NVMe Vs SATA SSDs: A Saga of Solid State Storage


August 7, 2018 by Siobhan Climer

With so many BYOD (bring-your-own-device) programs and shifts toward tinier and tinier devices, purchasing additional storage has become a regular practice in the industry. You have two primary options: hard disk drives (HDDs) or solid state drives (SDDs). HDDs are much less expensive in a price per gigabyte metric, but they lack the superior functions that make SSDs a better investment in terms of efficiency and performance.

SSDs work by storing information on microchips, which is much faster and more efficient than HDDs. HDDs use mechanical arms to physically move about the disk space to read information – called spinning. What’s faster: wandering around the library to gather books or having them delivered to your door by the library delivery van? That’s the reason SSDs are typically preferred by gamers and performance-oriented industries that rely on strong technology to meet critical business needs.


nvme vs sata ssds


SSD Overview: Architecture And Configurations


nvme vs sata ssdsAs a quick review for those new to data storage lingo, an SSD has two primary components: the controller and the memory. The controller is an embedded processor that performs most of the major SSD functions: read/write caching, encryption, error detection, garbage collection, scrubbing, and wear leveling. The memory is what is used to store the data. Today, most SSDs use non-volatile NAND flash memory.

In addition to these two primary components, all SSDs have a host interface. This is a physical connection that is managed by the controller. There are several types, though today we are going to focus on PCI Express and Serial Advanced Technology Attachment (SATA) as we provide a comparison with NVMe Vs SATA SSDs.




nvme vs sata ssdsSerial ATA, or SATA, arrived on the market at the turn of the millennium – the year 2000 (that was fun to write). Since then, SATA has gone through several revisions that brought more manageable cables, increases to performance (from 150 megabytes per second (MB/s) to 600 MB/s), integrations with SATA Express connector specification, and hot plug support. SATA relies on the Advanced Host Controller Interface (AHCI), which improves performance with native command queuing (NCQ).

NVMe stands for Non-Volatile Memory Express and uses the PCI Express bus to connect the SSD to the server. Instead of single queuing, which is how SATA and most other storage functions, NVMe has parallel operations that support up to 64,000 commands. NVMe also provides end-to-end data protection, error reporting, and virtualization.

One of the big challenges that comes with SATA and other SSD storage options is that they actually outperform the interfaces and architectures initially created for spinning disks. What ends up happening is these powerful servers end up waiting for data, which wastes time, money, and strategic resources. NVMe overcomes this obstacle with its parallel queuing. This improves performance significantly. While SATA can manage up to 600 MB/s, some of the newest NVMe SSDs (i.e. Samsung 970 PRO NVMe) have speeds of up to 3,500 MB/s and can write at up to 2,700 MB/s. That’s no contest.


NVMe Wins Performance; SATA Wins Economy


nvme vs sata ssdsWhile NVMe boasts better performance and operational systems that simply can’t be outdone by SATA, the NVMe Vs SATA SSDs debate is far from over. SATA has been around for almost 20 years, and it will probably be around for another two decades at least. It is more economical and quite reliable. And for some teams, it’s probably enough. NVMe provides extraordinary storage offerings, but not every industry, business, or PC gamer needs the power of NVMe storage.


SSDs Don’t Replace Data Backup Policies And Disaster Recovery Plans


It doesn’t matter where you stand in the NVMe Vs SATA SSDs debate when it comes to backups. All SSDs use electrical charges to store data. The charge leaks over time, which means SSDs will lose their data slowly over time. How long they last depends on the endurance rating, storage environment, and temperature. Regardless, you will need to have an archival process in place that supersedes SSDs as a memory bank. SSDs are perfect for short-term (<1 year) storage or quick file transfers, but when it comes to the data your business relies on for the future, be sure to have a data backup policy. Use our free data backup policy template and contact us today to ensure you have a resilient disaster recovery plan that strategically uses your resources.

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It also makes sense to consider how NVMe Vs SATA SSD might affect your business in layers. It is possible a hybrid storage model works best for your team that might incorporate physical HDD/SDD data center storage with the benefits of the cloud. Mindsight’s technology roadmap can put you in a position to provide strategic planning to your team.

Like what you read? 


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About Mindsight

Mindsight, a Chicago IT consultancy and services provider, offers thoughtfully-crafted and thoroughly-vetted perspectives to our clients’ toughest technology challenges. Our recommendations come from our experienced and talented team of highly certified engineers, and are based on a solid understanding of our clients’ unique business and technology challenges.

About The Author

Siobhan Climer, Mindsight’s Staff Technology Writer, writes about technology trends in education, healthcare, and business. She previously taught STEM education programs in the classroom and at The New England Aquarium in Boston, MA. Siobhan writes extensively about disaster recovery, cloud services, backups, data storage, network infrastructure, and the contact center. Find her on twitter @techtalksio.

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