Self-Encrypting Drive (SED) Standardization Proposal for NVDIMM-N Devices

Tuesday, February 26, 2019 - 5:00 pm5:25 pm

Frederick Knight and Sridhar Balasubramanian, NetApp


A non-volatile DIMM (NVDIMM) is a Dual In-line Memory Module (DIMM) that maintains the contents of Synchronous Dynamic Random Access Memory (SDRAM) during power loss. An NVDIMM-N class of device can be integrated into a standard compute or storage platforms to provide non-volatility of the data in DIMM. NVDIMM relies on byte addressable energy backed function to preserve the data in case of power failure. A Byte Address Energy Backed Function is backed by a combination of SDRAM and non-volatile memory (e.g., NAND flash) on the NVDIMM-N. JESD245C Byte-Addressable Energy Backed Interface (BAEBI) defines the programming interface for NVDIMM-N class of devices.

An NVDIMM-N achieves non-volatility by:

  • performing a Catastrophic Save operation to copy SDRAM contents into NVM when host power is lost using an Energy Source managed by either the module or the host
  • performing a Restore operation to copy contents from the NVM to SDRAM when power is restored

An NVDIMM-N device may be a of self-encrypting device (SED) type that protects data at rest. This means the NVDIMM-N controller:

  • encrypts data during a Catastrophic Save operation
  • decrypts data during a Restore operation and the data is:
    • plaintext while sitting in SDRAM
    • ciphertext while sitting in NVM (e.g., flash memory)

Typically, an NVDIMM-N device may be used within the storage controller for performance acceleration against storage workloads or as a sundry storage to preserve debug information in case of power failure. When NVDIMM-N device is used as a caching layer, transient data is staged in NVDIMM-N device before the data is persisted/committed to the storage media. NVDIMM-N devices are also used as persistent storage media for staging memory dump files when critical failures occur at storage subsystem level before the system goes down.

The NVDIMM-N encryption standardization proposal involves cross-pollination between JEDEC (proposed BAEBI extensions to define security protocols in conjunction with encryption capability on the device) and TCG standards (proposed TCG Storage Interface Interactions Specifications content for handling self-encrypting NVDIMM-Ns plus adapting TCG Ruby SSC for NVDIMM-N devices) with industry sponsorship from HPE and NetApp.

The talk will begin with brief overview of NVDIMM-N device and associated storage-centric use cases followed by an overview of NVDIMM-N encryption scheme, and proposed self-encrypting device standardization approach for NVDIMM-N devices, which involves the following:

  1. Extensions to BAEBI specification to accommodate security protocol definitions in consequence with encryption capability in NVDIMM-N devices
  2. Extensions to TCG Storage Interface Specifications defining the Security Protocol Typed Block for handling interactions with NVDIMM-N devices
  3. Adapting TCG Ruby SSC standard for accommodating NVDIMM-N class devices

The talk will conclude by summarizing current state of the standardization proposal and approval process with JEDEC and TCG WG's.

Frederick Knight, NetApp

Frederick Knight is a Principal Standards Technologist at NetApp Inc. Fred has over 40 years of experience in the computer and storage industry. He currently represents NetApp in several National and International Storage Standards bodies and industry associations, including T10 (SCSI), T11 (Fibre Channel), T13 (ATA), IETF (iSCSI), SNIA, and JEDEC. He was the chair of the SNIA Hypervisor Storage Interfaces working group, the primary author of the SNIA HSI White Paper, the author of the new IETF iSCSI update RFC, and the editor for the T10 SES-3 standard. He is also the editor for the SCSI Architecture Model (SAM-6) and the Convenor for the ISO/IEC JTC-1/SC25/WG4 international committee (which oversees the international standardization of T10/T11/T13 documents). Fred has received several NetApp awards for excellence and innovation as well as the INCITS Technical Excellence Award for his contributions to both T10 and T11 and the INCITS Merit Award for his longstanding contributions to the international work of INCITS.

He is also the developer of the first native FCoE target device in the industry. At NetApp, he contributes to technology and product strategy and serves as a consulting engineer to product groups across the company. Prior to joining NetApp, Fred was a Consulting Engineer with Digital Equipment Corporation, Compaq, and HP where he worked on clustered operating system and I/O subsystem design.

Sridhar Balasubramanian, NetApp

Sridhar Balasubramanian is a Principal Security Architect within Product Security Group @ NetApp RTP. With over 25 years in the software industry, Sridhar is inventor/co-inventor for 16 US Patents and published 5 Conference papers till date. Sridhar's area of expertise includes Storage and Information Security, Security Assurance, Secure Software Development Lifecycle, Secure Protocols, and Storage Management. Sridhar holds Master's degrees in Physics and Electrical Engineering.

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@conference {230022,
author = {Frederick Knight and Sridhar Balasubramanian},
title = {Self-Encrypting Drive ({SED}) Standardization Proposal for NVDIMM-N Devices},
year = {2019},
address = {Boston, MA},
publisher = {{USENIX} Association},
month = feb,

Presentation Video (CONSENT FORM REQUIRED)