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Examining ROI of Gen5 Storage with HighPoint Technologies Rocket 1608A 8-Channel Gen5 x16 NVMe AIC

Achieving 56GB/s of transfer speed using Gen5 or Gen4 storage media

From HighPoint Technologies, Inc.

  • Gen5 NVMe AIC can make Gen5 Storage a viable solution for many platform and applications. Rocket 1608A is a way to upgrade to Gen5 x16, and is available right now.
  • It’s PCIe Switching Architecture enables the AIC to be deliver max performance from any Gen5 platform with an x16 slot. You won’t need to sacrifice other devices, features or functions to experience 56GB/s.
  • AIC allows achieve 56GB/s of transfer speed using Gen5 or Gen4 storage media. Whether you decide to keep using existing Gen4 SSDs, invest in more Gen4 media, or make the switch to Gen5, you be able to take advantage of Gen5 x16 connectivity.
  • Rocket1608A AICs are simple to install and can be managed using the tools you are already familiar with. Native hardware support means you won’t have to learn a new interface or tangle with driver updates whenever the host OS is updated or patched.

HighPoint Technologies, Inc.’s Rocket 1608A 8-channel Gen5 x16 NVMe AIC makes a compelling case for a Gen5 Upgrade.

Highpoint Rocket 1608a Intro

Though Gen5 PCIe NVMe SSDs have been around for a few years now, many are still reliant on Gen4-based storage, even though their computing platforms ostensibly support Gen5 devices. Provided your system can accommodate Gen5 hardware, upgrading to a Gen5 NVMe SSD could potentially double your performance envelope. However, your Gen4 SSD(s) might still be running strong. Why fix what isn’t broken?

So, is it time to retire your existing drives in favor of a Gen5 NVMe storage solution? Or is that even the right question to be asking?

Determining whether or not to upgrade to Gen5 can be a surprisingly tough decision. Gen5’s performance advantages over Gen4 are obvious at 1st glance, but simply comparing and contrasting technical specs will only get you so far. And depending on which path you end up taking, you may not necessarily have to (or even want to) ditch your current Gen4 SSDs.

As an IT pro or solution provider, it’s important to examine everything that is available, and justify the switch in more concrete cost-benefit terms. Jumping in blind is not a viable option.

This article explores the ROI of a Gen5 NVMe storage upgrade by examining and summarizing the current capabilities and limitations of your average Gen5 platform, and taking a closer look at one possible solution; HighPoint’s PCIe Gen5 x16 NVMe Switch AIC, the Rocket 1608A.

Gen5 x16 doubles performance bandwidth
PCIe Gen5 technology represents a significant boost to transfer throughput. Compared to Gen4, Gen5 doubles your potential. At full speed (x16 lanes) Gen5 will boost your transfer bandwidth to 64GB/s (vs. Gen4’s 32GB/s). This translates into approximately 56GB/s of actual transfer-performance (vs. 28GB/s for Gen4).

It’s important to point out the distinction between the 64GB/s and 56GB/s values. 64GB/s is the theoretical limit of Gen5. The 56GB/s is the real-world figure; this is what you can expect to see on a daily basis, provided you have a full x16 lanes to work with. And this is key – you will need x16 lanes of Gen5 bandwidth to get the full 56GB/s.

Question: My system can support Gen5 SSDs. But how can I achieve 56GB/s (Gen5 x16) speeds?

Answer: Storage aggregation. You will need to use 4 or more Gen5 NVMe SSDs.
As fast as Gen5 connectivity is, you won’t hit 56GB/s with a single SSD. Gen5 NVMe SSDs can provide up to 14,000MB/s a piece, compared to 7,000MB/s for a single Gen4 SSD, which is certainly nothing to sneeze at.

However, simple math will reveal that in order to approach 56GB/s,
you will need something that is capable of supporting at least 4 Gen5 SSDs.
Alternatively, you could hit 56GB/s with 8x Gen4 SSDs, but we will get into this later.

Highpoint Rocket 1608a F1

Ok, problem solved, right? Your Gen5 platform might already be capable of directly supporting 4x Gen5 M.2 NVMe SSDs. Sure, if simply supporting four Gen5 drives is your goal. But if you want Gen5 x16 performance, there is a major obstacle to contend with Beware of resource bottlenecks.

While it is true that some Gen5 platforms can directly support up to 4 NVMe SSDs, few allocate enough resources to allow each SSD to actually deliver 14,000MB/s. To perform optimally, NVMe SSDs (of any generation) need x4 lanes of PCIe bandwidth. Many Gen5 platforms will only provide enough lanes for 2xSSDs to operate at full speed. Most in fact will restrict it even further; reducing lane count to x2 or even x1 per SSD (which effectively limits performance to Gen4 or Gen3 levels, at best).

So, what’s the solution?
If you really want to experience Gen5 x16 performance, you will need to consider investing in a dedicated Gen5 storage solution. The most obvious choice is a PCIe NVMe M.2 AIC (add-in-card).

Want maximum Gen5 Performance? Then you need PCIe Gen5 x16 NVMe AIC.
PCIe NVMe AICs enable will enable you to utilize one or more NVMe SSDs via one of your system’s PCIe slots. The right NVMe AIC can overcome bandwidth limitations associated with the built-in M.2 slots provided by most Gen5 platforms, and potentially provide more storage capacity to boot.

One size does not fit all: As you will quickly discover, there are a lot of standard AIC options for single or dual or even quad NVMe SSDs configurations. On the surface, all you need is a card 1, 2 or 4 M.2 ports and x4, x8 or x16 lanes of Gen5 bandwidth, respectively. However, if you are serious about attaining maximum performance, a run-of-the-mill NVMe AIC is not going to cut it. Dual-port devices will only net you about 28,000MB/s in a best-case scenario; about half of what Gen5 is truly capable of, and on par with a maxed-out Gen4 NVMe device. Quad-port AICs are a better option, but most of these have a serious drawback – they will impose stiff performance penalties unless installed into exactly the right platform in exactly the right configuration with the exact right M.2 SSDs.

Once again, you must beware of potential resource bottlenecks: Generic NVMe AICs rely on the motherboard for PCIe resource allocation (‘x’ number of lanes) – this is most commonly known as host PCIe bifurcation. Just because the card is labeled x4, x8 or x16 doesn’t mean you will actually get this level of performance if you plug it into any old PCIe Gen5 slot.

Likewise, while most Gen5 platforms have multiple x16 slots (some provide as many as 7), not all slots function in the same manner. In many cases, only those slots closest to the CPU(s) will be guaranteed to deliver x16 lanes of bandwidth for any given device. And importantly, these slots are usually intended for use with the system’s GPU’s (graphic processing units; a.k.a. graphics cards).

Mind you, this doesn’t mean they can’t support generic NVMe AICs; if you are willing to sacrifice a GPU or some other PCIe device (such as a capture card or network adapter), this could potentially still work in your favor. However, if we are being honest, this kind of sacrifice is rarely viable for those that actually need Gen5 x16 storage performance. Applications that require this level of speed likely rely on other PCIe devices as well. As such, you will need to look for a particular type of NVMe AIC; something that can overcome any potential system/configuration bottleneck.

56GB/s is my goal, and I would rather not compromise my other PCIe devices. What do I look for in PCIe NVMe AIC?
If your goal 56GB/s (or thereabouts), you will need an AIC that can provide following:

  • x16 lanes of dedicated PCIe Gen5 bandwidth
  • 4 or more M.2 ports

This doesn’t sound like much on paper, but pay close attention to the term ‘dedicated’. This is key, and can be substituted with ‘guaranteed’. Truth be told, no generic NVMe AIC is going to be able to do this 100% of the time. Realistically, you will need a purpose-designed Gen5 x16 NVMe SSD storage device to reach this level of performance.

HighPoint’s Rocket 1608A Gen5 x16 NVMe Switch AIC is 1 such device and is arguably your option in today’s marketplace.

Introducing Rocket 1608A

Bus interface

PCIe 5.0 x16

# of channel / port

8x Device Channels / 8x M.2 Ports (Dedicated PCIe 5.0 x4 per port)

Number of devices

8x M.2 (2242, 2260, 2280)

Form factor

Full-Height, Full-Length

LED indication

Intelligent, Self-Diagnostic LEDs (SSD status / PCIe Host Connectivity)

Audible alarm

Yes

Hardware secure boot

Yes

OS support

Compatible with any OS with native NVMe driver support

Highpoint Rocket 1608a 1

 PCIe Gen5 x16 switch architecture – this is key to the Rocket 1608A’s flexibility, reliability and performance capability. The architecture provides 48-lanes of internal bandwidth, which the AIC allocates directly (a sort of self-bifurcation capability); 16 lanes of upstream bandwidth (this is what is used to interface with the mainboard), and x4 lanes to each of the 8xM.2 ports. This self-controlled bandwidth, combined with the 8 M.2 ports, is what enables the AIC to provide up to 56GB/s of transfer speed using 4x Gen5 SSDs or 8x Gen4 SSDs. All you need is a Gen5 PCIe slot with x16 lanes.

In most cases, this means you won’t need to sacrifice any of your existing PCIe devices to get access to Gen5 x16 storage performance. Any Gen5 x16 slot will do!

Highpoint Rocket 1608a 3

 Intel i7-14700K CrystalDiskMark Benchmark (GIGABYTE Z790M AORUS)

Highpoint Rocket 1608a Intel I7 14700k Crystaldiskmark Benchmark

AMD Ryzen Threadripper PRO 7945WX CrystalDiskMark Benchmark (HP Z6 G5 A)

Highpoint Rocket 1608a Amd Ryzen Threadripper Pro 7945wx Crystaldiskmark Benchmark

On top of the performance, the AIC’s Broadcom PEX 89048 switch IC works to streamline transfers and minimize latency, all but eliminating lag. (Info about the innovative Switch Architecture is available here.

8-Dedicated M.2 ports – the AIC can directly house up to 8x2242 ,2260, or 2280 M.2 SSDs of any generation and capacity.

SSDs are connected directly to  AIC (under the removable heat-sink/fan casing).
Unlike lot of other NVMe AICs, SSDs are kept in place using rubber pins in place
of convention screws or latches. This means fewer moving parts and not having
to deal with pile of screws whenever adding or replacing drive.

Highpoint Rocket 1608a 2
Native hardware support (Plug-and-Play installation) – The Rocket 1608A doesn’t rely on software applications or device drivers to function and perform. All you need to do is add SSDs and plug it into the system. Any current Windows, Linux or even FreeBSD/ VMware based OS will automatically recognize the device and hosted SSDs. They can be formatted and partitioned as desired using the platforms standard storage interface (such as Windows Disk Manager), or even an SDS suite. Software RAID is fully possible, and even recommended, as a RAID 0 using 4x Gen5 SSDs or 8x Gen4 SSDs can easily net you 56GB/s right off the bat!

What about storage capacity? Move to Gen5 or stick with Gen4?
NVMe AICs provide a way to double, or even quadruple the number of M.2 SSDs your platform can support. More NVMe SSDs means more storage capacity.

Making the switch to Gen5 SSDs, at least at the moment, can potentially impose capacity restrictions compared to Gen4 media. Currently, Gen5 SSDs have a maximum capacity of 4TB. This will likely change in the coming months/years, but right now, this means they are only half the size of today’s largest Gen4 SSDs (at 8TB). Either option is pricey (going for the biggest drives usually is), but Gen4 is still the better option if capacity is a major priority.

The Rocket 1608A can support 8x NVMe SSDs of either generation – this translates into 32TB of Gen5 storage and 64TB of Gen4. As discussed previously, both sets will net you 56GB/s of transfer speed due to the AIC’s 8x M.2 Ports and Gen5 x16 Switch Architecture, so performance is not something to worry about in either case. In this regard, the Rocket 1608A’s flexible design gives IT Pros and Solution Providers a lot of room to work with.

Highpoint Rocket 1608a 5

Some things to consider:

  • Gen4 devices currently offer superior capacity. Gen4 media is still available in higher capacities – up to 8TB/SSD vs 4TB for Gen5 models.

  • Gen5 SSDs can deliver twice the performance of their Gen4 counterparts – this means less SSDs are needed to reach 56GB/s (4x Gen5 SSDs)

  • Gen4 SSDs are considerably less expensive than Gen5 models. This enables you to maximize capacity while still reaching 56GB/s (8x Gen4 SSSDs)

A Gen5 NVMe AIC can make Gen5 Storage a viable solution for many platform and applications. HighPoint’s Rocket 1608A is a way to upgrade to Gen5 x16, and is available right now. It’s  PCIe switching architecture enables the AIC to be deliver max performance from any Gen5 platform with an x16 slot. You won’t need to sacrifice other devices, features or functions to experience 56GB/s.

 The AIC allows you achieve 56GB/s of transfer speed using Gen5 or Gen4 storage media. Whether you decide to keep using existing Gen4 SSDs, invest in more Gen4 media, or make the switch to Gen5, you be able to take full advantage of Gen5 x16 connectivity. Rocket1608A AICs are simple to install and can be managed using the tools you are already familiar with. Native hardware support means you won’t have to learn a new interface or tangle with driver updates whenever the host OS is updated or patched.

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