Dell Poweredge 14G – T140 PCIE m.2 NVMe Boot

Lots of misleading discussion about this online. My test rig is a new Dell Poweredge T140 with the latest 2.4.1 BIOS. The aim is to boot the server from a brand new NVMe SSD presented on the PCI-E bus via an m.2 interface.

There is a lot of confusion with the difference between SATA SSDs and NVMe SSDs. Also lots of people in the Dell forums confusing the Dell BOSS card with the two concepts. This is not helped by the fact that often the online shops confuse NAND with NVMe and m.2.

Good old fashioned 2.5″ SSDs are SATA (sometimes SAS) versions that effectively have a SATA/SAS interface sitting between the NAND memory and the interface ports. They connect via a blackplate or simple SATA/SAS connectors to a SATA/SAS controller sitting on the PCIE bus. I have seen some of these devices being marketed as 2.5″ SATA SSDs with NVMe memory which can confuse matters (they mean 2.5″ SATA SSDs NAND).

NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory express) refers to the interface between the PCIE bus and the NAND directly. Effectively meaning that a SATA or SAS controller and interface between PCIE bus and NAND memory is not required.

m.2 (Next Generation Form Factor – NGFF) is an internal connector standard and is used by both SATA SSDs and NVMe SSDs. Whilst the connectors are identical you cannot plug an m.2 NVMe SSD into a SATA m.2 port and vice versa.

The Dell BOSS card (https://i.dell.com/sites/doccontent/shared-content/data-sheets/en/Documents/Dell-PowerEdge-Boot-Optimized-Storage-Solution.pdf) addresses a completely different problem. It aims to provide RAID 1 protection across two SATA m.2 SSDs for the purpose of OS boot without the use of software RAID. Not only does it not support NVMe m.2 SSDs it also exposes a hardware RAID controller to the OS which effectively sits between the PCIE bus and the two SATA m.2 SSDs.

Test:

  • UEFI boot
  • PEX4M2E1 – StarTech.com M.2 PCIe SSD Adapter – x4 PCIe 3.0 NVMe – M.2 Adapter
  • Crucial® P2 250GB 3D NAND NVMe PCIe M.2 SSD
  • Windows Server 2019 Standard ISO (latest)

The storage appears in the Windows installer but not in the BIOS. Some suggest that after successful installation of the OS the BIOS then detects the UEFI boot partition and can then boot. This is not my experience and several of these posts suggest that they are actually using SATA drives rather than NVMe.

Conclusion is therefore that it is not currently possible to perform NVMe boot on a T140 (and probably the entire 14G Dell range). Comments very welcome!

About: Rob