INSIGHTS

Trend Watch: Delivering 4K video content at scale with NVMe

May 25, 2017 | Post

The recent NAB Show was abuzz with big announcements, exciting new technology and, to no one’s surprise, an abundance of drones and virtual reality. While the novelty products kept us entertained, the highlight was the technology behind the all the new products! Two extraordinary technologies that recurred in many NAB booths were HDR (High Dynamic Range) media and ultrafast NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express) storage.

MBX hardware engineers are enthusiastic about NVMe technology and are increasingly integrating it into our customers’ server platforms with amazing performance gains. For the unfamiliar, NVMe is a logical device interface specification for accessing non-volatile storage media attached via a PCI Express (PCIe) bus. It was developed to bring improvements to SSDs by a consortium of vendors that includes Intel, Samsung, Seagate, and Micron. Although NVMe has been in the works for the better part of a decade promising higher bandwidth and low latency, it hasn’t been adopted by the market at scale just yet.

There are a few hurdles to overcome with NVMe, but more often than not, the gains are worth the time and effort. The first obstacle is selecting the right drive for the application. With the abundance of drives available today and new options in development, the choices are daunting. Price usually factors into the equation as well, but really the best way to narrow in on a drive is based on its usage. Not all NVMe drives are designed with the same use case in mind; they are developed and perform differently for endurance, usage scenarios, and capacity.

NVMe moves you in the right direction but, to execute, you need to overcome integration hurdles

Aside from price and performance, two other key impediments that have stood in the way of NVMe’s mass appeal are insufficient BIOS support and the lack of adapters and cables needed for connection. Sharp hardware integrators can find a solution to circumvent this conundrum, but what’s even more impressive is that it can be achieved with off-the-shelf components.

In one case for a video streaming customer, we were tasked with integrating an NVMe-based platform using stock components because the customer wanted to control platform costs and ensure a ready supply, as well as have an easy upgrade path as new component generations were released. MBX engineers configured the platform with a unique combination of motherboard, chassis,  and NVMe host switches. Then, we fabricated a cabling solution to connect the system to four 24 Gbps NVMe drives. And, voila, a high-performance, adaptable NVMe solution for far less money than custom while overcoming the limited integrated options at the time. The original platform has since been enhanced with six newer 16 Gbps NVMe drives that deliver equivalent performance at lower cost.

When to jump in with NVMe

Technology applications outside the realm of NAB Show can also benefit from the speed and scalability of NVMe drives. If you’re currently using a traditional flash storage solution or your application requires high availability from the drives, NVMe is an efficient, cost-effective way to scale and realize benefits quickly. If you’re interested, our engineers are always eager to help fine-tune a hardware solution for you to so your customers experience the highest performance from your application. You could be our next NVMe success story!

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