Kioxia’s new enterprise drives already near the limits of a PCIe 5.0 x4 interface

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Kioxia’s CM7 PCIe 5.0 enterprise SSD are now shipping to customers. The new SSD already nears maximum possible throughput of a PCIe 5.0 x4 interface with a read speed of nearly 14GB/s. Due to these almost near-futuristic specs, these drives give us a taste of what’s to come for the consumer segment. We’ll see a lot of drives around that 14GB/s mark over the coming years.

There are two CM7 drives, the CM7-V and CM7-R. The CM7-V is a mixed used version rated for up to three drive writes per day. It’s available in capacities ranging from 1.6TB to 12.8TB. The CM7-R is a read optimized drive available in capacities ranging from 1.92TB to up to a drool worthy 30.72TB.

These drives are designed for the enterprise market and will no doubt be very expensive, particularly the higher capacity versions. They’re meant for use with AMD’s ‘Genoa’ EPYC and Intel’s ‘Sapphire Rapids’ Xeon Scalable platforms, both of which support PCIe 5.0.

The drives are available in traditional 2.5-in form factors as well as the newer EDSFF form factor. This stands for Enterprise and Data Center SSD Form Factor. The enterprise SSD market is expected to transition to this new form factor over the coming years.

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It’s interesting that the drives are already shipping, given that PCIe 5.0 systems still aren’t available. To you and me that is. The drives are likely in the hands of OEMs or clients who are using them for validation purposes before the new systems are ready for deployment.

For a consumer and gaming point of view, the release of 14GB/s drives is impressive, but ultimately irrelevant for most of us. It’s nice to have very fast sequential speeds but how much data do you expect to be able to transfer at a time? Mainstream X670 or Z790 platforms won’t have enough PCIe 5.0 lanes to support multiple drives for sustaining these kinds of speeds. Z790 might if manufacturers opt to configure a board with a 8x PCIe slot and two 4x M.2 slots but that’s a story for another day.

Personally, I’d rather have several PCIe 5.0 x2 drives that can still hit 7GB/s while delivering all of the responsiveness, low latency and random performance of x4 drives.

It’s unlikely to happen though. Drive makers will continue to focus on sequential transfer speeds for marketing reasons, even if they are becoming increasingly meaningless. For most mainstream users anyway. A PCIe 5.0 x16 expansion card with four drives would still bring a grin!

Still, the Kioxia CM7 drives should perform very well. 14GB/s sounds great but I’d like to see how they perform across a wide range of workloads. Random performance is critical for servers.

When will I be able to chuck a couple of 30TB drives in my NAS? It’ll be years away. And actually I know I won’t be able to afford them so I’ll drop that thought… for now.

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