RISC OS Computers     Award  award

Home Details Purchase Downloads Contact

RISC OS Project N.Ex.T - NVMe Extreme Technology

What is NVMe?

NVMeLogo - 9Kb First there were hard drives, via IDE then SATA. Then came SSDs, running on top of the same SATA protocol designed for hard drives. To remove the constraints of SATA technology, a new technology was designed to allow SSDs to map directly into memory over the PCI-Express bus - NVMe. Designed exclusively for SSD / flash technology, the NVMe protocol is engineered for next generation storage. Or N.Ex.T generation storage!

Put simply, if your current systems use SATA, we hope your next (N.Ex.T?) system will use NVMe.

To read more about our N.Ex.T Boxes (computers) click here

What is RISC OS Project N.Ex.T?

RISC OS Project N.Ex.T is designed to bring super fast NVMe technology to RISC OS computers both pre-existing and brand new. It can be provided as a purely software release, or bundled with hardware, from DIY kits to complete systems. It will embrace open source, and be compatible with builds of RISC OS provided by not only ourselves, but also ROOL (including nightly builds), ROD and other organisations.

Pinebook Pro - 12Kb NVMe ports (aka “m.2”) are present on a number of existing systems, from RCI’s Hydra systems to TiMachine/Titanium (with PCI-E adapter) to Pinebook Pro and RK3399 boards. The Pi Foundation’s CM4 baseboard has a PCI-E slot which can take an NVMe m.2 adapter, and other CM4-based solutions may also have NVMe, such as those from other suppliers.

RISC OS Project N.Ex.T is designed to work with all of these, and future systems too.

Pinebook Pro / RK3399 support is presently part of a paid-beta programme. The project had initially focussed on the pre-existing PCI-E support for Pi/CM4 because that was a known quantity. The PCI-E support on RK3399 evolved in parallel to NVMe development, and has been completed now that the NVMe driver exists. That beta also includes Wifi support.

Why is this important?

Next Box - 6Kb Outside of the RISC OS world, NVMe has become the standard for SSDs on modern machines. If you buy a laptop with an SSD, it’s probably an NVMe drive, and all high performance desktop machines will be NVMe based.

Both the Pi Compute Module 4 and the RK3399 (Pinebook Pro and other machines) platforms expose their PCI-Express busses to RISC OS for NVMe or other devices. On the Pi in particular, storage is a huge problem because the standard I/O options (SD card, USB) are very slow on RISC OS. You have a fast CPU hampered by slow storage. RK3399 platforms fare better thanks to eMMC, but even that is a far cry from NVMe performance.

With many users staying with older, well-rounded systems like iMX6 and Ti, the ability to deliver truly N.Ex.T generation platforms with high speed storage is really important, especially as we approach the pinnacle of 32bit ARM processors.

Building the future

So far we've just talked about NVMe and its importance in delivering high speed RISC OS computers. That's obviously really significant, but at RCI we don't do things by halves, and so it is with Project N.Ex.T.

Underpinning the NVMe driver is a new concept - an open, extensible system called Block Devices. This is a 64bit-aware, low level system that lets storage exist independantly of the hardware it is connected to, as "Blocks". This means that features like partitioning, large drives, RAID (multi-drive data security), and less common technologies like iSCSI can be added through a standardised, expandable interface.

That may not mean much now, but at the moment, every filing system that exists for RISC OS has to re-invent the wheel, which is crazy. With BlockDevices, a programmer need only write the basic hardware driver, to benefit from all that BlockDevices has to offer.

This isn't a new concept really - it is how storage has evolved on other platforms. But it is new to RISC OS, and is part of the N.Ex.T philosophy - taking RISC OS forwards to the next generation.

What does that mean for you as a user? As features are added to BlockDevices, they become available to all the filing systems that use it. This means that the capabilities of Project N.Ex.T can grow as time goes on, and everyone gets to benefit. It's a joined-up way of developing that aims to take RISC OS forwards rather than treading water.

Obtaining your N.Ex.T software and hardware

RISC OS Project N.Ex.T will consist of both software and hardware releases.

You can join in right now either by buying a hardware bundle (with the driver included) or by participating in the Pinebook Pro Wifi & NVMe beta for £49.99

Hydra - 7Kb For hardware bundles, you can choose (for example) a pre-formatted NVME SSD and adapter for CM4-IO board, or with a USB->NVMe adapter - useful for reading NVMe drives on other machines.

We can also provide CM4 boards with NVMe slots, or complete machines featuring NVMe. The Hydra - with up to 6 NVMe drives and CPU modules - is an obvious candidate, but there are cheaper options too such as our N.Ex.T Boxes

The NVMe driver is presently in stable beta state, and we plan to be optimise it further. Right now it can easily exceed the SATA performance of our existing i.MX6 / Titanium / TiMachine systems, and we’re still near the beginning of the journey.


mini.pi N.Ex.T - 7Kb You can order a bundle with an NVMe SSD and CM4-IO board PCI-E adapter, or a USB->PCI-E adapter if that is more useful to you. The SSD will come pre-formatted for RISC OS use to make life easier for you.

Computers or motherboards with NVMe are available now, with prices according to specification.

You can contact us to discuss your needs, either via this website, email at rcomp at rcomp.co.uk or by phone on 01925 755043.

We hope your N.Ex.T computer will be powered by RISC OS Project N.Ex.T!

To read more about our N.Ex.T Boxes (computers) click here

Valid HTML 4.01 Transitional   Website Copyright © R-Comp Interactive 2023+. info@riscoscomputers.co.uk
Arm® and Cortex® are registered trademarks of Arm Limited (or its subsidiaries) in the USA and/or elsewhere. All other trademarks acknowledged. Note that neither this website nor the products herein are affiliated with, nor endorsed by Arm Limited (or its subsidiaries).