How to use

To use an Open-Channel SSD, support in the operating system kernel is required. The Linux kernel has support since the LightNVM subsystem was introduced in version 4.4. As the project is under development, it is preferred to use the latest available kernel. You'll need the the following to get going:

  • Linux kernel 4.12+
  • Latest nvme-cli
  • qemu with Open-Channel support (optional)

Install Linux Kernel 4.12+

Pblk, which is used in this guide, is available from version 4.12+. Make sure to install and boot the kernel before continuing.

Install nvme-cli tool

nvme-cli is the tool used to administrate nvme devices. It can be installed using

sudo apt-get install nvme-cli

or installed from

If you are not running Ubuntu, please see the nvme-cli github project for instructions.

Device options

Open-Channel SSD hardware

If you have a LightNVM SDK from CNEX Labs, or another Open-Channel SSD, you should be able to see the device using

sudo nvme lnvm list

which should output the following:

nvme lnvm list
Number of devices: 1
Device          Block manager   Version
nvme0n1         gennvm          (0,1,0)

If block manager reports none (only pre-4.8 kernels), the device should be first initialized using

sudo nvme lnvm init -d nvme0n1


Using Keith Busch's QEMU branch, it is possible to expose a LightNVM-compatible device using a backend-file. See the guide below for installing his version.

Configure QEMU

Create an empty file to hold your NVMe device.

dd if=/dev/zero of=blknvme bs=1M count=8196

this creates a zeroed 8GB file called "blknvme". You can boot your favorite Linux image with

qemu-system-x86_64 -m 4G -smp 1 --enable-kvm
-hda $LINUXVMFILE -append "root=/dev/sda1"
-kernel "/home/foobar/git/linux/arch/x86_64/boot/bzImage"
-drive file=blknvme,if=none,id=mynvme
-device nvme,drive=mynvme,serial=deadbeef,namespaces=1,lver=1,nlbaf=5,lba_index=3,mdts=10,lnum_lun=4,lnum_pln=1,lsecs_per_pg=4

Here, replace $LINUXVMFILE with your pre-installed Linux virtual machine.

QEMU support the following LightNVM-specific parameters:

- lver=<int>       : version of the LightNVM standard to use, Default:1
- lbbtable=<file>  : Load bad block table from file destination (Provide path to file. If no file is provided a bad block table will be generation. Look at lbbfrequency. Default: Null (no file).
- lnum_lun=<X>     : Number of LUNs to expose. Minimum 2 if using pblk.
- lnum_pln=<X>     : Number of planes to expose. 
- lsecs_per_pg=<X> : Number of sectors in a page. Minimum 5 if using pblk.

The list of LightNVM parameters in QEMU can be found in $QUEMU_DIR/hw/block/nvme.c at the Advanced optional options comment.

Inside the virtual machine, you can now see the drive as it was a traditional Open-Channel SSD.

Instantiate pblk

When the installation is finished and the kernel have been booted. Devices can be enumerated by:

sudo nvme lnvm list

and initialized by:

sudo nvme lnvm create -d nvme0n1 --lun-begin=0 --lun-end=3 -n mydevice -t pblk

use the option -f to avoid recovering the L2P table from the device for quick initialization

sudo nvme lnvm create -d nvme0n1 --lun-begin=0 --lun-end=3 -n mydevice -t pblk -f

for other options for --help on each command. For example

sudo nvme lnvm create --help

Assuming nvme0n1 was shown during "nvme lnvm list", it will then expose /dev/mydevice as a block device using it as the backend. Please note that pblk is only available at the Linux kernel Github repository, and it yet to be upstream.

Source install

Compile latest kernel

The latest LightNVM kernel can be found at:

git clone

in the "for-next" branch.

Make sure that the .config file at least includes:

# Expose the /sys/module/lnvm/parameters/configure_debug interface
# Target support (required to expose the open-channel SSD as a block device)
# For NVMe support

Compile the kernel and install using the guide for your distribution.

QEMU Installation

QEMU support for Open-Channel SSDs is based on top of Keith Busch's qemu-nvme branch, which implements an NVMe compatible device.

Clone the qemu source from

git clone

and configure the QEMU source with

./configure --enable-linux-aio --target-list=x86_64-softmmu --enable-kvm

then install by make and install

Common Problems

Failed to open LightNVM mgmt /dev/lightnvm/control. Error: -1

Either you need to run nvme as root, or you are running an older kernel than 4.4.

Kernel panic on boot using NVMe

  1. Zero out your nvme backend file.

    dd if=/dev/zero of=backend_file bs=1M count=X

  2. Remember to upgrade the qemu-nvme branch as well. The linux and qemu-nvme repos follow each other.