As SSDs become increasingly common in new laptops and desktop PCs, chances are you’ll hear or read about the NVMe technology that is featured within the high end SSDs.
Non-Volatile Memory Express or more commonly known as NVMe is a communications interface/ protocol developed specially for SSDs by a group of manufacturers including Intel, Samsung, Sandisk, Dell and Seagate.
NVMe has been designed to take full advantage of the unique properties of pipeline-rich, random access, memory-based storage.
What is in the technology?
The technology requires only a single message for 4KB transfers as opposed to two, plus, there is also the ability to process a massive 65,536 queues instead of just one, ideal for servers that process lots of simultaneous disk I/O requests.
What next for SSDs?
Over the last couple of years, solid state storage has run into a bit of a hurdle, legacy storage buses. SATA and SAS offer plenty of bandwidth for the traditional hard drives but for the much faster SSDs, they’ve definitely run out of steam.
SATA has a 600Mbps ceiling and just about any top-flight SATA SSD will score the same in testing nowadays. Even the 12Gbps SAS SSD performance starts to stall at 1.5Gbps. Everyone in the industry knows that SSDs are capable of so much more.
When SSDs were first launched, manufacturers knew that there would be a point when this technology would need updating, however, it was deemed more convenient to put SSDs on SATA and SAS. In the beginning this was OK but with SSDs becoming faster and faster, NVMe tech is in demand.
Using existing technology with NVMe
Thankfully, PCIe or PCI Express as it’s sometimes known was already in place. This technology is currently used in graphics cards, additional add-in cards as well as Thunderbolt.
Gen 2 PCIe offers approximately 500MBs per lane with Gen 3 upping the ante, offering around 985MBps per lane. When putting the card in a four lane slot, you’ll get 4GB of bandwidth with Gen 3 and 2GB with Gen 2 respectively. A great improvement over SATA and SAS plus it offers more than enough bandwidth for today’s fastest SSDs.
Should I buy an SSD with NVMe?
You’ll probably notice a bit of a price difference between the two manufacturers. Samsung’s offering is very much aimed at consumers whereas the Intel product has been developed with enterprise clients in mind. Intel’s 750 series would be ideal for data centres, web servers and file servers.
Whichever drive you buy, your machine will most likely need to reach the following criteria if you plan to use it as your boot device:
- New system using Skylake chipsets.
- For a seamless install you’ll more than likely need to be using Windows 8 or later.
- UEFI BIOS that supports boot from NVMe (you’ll need to check this with the manufacturer).
- An M.2 PCI-E x4 slot (4 lanes, key to obtaining maximum speeds).
- BIOS in UEFI boot mode (little bonus that will allow your boot drive to be larger than 2TB).
- Some mobos also require CSM to be turned on.
- A willingness to do any required BIOS upgrades and/ or BIOS config changes.
If you’re starting to think that this is a bit more hassle than it’s worth, take a look at this video which will prove that it’s not all that bad. Plus, who doesn’t want INCREASED SPEED + REDUCED LATENCY.
For further info, take a look at Intel’s ‘Booting from an NVMe PCIe Intel Solid-State Drive’ guide.
If you’ve had any experience with NVMe technology then we’d be interested to hear your thoughts below.