At the OCP Global Summit, Seagate demonstrated the industry’s first native NVMe hard disk drive. Like SSD, NVMe protocol will be used to work together with other SSDs. Although SSD and HDD are two different types of storage devices, using the same type of protocol will greatly simplify data center operations.
The HDD used in the demonstration is controlled by the main control chip designed by Seagate, which supports three main protocols, including SAS, SATA, and NVMe. As a native interface, no additional bridge chip is required. Seagate conducted a demonstration in a 2U JBOD cabinet, using a simple PCIe switching device and connecting 12 3.5-inch HDDs through the PCIe interface.
The current transmission speed of HDD cannot even support a single PCIe 2.0 channel. However, in the future, HDDs using multi-drive (Mach.2) technology will become faster. Therefore, the 12 Gbps provided by SAS and the 6 Gbps interface provided by SATA may not be enough for a certain period of time. Major hard drive manufacturers are considering future interface issues. PCIe seems to be a reasonable choice for a foreseeable period. As SSDs are widely used in data centers and NVMe protocols have become common, Seagate’s HDD is very meaningful, which is why the NVMe 2.0 protocol adds support for HDDs.
Since SSD and HDD will have the same physical interface and logical protocol. In the future, the hardware and software of the data center will be simpler in deployment, with simplified function development, easier expansion of equipment, and lower maintenance costs. These are all factors that stimulate the development of PCIe interface HDDs. But it will take some time before it becomes practical. Seagate said that the first batch of PCIe/NVMe HDD samples will be provided to major customers for testing in September 2022, and the truly commercial products will not be available until mid-2024.
Although Seagate seems to be positioning PCIe/NVMe HDD in the data center, it is obviously an ideal choice on the client-side. It is understood that the products currently demonstrated are still based on the PCIe 3.0 specification and will be upgraded to the PCIe 4.0 specification in the future. The first commercial PCIe/NVMe HDDs will also use heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR) technology with a capacity between 30TB and 40TB.