Launching today is one of the more exciting features that we have seen recently for a HPE server. Marvell NativeRAID is a NVMe RAID solution that is designed specifically to mirror SSDs. This is something we have been waiting a long time for as we first highlighted the Marvell 88NR2241 at OCP Summit 2018. Now, Marvell has built a solution around the controller for HPE ProLiant servers.
Marvell NativeRAID NVMe RAID Solution
For the segment Marvell is aiming at, the problem statement is relatively simple. Companies want to use NVMe SSDs instead of legacy SATADOMs, front hot-swap bay drives or SATA M.2 drives. SATADOMs are expensive for their capacity but do not take up drive bays. Front hot-swap bays are too valuable to use with their connected RAID controllers for boot drives. SATA SSDs cost virtually the same for less performance.
Marvell is using the 88NR2241 to deliver RAID solutions to boot devices. Specifically, a device can be added to a PCIe slot and two M.2 drives can be put into RAID 1 or 0. Our sense is that the majority of these solutions are going to use RAID 1 for mirroring.
The RAID controller is a DRAM-less controller that lowers costs compared to Tri-mode controllers. They can also be less expensive than VROC licenses which do not work with all drives on Intel platforms. A solution like this can also work across Intel Xeon and AMD EPYC solutions such as the HPE ProLiant ML350 Gen10 and ProLiant DL325 Gen10 we reviewed.
Marvell is highlighting its first shipping native NVMe RAID solution for HPE ProLiant (P/N: P12965-B21) because Marvell did more than just design the chip. Marvell also designed the board as well as the iLO integration on the software side delivering a fairly turn-key solution for HPE. This type of solution is something that Marvell is trying to highlight at a corporate level.
We were told the cards can support up to M.2 22110 NVMe SSDs in the HPE solution. That allows for larger 110mm drives with power-loss protection (or PLP) onboard. This combined with the more reliable SSD form factor (versus hard drives) means that it is practical to use internal slots for SSD RAID instead of using hot-swap front panel bays.
Marvell SATA RAID controllers are also found in servers from many other vendors, not just HPE. We see this as a feature that will come to solutions like the Dell BOSS and other servers in the not too distant future. As the price delta between SATA and NVMe has been effectively eliminated for M.2 drives, it is only a matter of time until this happens across the industry. The HPE-Marvell NativeRAID solution is the first step in that direction.