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University lab to provide interoperability testing for NVMe spec

March 16, 2012 // Dylan McGrath

University lab to provide interoperability testing for NVMe spec

The University of New Hampshire InterOperability Laboratory (UNH-IOL), which provides testing and standards conformance services for the networking and storage industries, said this week it is accepting founding members for its new Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe) Consortium.

The new consortium will focus on developing an interoperability test suite for NVMe compliant software and devices. Members already include Intel Corp., Dell Inc., EMC Corp., Integrated Device Technology Inc., NetApp Inc., SanDisk Corp., and Oracle America Inc., according to the NVMe Consortium website.

The NVMe specification defines an optimized register interface, command set and feature set for PCI Express (PCIe)-based solid-state drives (SSDs). The goal of the spec is to enable the broad adoption of SSDs using the PCIe interface. Version 1.0 of the spec was released by the NVMe Work Group in March 2011. It has thus far been adopted by more than 80 companies, according to the group.

According to David Woolf, a senior technical staff member at UNH-IOL, the NVMe spec is intended to overcome the bottleneck on SSDs associated with using the Serial ATA interface, the default interface for standard hard drives.

"What we've seen is the SSDs that are out there, the bottleneck for them is actually in that SATA interface," Woolf said. "People aren't getting the full performance out of that SSD because of that bottleneck."

Intel has to date been the major driving force behind NVMe. SSD sales are expected to grow by 40 percent between now and 2015, rising to about 133 million units for client PCs and 12 million units for servers.

The UNH-IOL is the first laboratory to offer interoperability testing for the NVMe. The lab, which is staffed mostly by University of New Hampshire undergraduate students, will conduct interoperability tests to make sure that new products using the NVMe spec work with other products based on the standard. The UNH-IOL bills itself as an independent organization committed to neutral testing of open standards to ensure credible results.

"Using different variables, we can create a really big matrix of possible combinations to act as a center for people to prove interoperability," Woolf said.

According to Woolf, the UNH-IOL, founded in 1988, provides similar interoperability testing around roughly 20 open standards. Most of the groups within the UNH-IOL have a pretty long lifespan, he said.

"We have one group that does Fast Ethernet testing," said Woolf, referring to the collective term for a number of Ethernet standards that has existed since the mid 1990s. "Even though it's an old technology, companies coming out with newer products want to make sure they are interoperable."

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