NVMe vs. SATA
Top SATA SSD read speeds are 600 MB/s, but that’s the overhead limit in an ideal situation. Current SATA III speeds typically fall a little bit or significantly under 600.
NVMe SSD top read speeds center around 3,500 MB/s. Samsung, one of the frontrunners in SSD production, offers the 970 Evo Plus, which tops out around 3,500 MB/s sequential read speed and 3,300 MB/s sequential write speed. The Evo Plus has edged out the Samsung 970 Pro in performance, though the Pro is still a strong choice.
Both SATA and NVMe prices have dropped over the past few years. A 512-GB Samsung 860 Pro SATA SSD costs about $100, while a 512-GB Samsung 970 Pro NVMe M.2 costs approximately $170.
Prices for both SSDs vary greatly depending on size and capacity, and overall, SATA is still more affordable. For extremely high-performance needs, NVMe may be the better enterprise choice, and the tech industry increasingly utilizes NVMe. SATA is by no means obsolete, and it’s useful for storage and gaming purposes; SSDs are still incredibly fast compared to HDDs. They’re also long-established, and older machines that may not support NVMe devices will support SATA drives.
Enterprise SSDs are an entirely different story; prices vary, to put it mildly, but typically run well into the hundreds and can run into the thousands. Some NVMe drives will be more expensive than SATA, but often prices compare rather evenly here.
NVMe’s parallelism refers to its ability to run many operations at once through multiple threads. NVMe’s rapid I/O greatly increases its processing speeds. NVMe drives typically have a queue depth of 64,000 and support for 64K queues as well. SATA makes do with a queue depth of 32 and a single command queue; 32 I/O requests are the maximum the drive can hold in queue at any time.
|Used in flash environments only
|Accomodates both SSD and HDD
|Queue depth capacity of 64k per command and support for 64k queues
|Queue dept capacity of 32 and single command queue
|Good for business-critical applications and transaction-heavy databases
|Good for high capacity, low availability, and sequential reads
|Higher cost, but price is decreasing
|Generally less expensive than NVMe
NVMe or SATA?
Both have their uses and advantages. SATA’s primary advantage is its lower prices, but as NVMe prices also decrease, businesses may find that the faster SSD is worth the extra expense. The true benefit to investing in an SATA drive, then, is that older computers are more likely to support it. Some computers still don’t have PCIe buses, nor do some yet support NVMe. Some data centers may find that using older technology like SATA still works for them.
NVMe is ideal for high performance data processing and large amounts of stored data. technologies that make quick work out of enterprise storage workloads will find fans among today’s data center operators. Organizations seeking faster, more responsive application and database performance will want to keep an eye on the market for NVMe-enabled systems.
Looking ahead, there are other signs that storage vendors are looking to further widen the performance gulf between NVMe and SATA. Intel is a good example. Although it sells flash-based NVMe SSDs, the chipmaker has also brought NVMe Optane SSDs to market.
Optane, based on the company’s 3D XPoint technology, is a persistent memory or storage-class memory (SCM) solution that blends the performance characteristics of dynamic random-access memory (DRAM) with flash’s ability to retain data when the power is cut off. 3D XPoint was jointly developed by Intel and Micron.
NVMe over Fabrics
One developing instance of NVMe extends to entire networks rather than just one computer. NVMe over Fabrics (NVMe-oF) allows stored data processing across Ethernet and Fibre Channel networks. Parallel I/O technology manages input and output requests on an NVMe network so that multiple requests can be processed at once instead of queueing, similarly to NVMe storage on just one computer. NVMe-oF widens NVMe storage to more than just one application.
SATA vs. NVMe: Which SSD interface is right for your business?
A crucial part of your IT infrastructure is your enterprise storage subsystem — whether it’s on a single server and desktop or 1,000. In choosing hard drives, solid state drives (SSDs), consumer drives, enterprise storage components and capacities, you have a ton of options, so you’re bound to find a solution that fits your needs. But what types of buses and protocols are those storage devices using? And when should you aim to equip your machines with which types of devices?
Storage interfaces connect the actual drives where your data resides to your system’s main processing bus. Think of the interfaces as the highway that data travels on to get from your drive to your processor and memory.
Today, there are two main types of bus interfaces in most PC production systems: serial advanced technology attachment (SATA) and peripheral component interconnect express (PCIe). Each has its own history, design and proper placement.
Bus interfaces: A brief history
SATA is a computer bus interface designed at a time when hard disks were dependent on spinning platters and therefore had a relatively low physical limit on how much data they could transfer at once. Looking at computers — and especially servers — from the early 2000s and before, no matter how powerful your processor was, the most common performance bottleneck was the hard drive. SATA protocol may have been designed to speed up storage transfers on this slower medium, but it was still designed for spinning media. Its latest version, SATA 3.0, dates back to 2008 — well before SSDs became mainstream.
Pros and cons: SATA vs NVMe
Choosing the right storage interface bus can be the difference that gets you the right workload solution that meets your needs for both performance and cost. Here’s a handy guide to the advantages and disadvantages of SATA and NVMe.
Advantages of SATA
- SATA has a long history of support on different hardware and form factors, so it has remarkable compatibility with a variety of devices from the early 2000s to today.
- And SATA devices are relatively inexpensive because they’re widely available and have lower performance levels than spinning media.
- SATA is preferable for workloads where low cost for larger capacities is the main priority — for archiving data, storing little-used files and keeping backup solutions — and transfer speed is a secondary or tertiary concern.
Disadvantages of SATA
- It’s the slowest storage transfer protocol, designed for yesterday’s storage devices, not tomorrow’s.
- Some M.2 devices still use SATA connectors and command sets, and they perform much more slowly than their NVMe counterparts. The format can cause confusion during device selection.
- SATA and its related devices are ill-suited to busy, data-intensive environments that depend on fast transfers and low latency.
Advantages of NVMe
- Less time is required to get data from storage medium to host processor, making NVMe a much better choice for data-intensive applications and workloads.
- The NVMe protocol has much lower latency, allowing for better-performing sustained transfers and more consistent data delivery.
- The M.2 format used by many NVMe devices allows for great capacity in a tiny form factor — such as a thumb drive — perfect for systems that require fast performance and a lot of storage where physical space (or perhaps device weight) is a limiting factor.
Disadvantages of NVMe
- NVMe depends on relatively high-performance SSDs that are more expensive than spinning drives on a capacity basis.
- For client PCs, NVMe generally depends on devices in the M.2 format, which limits the drive selection compared to other solutions. (U.2 drives, with a 2.5-inch form factor, are very relevant in the data center space.)
- There isn’t much support for legacy NVMe on older systems, making a storage system upgrade unlikely for an otherwise serviceable machine.
- NVMe devices, while gaining overall value every day, aren’t the most cost-effective choice for storing large amounts of data in your archives.