High Availability in an m.2 Format

Photo of finger pusing on hinge in center of m.2 HA SSDThe m.2 SSD format has become wildly successful in the data center for use as a boot drive and even in SSD arrays.  The m.2 format supports either the SATA or the NVMe interface,  Something that has been missing, however, is a version of this format for high-availability (HA) systems.  These are mission-critical systems that cannot fail, no matter what.

Until today HA systems had to use the SAS interface which supports two independent ports, or the new dual-port NVMe SSDs that come in either a 2.5″ U.2 or the AIC format.  Both of these offer redundant ports but, unfortunately, both U.2 and AIC SSDs are considerably larger than the m.2 format.

Despite its small size m.2 has so far not been considered as a candidate for dual-port SSDs.  This is because the m.2 format uses a card edge connection it must be inserted by sliding the narrow end of the card into the socket.  A dual-port version needs to have connectors at both narrow ends, making it impossible to plug the SSD into a pair of board-mounted sockets.

Today a revolutionary new company called Kowabunga Data is introducing its ingenious solution to the problem.  Yes, it is indeed an m.2 format card with connectors at both ends, but Kowabunga’s founders have cleverly solved the insertion problem by placing a hinge in the center of the board.

Hand holding hinged m.2 SSD

When you insert a standard m.2 SSD into its socket you start by lining it up at a 45-degree angle to the socket, then pushing it into the socket while bringing the SSD parallel to the motherboard.  This same approach is performed with the Kowabunga device by bending the hinge, lining the SSD up with both sockets, then pushing down on the hinge (as shown below) to apply the force that will slide the SSD into the socket.  It’s a simple solution to a vexing problem!

Photo of finger pusing on hinge in center of m.2 HA SSD

The Kowabunga High-Availability NVMe m.2 SSD is the first device of its kind.  Not only does it provide NVMe speeds in an HA configuration, but it does so in the smallest possible space thanks to its m.2 format.  The SSD will be offered in a number of capacities in what Kowabunga calls “Sub-Petabyte Class” storage, the meaning of which eludes The SSD Guy.Close-up of hinged m.2 SSD

This SSD boasts all of the features that would normally be expected in an enterprise SSD including high write speeds (3.2 Tb/s), impressive IOPS figures (40 million in good weather), and extreme endurance (1,024 DWPD).  Even more important, given the device’s ports at either end, it provides literally “End-to-End” data protection!  Kowabunga promises not to gouge, and will charge no more for this product than a customer would expect to pay for a high-availability capacity HDD in the same form factor.

Kowabunga has not told us when the product will become available, explaining that certain wrinkles still need to be ironed out.  I doubt that these will take all that long.  In the mean time expect to see storage array vendors and hyperscale data centers aggressively adopt this new form factor designing boards equipped with sockets at either end of the m.2 mounting.  The SSD Guy anticipates that by April 1, 2021, a year from today, most data center storage arrays will support this new dual-port m.2 form factor, leading Kowabunga to become the world’s leading enterprise SSD vendor.

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