What are NVMe Drives? Plus the Benefits of NVMe vs. SATA

                        What are NVMe Drives? Plus the Benefits of NVMe vs. SATA

                        If you’ve researched specifications for buying a personal computer (PC) at any point within the 2010s, you’ve likely noticed solid state drives (SSDs), USB 3.1, and HDMI have all become the new standards for highest possible data transfer rates. These hardware advancements mainly benefit office and home setups.

                        One new technology that benefits local workstations and server hosting is the newer storage technology superseding SATA and M.2 SSD performance, and part of recent upgrades to our Dedicated Server HostingNon-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe) drives.

                        Below we will explore:

                        Know you’ll always be able to reach your customers when they need you with our reliable Dedicated Servers.

                        What is NVMe?

                        Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe) is a logical device interface specification introduced in 2013 that primarily uses a Peripheral Component Interconnect Express (PCI-e) connection instead of a Serial AT Attachment (SATA) connection for accessing solid-state storage. This allows for higher data transfer rates between storage devices and other hardware components, increasing the overall performance of PCs and servers.

                        With users always wanting the best performance possible, the talks of NVMe have brought many to ask…

                        What are the Benefits of NVMe vs. SATA?

                        There’s somewhat of a misconception here that deserves some clarity. NVMe and SATA are not the same types of technology. The reason many look at the comparison as “NVMe SSD versus SATA SSD” is because the fastest, and widely available, NVMe SSDs use PCI-e.

                        Before the NVMe technical standard became mainstream, the term “SSD” almost always referred to 2.5 inch SATA SSDs which fit in laptops and use the SATA III computer bus interface with Advanced Host Controller Interface (AHCI). Simply put, SSDs used a SATA connection and older standard in motherboard chipsets. The reason the industry is moving away from this pair is simple – they can’t handle the full potential of NVMe.

                        Therefore, NVMe drives are primarily produced for the PCI-e hardware interface which connects directly to the central processing unit (CPU) for the best performance possible. PCI-e is commonly used for adding a graphics processing unit (GPU) or sound card to desktop computers, two peripheral devices that require low latency.

                        Here’s the thing to keep in mind: NVMe drives can use a PCI-e card slot or older SATA connection commonly used with SATA SSDs and hard drive disks (HDDs). They’re known as 2.5 inch U.2 NVMe SSDs and are usually only seen in enterprise environments. 

                        In summary:

                        NVMe drives and popular SSD and HDD form factors
                        Example form factors

                        SSDs made for the NVMe host controller use PCI-e, SATA, or M.2 “gumstick” (more on this later) form factors to connect to a system.

                        SATA SSDs are drives using the SATA form factor and AHCI as a host controller to connect to a system.

                        NVMe is a specification. SATA is a physical connector.

                        For a visual reference, see the image with the four most popular form factors (from top to bottom):

                        1. M.2 SATA III SSD
                        2. M.2 NVMe SSD (note how it has 1 indentation versus the SATA M.2’s two)
                        3. 2.5 inch SATA SSD for laptops
                        4. 3.5 inch SATA HDD
                        NVMe PCI-e adapter
                        PCI-e slot adapter for an NVMe drive

                        Then there’s the NVMe PCI-e SSD Add-in card (AIC). This is a NVMe M.2 drive in a PCI-e adapter.

                        How does PCI-e make NVMe drives better than older storage technologies?

                        PCI-e vs. SATA

                        While SATA connections allow for a 6 GB/s “connection” or link speed, PCI-e connections allow for a 16 GB/s link speed. With over double the link speed of SATA, PCI-e based drives can read and write data much faster.

                        For NVMe benchmarks compared to SATA SSDs, check out UserBenchmark, Gaming PC Builder, PC World, and Kingston.

                        M.2 NVMe vs. M.2 SSD

                        NVMe drives are most commonly found in the M.2 form factor for PCI-e connections. M.2 drives are installed directly on the motherboard, usually lying flat and parallel to the main chipboard. This differs from other form factors that require a separate mounting in the computer or server case.

                        Conventional hard drives are typically connected via SATA cables and require a connection to the power supply to function. Since NVMe drives are installed directly onto the motherboard, there are no cables required, reducing the clutter inside your case and improving airflow for cooling components. For performance-focused users, the M.2 form factor may be ideal for efficient hardware builds. More on use cases shortly.

                        Remember, there are M.2 SATA SSDs. Despite sharing the same form factor, they use a SATA connection, which bottlenecks the link speed in comparison to an NVMe drive. When reviewing M.2 drives for purchase, keep this distinction in mind. Remember the difference between the NVMe and SATA M.2 module connectors.

                        Is A NVMe SSD Best For You?

                        Whether a NVMe drive is better than a SATA SSD depends on your use case. We’ll split this into two sections: web hosting and local workstations.

                        NVMe Web Hosting

                        Yes. NVMe web hosting is already becoming the industry standard for web hosting. Upgrading to NVMe hosting is an easy way to enhance website performance and users’ experience (UX) without the need to integrate a content delivery network (CDN) or third party caching software and integrations. This means your server allocates more resources on user requests rather than caching tasks.

                        Better resource allocation is a major reason why experienced Linux system administrators (sysadmins) migrate from a cPanel server to an unmanaged cloud server.

                        By the way, we’re hiring Linux system administrators.

                        A web hosting plan utilizing NVMe drives in a highly available (HA) infrastructure will work faster with less optimization configuration from sysadmins.

                        NVMe Drives for Local Workstations

                        Maybe. This one is more subjective. 

                        General use: If you don’t use more than a web browser, email client, and office suite on a regular day, even while working remotely, there are more cost-effective ways to improve PC security and performance. The jump in performance from a SATA SSD to a NVMe drive won’t be nearly as noticeable as upgrading from a HDD to SSD.

                        Power users most likely to see the benefits of NVMe technology:

                        • Musicians and video editors rendering complex projects in high definition (HD) quality
                        • Hardcore PC gamers running Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) games like World of Warcraft and Starcraft
                        • Multimedia streamers aiming for the highest frames per second (FPS) possible with customization in software like Open Broadcaster Software (OBS)

                        Even with these users, system performance may be capped by your processor. You’ll probably need an Intel i7+ CPU or better to get most out of your NVMe drive. You can figure out the best NVMe SSD for you at TechRadar.com.

                        Do you have questions about the benefits of NVMe web hosting or technology in general? Let us know below.

                        Or learn more about what you can do with Linux VPS Hosting.

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