If you are like most tech enthusiasts, you’re probably familiar with regular hard drives (HDDs) and solid-state-drives (SSDs), but there’s new storage hardware that is taking the tech world by storm: NVMe SSDs. So, you might be wondering what is an NVMe SSD? We will explain this in more detail below.
What is an NVMe SSD?
An NVMe SSD is a solid-state drive that can be directly plugged into a computer system’s motherboard using a dedicated PCIe connection slot. The most popular form of NVMe SSDs is the M.2 Form Factor. NVMe SSDs communicate directly with the CPU, enabling blazing-fast data transfer speeds of up to 3,500 MBs read and 2,500 MBs write. M.2 NVMe SSDs are great for placement in compact computer builds where performance and energy efficiency are required.
NVMe SSDs are faster than regular SSDs because, unlike regular 2.5’ SSDs that must plug into the SATA controller via a cable, NVMe SSDs, such as M.2 NVMe SSDs plug directly into the motherboard, communicating directly with the CPU. They do so by utilizing the PCIe bus, which is faster than SATA and offers more bandwidth, resulting in ultra-fast data transfer speeds.
Also, NVMe SSDs are much more reliable than traditional hard drives because there are no moving parts that can fail. NVMe SSDs store data on NAND chips, whereas hard drives store data on spinning metal platters, which are more prone to being damaged than silicon chips, especially when exposed to frequent shocks and vibrations. So, adding them to a computer system will make it significantly more reliable due to NVMe SSD’s ability to handle exposure to shock and vibrations.
For example, many industrial computer manufacturers incorporate them into their builds due to their increased reliability when compared to traditional hard drives that employ spinning platters.
The availability and affordability of NVMe SSDs have had a tremendous impact on industrial edge computing. Many industrial PC makers are incorporating M.2 NVMe SSDs into their systems because of the performance boost offered by them over traditional solid-state drives and hard drives.
The Performance of NVMe SSDs has had a significant impact on industrial computing, which requires extremely fast data transfer speeds to enable complex workloads that require real-time processing and analytics.
To demonstrate how faster NVMe SSDs are than regular SSDs and hard drives, it is helpful to look at the differences between the SATA and NVMe protocols utilized by each technology.
SATA vs. NVMe
The SATA interface was designed to support hard drives that have spinning platters, and therefore only has a 1x command queue that supports 32 commands per queue. On the other hand, the NVMe interface supports 64K command queues with 64K commands per queue, allowing a greater number of commands to be executed simultaneously, drastically improving the IOPS performance of NVMe SSDs.
Additionally, the NVMe interface allows NVMe SSDs to communicate directly with the CPU, thus reducing the latency required for communication. On the other hand, with SATA SSDs and hard drives, the SSD or HDD must first communicate with the SATA controller, which then communicates with the CPU, resulting in increased latency compared with NVMe. NVMe has an average latency of 2.8 microseconds when compared with SATA’s 6 microseconds.
Although this may seem like a small difference, the reduced latency makes it possible to perform things such as machine learning at the edge where real-time data processing and analysis are required. Some applications, such as autonomous vehicles, require responses in as little as one millisecond; NVMe drives make such applications possible with their reduced latency.
Additionally, NVMe SSDs are able to sustain read/write speeds of 2000 MB/s, whereas an SSD using the SATA III interface is only able to maintain read/write speeds of 600MB/s. The only thing holding back NVMe SSDs from more performance is NAND Technology, which is continuously improving, meaning we are likely to see faster data transfer speeds in the future.
That said, hard drives are still commonly used in consumer and industrial computers alike due to the large storage capacity that they offer at affordable prices. Nevertheless, flash storage is becoming more commonplace because of its blazing-fast performance and cost becoming more affordable.
If you have ever used a desktop computer or industrial computer that is equipped with an NVMe SSD, you will immediately feel the boost in performance that an NVMe SSD brings to consumer-grade and industrial-grade systems.
How Do NVMe SSDs Work?
To understand how NVMe SSDs work, it is helpful to look at how hard drives work. Hard drives store data on a series of spinning disks known as platters. Every hard drive contains an actuator arm with a read/write head. When data is read/written, the arm moves over the correct section and either writes or reads data from that section. Finding the data and reading it is a bit slow since the hard drive must spin up and find the data you want to access.
NVMe SSDs do not use spinning disks to store data. Instead, NVMe utilizes NAND Flash, which makes SSDs significantly quicker than the hard drives. The Flash controller is the part of the SSD that communicates with the computer and manages the system of files on the SSD. So, to access data, no longer do you need to wait for a needle to position itself over a spinning platter to read/write data.
Instead, data is stored electronically on silicon chips, which makes SSDs more efficient and reliable than hard drives. Additionally, hard drives have an average failure rate of 6% to 9% when compared to SSDs failure rate of 1% to 3%, making NVMe SSDs not only blistering-fast but also more reliable than HDDs.
Are NVMe SSDs faster than regular SSDs?
Regular SSDs and NVMe SSDs are both extremely fast; what makes the difference in their speed is the protocol or interface that they use to communicate information to the CPU. Regular SSDs use the SATA III protocol, which limits the performance of regular SSDs. On the other hand, NVMe SSDs communicate directly with the CPU using PCIe, which permits SSDs to perform at the maximum read/write speeds that their flash memory is capable of performing at.
What are NVMe SSDs Used For?
NVMe SSDs are becoming more common in industrial applications, such as data centers, image/video processing, machine vision, and other applications that require real-time processing and analysis.
NVMe SSDs are used in industrial applications mainly because of the blazing fast performance that they offer. For some applications, such as autonomous vehicles, real-time decision making is vital to ensure that vehicles do not collide.
For such an application, every millisecond counts, so having a storage solution that’s extremely quick is vital to the application’s success. Some industries are adopting NVMe SSDs to enable complex applications that require real-time processing and analysis.
Additionally, rugged edge PC manufacturers equip their systems with SSDs because they are more reliable in industrial environments where edge computing hardware is exposed to frequent shocks and vibrations.
Regular hard drives have spinning platters that may fail because of exposure to shocks and vibrations, making SSDs a better option for industrial applications. Rugged edge computing hardware utilizes SSDs because there are no moving parts in them; instead, data is stored on silicon microchips, which makes rugged edge computing systems more reliable and enables them to perform in various environments.
NVMe SSDs generate a significant amount of heat. However, industrial PC makers have managed to cool them through the use of heatsinks, which transfer heat away from internal heat-generating components to the casing of the computer, which then dissipates the heat into the air surrounding the system.
What are the benefits of NVMe SSDs?
NVMe delivers extremely fast data transfer speeds while consuming less power, thus reducing the total cost of owning a system that utilizes such data storage. Although the power savings from a single system is negligible, if you’re deploying hundreds or thousands of systems that utilize NVMe SSDs, you will notice a significant reduction in your energy costs.
Additionally, when compared to regular SSDs and HDs that utilize the SATA protocol, NVMe reduces the amount of latency while delivering higher I/O inputs outputs per second (IOPS). Additionally, the utilization of multiple cores permits users to access critical data extremely quickly, enabling real-time processing and analysis.
Why is NVMe Storage Important for Rugged Edge Computing?
NVMe technology enables new applications at the rugged edge. NVMe offers significantly better performance and lower latency when compared to SATA protocols, thus making them a great solution for enabling new applications that required real-time processing and analysis, such as autonomous vehicles, machine learning, surveillance, healthcare applications, and industrial automation.
With more and more IoT devices and sensors being added daily, having an edge computing solution that can cope with the increase in the volume of data that is gathered by these devices is extremely important. Coping with the increase in data requires more powerful processing, as well as a data storage solution that works. NVMe allows flexibility and scalability without having an impact on performance and latency.
U.2 NVMe SSDs
In addition to M.2 NVMe SSDs, some industrial computers offer support for U.2 NVMe SSDs, which offer the performance that M.2 NVMe SSDs while providing larger storage options due to the larger form factor that they come in. Like M.2 NVMe SSDs, U.2 NVMe SSDs usually connect to industrial computers via PCIe, offering blazing-fast data transfer speeds, as well as plenty of storage.
M.2 NVMe SSDs usually top out at 2TB of storage, whereas U.2 SSDs offer larger capacities, such as 4TB, allowing organizations that need larger amounts of high-speed storage to configure their systems using U.2 NVMe SSDs. Additionally, U.2 NVMe SSDs offer plenty of performance utilizing PCIe Gen 3.0 x4 PCIe connectivity.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. What is NVMe SSD Storage?
NVMe SSDs (Non-volatile memory express) are solid-state drives that utilize the NVMe protocol, which works with PCIe to transfer data directly to/from the NVMe SSD and CPU. NVMe SSDs are a significant improvement over hard drives that utilize the SATA protocol for transferring data. In fact, the NVMe protocol was specifically built for SSDs; as such, it gives NVMe SSDs a considerable advantage by granting SSDs access to PCIe for breakneck data transfer speeds.
2. Are NVMe SSDs Worth It?
NVMe SSDs are worth it regardless of whether you’re using them in regular desktop PCs or industrial computers. This is so because they are significantly faster than traditional hard drives and SSDs, thanks to the NVMe protocol. That said, NVMe SSDs shine when it comes to industrial workloads that require real-time data processing and analysis because it enables the processor to access data in as little as 2.8 microseconds.
3. How Long Do NVMe Drives Last For?
NVMe makers often claim that NVMe SSDs can last for 1.5 million hours between failures, with some manufacturers offering up to five years warranties on their products.
4. How Much Faster is NVMe Than an SSD
Regular SSDs have a maximum theoretical speed of 600MB/s whereas NVMe SSDs running on PCIe Gen 3.0 have a maximum read speeds of 3,500MB/s and maximum write speeds of 2,500, making M.2 NVMe SSDs up to 5x faster than regular SSDs.
5. What Capacities Do NVMe SSDs Come In?
M.2 NVMe SSDs come in a variety of capacities. The most popular capacities are 250GB, 500GB, 1TB, 2TB, 4TB, and 8TB.
6. Are NVMe SSDs more reliable than hard drives?
Yes, NVMe solid state drives are more reliable than traditional hard drives because they store data on NAND chips, which are more reliable than the spinning platters that hard drives use to store data. Additionally, NVMe SSDs are capable of transferring data at much faster speeds than traditional hard drives.