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Why NVMe is Faster Technology

One of the newest innovations in storage technology is the NVMe protocol. An NVMe SSD will deliver much faster speeds than a hard drive, and significantly faster speeds than a SCSI or AHCI SSD.

What is NVMe?

NVMe, NVM Express™, or Non-Volatile Memory Host Controller Interface Specification, is a communication protocol designed specifically to work with flash memory using the PCIe® (PCI Express®) bus. It was created to take advantage of the parallel nature of solid state drives. Combined with the PCIe bus and the increased read and write speeds of NAND technology, the NVMe protocol creates faster non-volatile storage. Learn more about PCIe here.

NVM Express Inc., is a computing industry consortium that was created to oversee the development of standards around this scalable host controller interface.

History of NVMe

When solid state drives (SSDs) came on the scene, they were designed to replace hard disk drives (HDDs). As a result, they used the same interface protocols that hard disk drives use, such as SCSI, along with the physical connection HDDs use, SATA. Users saw immediate speed increases from their storage drives when they switched from an HDD to an SSD because the technology was faster, but the interface and connections prevented the full speed gains of a solid state drive. 

It was already well-known that there were faster communication protocols and physical connections, but because computing standards dictated a communication protocol that hard disks could use, SSD manufacturers had to be compatible with the same protocols for solid state drives so that users could easily upgrade their computers. As computers changed form factors from desktops and large laptops to smaller notebooks, tablets, and phones, the need for smaller storage drives became more evident. The change in form factors was an opportunity to change the communication protocols and add alternative connections and communications in larger-format computers.

NMMe SSDs on a motherboard

NVMe performance

The combination of the NVMe protocol and the PCIe connection with an SSD results in read and write speeds that are four times faster than a SATA SSD with a SCSI protocol.

NVMe complements the parallel structure of contemporary CPUs, platforms, and applications. Parallel structure allows more commands to flow simultaneously. NVMe uses an optimized path to issue commands and complete input/output and supports parallel operation with up to 64,000 commands within a single I/O queue and 64,000 possible queues. Older protocols such as SCSI are serial in nature, with a limited number of commands in the single queue.

Because NVMe was designed specifically for the NAND technology used in solid state drives, it takes advantage of how the underlying technology works to make a faster drive.

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