature sets specific to SSDs. With the release of the specification and associated drivers, the group has taken much of the work out of developing PCIe SSDs, enabling manufacturers to focus on things like speed and stability instead of worrying about implementing their own transfer interface.

This could be the development that really allows SSDs to come into their own, allowing them to break away from their magnetic counterparts even more by replacing a critical piece of the puzzle that’s been holding them back. With any luck, going forward, most PCIe SSDs released will adhere to the new standard, providing the industry incentive needed for further development.

Indeed, the NVM Express specification may end up providing a more direct route to not only SSDs, but to the growth and continuing success of the industry supporting them. Combined, with the expectation of rising SSD sales, this news provides further evidence that this really may end up being “The Year Of The SSD”. How’s that for a Zodiac?

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