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  • Writer's pictureNeMo

Understanding SSD Technology: NVMe, SATA, M.2.

Updated: Jan 28, 2022

NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express) is a communications interface and driver that defines a command set and feature set for PCIe-based SSDs with the goals of increased and efficient performance and interoperability on a broad range of enterprise and client systems.

NVMe was designed for SSD. It communicates between the storage interface and the System CPU using high-speed PCIe sockets, independent of storage form factor. Input/Output tasks performed using NVMe drivers begin faster, transfer more data, and finish faster than older storage models using older drivers, such as AHCI (Advanced Host Controller Interface) a feature of SATA SSDs. Because it was designed specifically for SSDs, NVMe is becoming the new industry standard for both servers in the data centre and in client devices like laptop, desktop PCs and even next gen gaming consoles.

NVMe technology is available in a number of form factors such as the PCIe card slot, M.2, and U.2. While there are SSDs that use the SATA, PCIe slot and M.2 that are AHCI and not NVMe, U.2 is a form factor that exclusively uses the NVMe protocol.

The infographic below will help you understand how all of the different form factors and protocol are found in various types SSDs and what the differences are in performance.r.

Not only does NVMe deliver better performance, but it is also highly compatible. There is now only one software interface standard for manufacturers to adhere to, so they don’t have to write their own. Vendors and IT professionals responsible for implementation no longer need to vet vendors based on their compatibility with a particular operating system but instead they can look at the specific capabilities and cost of the card to determine which is best for their environment, so a win-win for end users. Ideal use cases for NVMe are relational databases, AI and high-performance computing.

Putting together a storage device of NVMe and PCIe seems to make perfect sense and many SSD manufacturers are taking this route.

HDDs or spinning disks are still used to a high extent in datacentres as they are seen as reliable, cheap to replace and don’t wear down. Their performance is limited, however (this tech is 40 years old!). HDDs and SSDs have only one command queue and can send 32 commands per queue. NVMe has 64,000 command queues and can send 64,000 commands per queue. So, it is clear that utilising NVMe and PCIe together would make perfect sense for a datacentre where so much information is being processed every second. PCIe communicates directly with the system CPU as opposed to a SATA controller, so in essence, it’s cutting out the middle-man to access information quicker.

So what solutions are available? Combining NVMe and PCIe is now on the rise and technology leader Kingston can offer the DCP1000, dubbed the world’s fastest SSD with read/write speeds of a whopping 6800/6000 MB/s – over ten times faster than SATA SSD’s. Additional features common across SSDs include power failure protection enabling the device to shut down safely in the event of a power outage with no loss of data and a reduced risk of data corruption, AES 256-bit encryption and extensive warranties – a must for data centres. Read more about the different levels of encryption here

SMART tools will support IT enablers to monitor the health of the PCIe SSDs; reliability, usage, life remaining, wear levelling and temperature can all be monitored so any early problems can be identified and acted on with minimal downtime.

The future certainly looks bright for NVMe PCIe tech especially when 3D NAND is making its way into commercial and industrial storage. Knowing the fast pace of our industry we can almost certainly predict that capacities and speeds will only increase further.

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