GRC & Minimus Servers Blog

NVMe Vs SATA SSDs: Is it Time to Switch?

Posted by Christiaan Best on August 24, 2016
Find me on:

As NVMe approaches price parity with SATA SSDs, we have been receiving a growing number of requests for Minimus servers with NVMe SSD’s. While designing these servers, we’ve learned some interesting facts about NVMe and why it may be time to ditch SATA. Here is what we found:

  • NVMe is better for almost every application and never worse.
  • The price premium for NVMe over SATA has dropped significantly, and is as low as 10% now.
  • If you’re currently using SATA SSD’s and drive performance matters, you should switch. The performance boost is significant.

As a bit of background, SATA was originally designed for spinning disks. With the advent of solid state drives, the SATA protocol has become a limiting factor. The Non-Volatile Memory express (NVMe) standard improves upon SATA and is specifically designed for solid state drives. NVMe allows parallel I/O with better bandwidth and lower latency.  

Drive IOPS (4kB R/W) Max Sequential Read / Write Rate
Spinning disk ~100 ~ 200 MB/Sec
SATA SSD 99,000 Read
18,000 Write
520 MB/Sec Read
475 MB/Sec Write
NVMe SSD 430,000 Read
  50,000 Write
2600 MB/Sec Read
1000 MB/sec write

 Table 1: IOPS and max throughput yield enormous improvements.

For certain types of applications, there is a significant increase in speed (by orders of magnitude).

The exciting news is that NVMe is almost at price parity with SATA SSDs now. The cost of NVMe drives currently starts at around $0.52/GB, depending on the Drive Writes Per Day (DWPD).

While NVMe seems like the obvious choice for most applications, there are a few challenges associated with its adoption:

  • A lot hardware / software doesn’t yet support NVMe as a boot drive. You may have to use a very small SATA drive for the OS.
  • There are no hardware RAID options available yet.
  • There aren’t quite as many different models available in NVMe as there are with SATA SSDs.
  • Form factors can be challenging. There are several competing versions. Currently they are all priced about the same.


Figure 1: SSD types (from left to right); PCIe NVMe SSD Card, 2.5" NVMe SSD, 2.5" SATA SSD, M.2 SSD. Image source: ASUS North America youtube channel

Form Factor Pros Cons
PCIe card Uses PCIe bus, which is significantly faster and has a higher bandwidth than SATA.
Compatible with any motherboard.
Limited to PCIe slots.
2.5” form factor Easy to package.
Hot swappable.
Requires a motherboard level connector that costs $100.
m.2 Small, board mounted. Limited availability.

 Table 2: Pros and cons of the differnt form factors of NVMe drives.

Minimus Servers offer a number of NVMe supported configurations, including support for 2.5” form factor and PCI based solution. Contact us to put together a quote for you.



Whitebox Servers: Is It Time To Switch? Hyperscalers Seem To Think So. 

Topics: Servers, Storage, NVMe, SSD