Like a spinning hard disk, storage technology never stops moving for long. Maybe it’s ironic then, that the latest and greatest storage hardware doesn’t feature any moving parts. Solid-state drives (SSDs) offer ultra-fast read and write speeds: up to 10 times quicker than mechanical hard drives.

But are high-performance SSDs still being held back? Even the newest storage drives can struggle to reach their full potential without the right supporting technology. With the goal of demolishing roadblocks in the storage fast lane, one of the latest and most important innovations is NVMe.

What is NVMe?

NVMe stands for Non-Volatile Memory Express, and is sometimes described in more technical detail as Non-Volatile Memory Host Controller Interface Specification (NVMHCIS). It’s a standard for accessing non-volatile storage (such as an SSD) using a technology known as PCI Express (Peripheral Component Interconnect Express) or simply PCIe.

Originally developed to allow high-speed data transfer between computer components and systems, PCIe has been around for over a decade – but it’s only with NVMe that a standard specification for PCIe-based storage has emerged.

NVMe is the product of a consortium of leading storage vendors including Intel, Samsung and SanDisk. Before NVMe, some high-end SSDs did use PCIe, but with a range of non-standard specifications. Now, NVMe facilitates the widespread adoption of PCIe by providing a common standard for manufacturers and software providers. It builds on PCIe to take advantage of the increased performance of SSDs, which were previously limited by older storage technologies such as Serial ATA (SATA).


Unlike SATA, NVMe was designed with fast SSDs in mind. While SATA is suited to the lower read and write speeds of hard disk drives (HDDs), it can’t keep up with the capabilities of the latest SSD devices – meaning an NVMe SSD will always outstrip one that uses SATA.

Along with reduced latency and higher input/output operations per second, NVMe SSDs provide up to four times faster read/write speeds than SATA equivalents. SSD storage is capable of reading and writing large volumes of data simultaneously at different places on the drive – and with support for parallel instructions, NVMe capitalises on this in a big way.

Command queuing is another area where NVMe offers a massive boost over SATA. A command queue is basically the number of requests for data a drive can manage at a time, and NVMe can handle more than 65 thousand, each with another 65 thousand commands or more. Compare this with the single queue of up to 32 commands available on SATA.

Is NVMe worth it?

While not unaffordable, NVMe SSDs still come at a premium. So with standard SSDs and HDDs remaining competitive and often providing great value in certain use cases, what kind of applications actually demand the enhanced performance of NVMe?

Yes, for less-accessed data, HDDs or SATA SSDs offer cost-effective performance. But NVMe delivers definite advantages for more frequently used resources, large files and content-rich services that still need to load fast for high numbers of users. To guarantee the fastest response times on complex, high-traffic ecommerce platforms, for example, NVMe storage more than justifies its price.

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