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When it comes to computer hardware and peripherals, even if two products serve the same purpose, there may be quite some differences in their features, functionalities and performances.
For example, take NVMe and SATA interfaces that are different from one another in way more than one. If you do not know these differences you will not know which among the two is better to choose for your particular computing needs.
- NVM Express is designed to work better with the Solid State Drives with flash technology due to the communication interface and drivers but SATA uses Advanced Host Controller Interface drivers that suits best for the Hard Disk Drives.
- The NVM Express usually comes with Peripheral Component Interconnect Express sockets that offers better leverage in comparison to SATA that uses SATA ports for transferring data from the storage device to the computer system.
- Since it does not have to go through a controller, NVMe ensures that the CPU, RAM and other components receive enough data at a fast rate but SATA cannot.
- SATA is not as fast as it in terms of data transfer since its speed can be up to 600 MB/s in the latest version as opposed to 3,500 MB/s and up to 7,000 MB/s for NVMe depending on the type and conditions.
- The level of performance and speed of the NVMe is much higher than SATA due to lower latency.
The 10 Differences Between NVMe and SATA
The NVM Express was launched on March 1, 2011 by the NVMe Work Group. Its specs were developed by more than eighty companies.
The concept goes back to April 2008 when 35 companies comprising the NVMHCI working group developed the 1.0 version of this specification.
SATA, on the other hand, was developed in 2000 and was first shipped in the middle of 2002.
2. Communication Drivers and Interface
In terms of the communication drivers and interface, the NVMe is typically designed to work better for Solid State Drives or SSDs with flash technology.
On the other hand, the SATA uses AHCI or Advanced Host Controller Interface drivers.
These drivers are specially designed to work for the Hard Disk Drives or HDDs that typically come with spinning discs inside them.
3. Sockets Used
The NVMe uses the PCIe or the Peripheral Component Interconnect Express sockets to take full advantage of it while communicating between the CPU or Central Processing Unit of the system and the storage device. This offers even better leverage.
On the other hand, the SATA typically uses SATA ports to transfer messages to and from the storage to the system.
4. Used for
Developed by NVM Express, NVMe, the host controller interface specification uses the PCI Express or PCIe bus to connect the Solid State Drives to the server. Therefore, as said earlier it works in the flash settings only.
5. Data Feed
NVMe ensures that sufficient amounts of data and instructions are pumped into the processors, RAM and other necessary components at rapid rates. This is because it does not have to pass through a controller.
On the other hand, the SATA is not as fast as the NVMe when it comes to transfer of data.
The performance of the NVMe is much better and higher as compared to the SATA. This is primarily because it allows data transfer at much lower latency in comparison to SATA.
On the other hand, the latency in SATA is not as low as it is in the case of NVMe and therefore its performance is affected and is a bit lower in comparison.
The speed of the latest version of SATA offers a read and write speed of up to 600 MB/s, under favorable conditions. If the conditions are not ideal, it can fall significantly below 600.
On the other hand, usually the NVMe comes with a speed ranging between 3,500 MB/s and 5,000 MB/s, with a few specific types that can attain a speed of about 7,000 MB/s under perfect conditions.
8. The Cost Factor
Usually, the SATA is much more affordable in comparison to the NVMe.
While the SATA prices can be available for a couple of hundred dollars, the price tags of the NVMe can vary and range from hundreds to thousands of dollars, depending on its type.
SATA usually uses one command queue with a depth of 32. This means that the drive can hold up to 32 I/O requests at the maximum in a queue at any given point of time.
On the other hand, in terms of parallelism, NVMe beats SATA considerably by being able to run multiple operations at the same time by using multiple threads.
The I/O increases the processing speed greatly allowing it to handle 64K queues or commands with a queue depth of 64,000.
10. Use Case
NVMe is good to use for databases for heavy transactions as well as for applications critical for businesses.
On the other hand, SATA is good to use for low availability sequential reads but of high capacity.
Which is Better – NVMe or SATA?
Though both NVMe and SATA have their advantages and different use cases, you can say that NVMe outpaces SATA a bit but that does not mean SATA is obsolete.
In fact, SATA and NVMe will coexist along with Serial Attached Small Computer System Interface or SAS SCSI for the foreseeable future especially in the data center environments.
You may choose to use SATA simply due to its low cost, but be informed that the prices of NVMe are also decreasing gradually.
Therefore, you may find at a point of time that it is worth choosing the faster option.
With the cost factor eliminated, the only advantage that you will have when you use a SATA is that it is more likely to support older computers, which typically does not sport PCIe buses and therefore does not support an NVMe.
SATA was introduced in the market in 2000, and since then this particular standard has undergone a lot of revisions in order to enhance its performance.
However, its standard is maintained by SATA-IO or the Serial ATA International Organization.
For example, the SATA 1.0 it SATA I could transfer data at the rate of up to 150 megabytes per second, SATA II can transfer at the rate of 200 MB/s and the SATA III can transfer data at a rate of up to 600 MB/s.
Add to that, the SATA 3.2 with the addition of SATA Express which was launched in 2013 can transfer data at a speed of up to 1969 MB/s in a few instances.
The SATA Express comes with connector specs that support both PCIe and SATA.
However, you should not mix it up with eSATA which stands for External Serial Advanced Technology Attachment.
One significant feature of the SATA, which is not available in its predecessor PATA, is that it comes with hot plug support.
This means that you can plug a SATA storage device into or remove it from the system when it is still powered on. It will still function normally.
Add to that, the Advanced Host Controller Interface of SATA supports NCQ or Native Command Queuing.
This is a specific drive optimization technology which enhances its performance.
On the other hand, NVMe is the best option to go for if you want high performance and faster data processing.
It is also very capable of handling large amounts of data stored.
Therefore, this responsive and faster option is more favored by the data centers, larger enterprises and organizations that have to deal with huge amounts of storage workloads but needs faster performance by the database and applications.
Apart from its support to a large number of commands in a single I/O line, the NVMe also supports a few additional Enterprise facilities such as:
- Improved error reporting and
- End-to-end data protection compatible with T10 DIX or Data Integrity Extension and DIF or Data Integrity Field standards.
Typically, the NMVe will be able to resolve the issues that occur when there is a collision between the legacy data transport technologies and a high-speed flash-based storage, which is often termed as bottlenecking.
In plain and simple terms, the NVMe has the ability to outdo the bus architectures and storage devices in terms of performance that are typically meant for the spinning disk technology.
This is an extremely useful feature of the NVMe especially for the servers, for those engaged in IT and other investments.
This is because the huge amount of RAM or Random Access Memory and the potent multi-core processors do not have to wait for data to be fed into them.
The NMVe can handle a serious amount of storage workloads due to its use of PCIe connections that ensures faster data storage into the main memory of the system for processing.
Therefore, if you consider only the performance of the two, NVMe seems to be the game changer.
However, an NVMe may not necessarily and always promise a faster flash performance.
This is because there may be other factors in the tires of the technology, infrastructure and objectives that may be bottlenecking the apps and affecting their performance.
Since the NVMe is typically connected to a PCIe bus, the NVMe SSDs in particular are also referred to as NVMe SSDs often.
These drives are now offered by several vendors such as Intel, Samsung, Micron, and Western Digital and come with different installation options such as:
- 2.5-inch U.2 and
- PCIe cards, of course.
The good news is that with all these benefits offered by the NVMe, of late there have been talks of using this effective and useful host controller interface protocol in the HDDs.
This will be very helpful for the data centers to enhance their performance.
Though nothing has materialized as of now, it indicates that in the future, NVMe might be used in the hardware used in data centers to offer them more flexibility.
However, with the development in technology, the performance gap between an NVMe and a SATA continues to widen and the vendors are looking to make it even wider.
The NVMe technology typically works on a complex mechanism which is often referred to as the ‘Submission and Completion Queue.’
In this mechanism, the technology takes the advantage of the host software to control and manage the data flow.
It also helps it in performing several other vital tasks such as:
- Creating separate necessary queues
- Deleting unnecessary queues
- Aborting commands and more.
With its support for the deeper and independent multiple queues, NVMe makes sure that the data configurations are stored in the corresponding cache of a core of the multi-core processor of a computer.
In short, the Non-Volatile Memory Express technology addresses the different bottlenecks of communication protocols and the SATA interface.
It comes with huge potential and offers more efficiency and interoperability on a wide range of systems.
Therefore, it is undoubtedly considered to be the technology of the future that will turn out to be the new industry standard.
So, you can see that in spite of the usefulness of both, SATA and NVMe are not the same thing from a structural perspective.
Though the SATA is a good solution for the HHDs and has served the industry pretty well for a long period, there is no doubt that the industry now is moving towards NVMe.