I have a use case for this that has no good solution out there right now.
In enterprise scenarios, one of the things that IT support needs to do frequently is the imaging and cloning of hard disks. In the past, this is generally easy as SATA backplane cages are common — whether through an ICY DOCK product or even old 1U servers — we could simply plug the drive in and run a software like Acronis or Macrium to image or restore hard disks. In fact, even using one of ICY DOCK's external HDD docks work just as well, over a USB 3.0 or eSATA interface.
But with new technology like the M.2 interface, things became more complicated. A M.2 SATA SSD could use an adaptor to convert it to a normal SATA interface. But with NVMe, things didn't work any more. We needed to plug the SSD directly into the motherboard, which is bad because most motherboards today still contain only one M.2 slot; the M.2 slot is not designed for repeated insertions/removals; and the danger of static destroying parts is much higher.
Also, there is no dock or device or adaptor in the market that allows for plugging a M.2 device (especially NVMe drives) into a USB port, presumably because the USB controller is too slow or simply incompatible (that said, if ICY DOCK comes out with a M.2 NVMe/U.2 to Thunderbolt 3/USB-C device, I'd be the first one to buy).
This is made worse by the fact that major laptop manufacturers are now using M.2 NVMe drives on almost all their products.
The value I see in this product is the ability to hot swap two or more NVMe/SAS/SATA drives into a simple and cheap PC built for the purpose for imaging / cloning / restoring. The U.2 interface is the all-in-one that is perfect for this use case. A few more things are necessary to perfect it:
- Provide an adaptor that we could easily use to convert a M.2 interface to the U.2 interface on these disk bays.
- Find a way to allow users to put in a hard disk without using screws like in the MB601VK-B product.
- Because some of the standards are mutually-exclusive, providing cables that key the backplane to the needs of the user is an easy way to give them options, like NVMe+SATA Express+SATA or SASx4/SAS/SATA or just NVMe+SATA (since SAS is not common on consumer boards). See section 10.2 of http://www.ssdformfactor.org/docs/SSD_Form_Factor_Version1_00.pdf for more information. The problem that might arise four 68-pin connectors will be needed on the rear side, which might not be possible with two fans.
Currently, the only competing product is the extremely expensive Supermicro Ultra servers with NVMe/SAS/SATA backplanes. There are no other products in the market that can read/write NVMe SSDs via a hot-swappable interface. If ICY DOCK could come out with the first affordable multi-NVMe-drive hot-swappable device for this use case, I am sure many IT departments would purchase it.