Synology M2D18 NVMe SSD Cache Upgrade Card on Show at SEE – Your Questions Answered

Synology M2D18 NVMe SSD Card spotted at the Synology Solution Exhibition

For the majority of this week, I have been showing you guys the fantastic bits of hardware that are going to be emerging from Synology at the end of Q3 2018. However, a couple of devices, although still not released, were ones we have discussed before. One particular device was the elusive Synology M2D18 NVMe SSD Cache card, for upgrading your PCIe enabled NAS for vastly improved IOPs and file handling internally. This is not the first time that Synology has introduced this kind of technology to us, as its predecessor was the M2D17 – Near enough identical, but using a slower SATA based SSD media type. Both types of m.2 SSD media have their benefits, but when the M2D17 was first releases, it was made available very close to the release of the popular 4-Bay DS918+ and as that arrived with NVMe SSD support, it certainly cooled peoples excitement about that PCIe upgrade card. Luckily Synology was quick to respond and development began on this brand new NVMe version that promised SSD media support of Read speeds of over 3000MB/ and write of 1800MB/s and above. So, what exactly is the M2D18 Synology card, why is it important and should this be your next big NAS upgrade?

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The Specifications of the M2D18 NVMe SSD Card from Synology – Quick Reminder

If you did not catch our coverage of the M2D18 NVMe SSD Upgrade card previously, below is a quick reminder of the hardware/software specs. Unsurprisingly (and like most of the NAS devices we have seen at CeBit) it’s a pretty impressive setup:

  • Synology M.2 SSD adapter M2D18 is designed to supercharge your NAS I/O performance. Its dual NVMe M.2 SSD allows high SSD read/write caching, reserving primary drive bays for data storage. It supports 2280/2260/2242 form factors and meets various M.2 NVMe SSD options to free you from vendor lock-in.
  • Supported on FS1018, DS3018xs, RS2818RP+, RS2418(RP)+, DS1817+, DS1618+, DS1517+, DS2419+, RS1219+, RS818+ and RS818RP+

Your Questions about the M2D18 NVMe SSD Answered

This is not the first time we have heard about the M2D18 NVMe SSD performance boosting card. Between unofficial Synology leaks and our coverage of Computex 2018 here on NASCompares, SPANTv and NCTv, we have let you guys know plenty about the M2D18 NVMe PCIe. However, now we are face to face with it and the team at Synology we got a chance to put your questions directly to them. I will keep these questions updated as much as possible and add more if they get popular. Here is what you wanted to know:

What is the difference between the M2D17 and M2D18?

The difference comes down to the m.2 SSD slots. With the M2D17 featuring SATA based connections and the M2D18 featuring the newer NVMe PCIe-based ports. SATA is the market incumbent and dominant interface for connecting an SSD to a PC motherboard. It employs the command protocol AHCI which was built with slower spinning disks in mind (HDD) rather than the flash memory found in SSDs. SATA transfer rates begin at 150 MB/s and max out at 600 MB/s for third generation technology.

NVMe is the latest high performance and optimized protocol which supersedes AHCI and compliments PCIe technology. It offers an optimised command and completion path for use with NVMe based storage. It was developed by a consortium of manufacturers specifically for SSDs to overcome the speed bottleneck imposed by the older SATA connection. It is akin to a more efficient language between storage device and PC: one message needs to be sent for a 4GB transfer instead of two, NVMe can handle 65,000 queues of data each with 65,000 commands, instead of one queue that with the capacity for 32 commands, and it only has seven major commands (read, write, flush etc). As well as delivering better throughput NVMe offers reduced latency.

Thanks to this greatly increased throughput on the NVMe ports, the M2D18 is significantly higher and when it comes to caching in a NAS, this is vastly preferred.

Is the M2D18 Card better than adding more Memory?

That depends on what the tasks you need performing are. Memory is a solution to an active process and flushes data between usage (with each time you boot the device being empty again). Cache storage is a separate storage space to that of your traditional NAS storage that holds copies of regularly accessed data. Here is a little more information on the difference:

Can I use multiple Synology M2D18 PCIe cards in a single NAS system?

Yes, however, there are very few Synology NAS devices that feature more than one PCIe slot, so this may well be a moot point.

Can I use the Synology M2D18 Card in a QNAP NAS or Windows PC system?

We have tried on numerous occasions to use the M2D17 in a windows server, a Windows Workstation, a QNAP TS-453B and a Linux Custom server. Only in the Linux server was the card recognized and even then did not function anywhere close to practical usage. So, no, sadly I do not think the M2D18 will be supported outside Synology NAS systems.

When will the M2D18 Card be Released?

A release is indicated as being the closing stages of Q3 of 2018/19. However, guidelines surrounding price and availability are still awaiting confirmation.

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