Published September 12, 2023
Author Sarika Mehta
The NVMe ecosystem continues to expand and drive innovation in form factors, power, cost, capacity, security, manageability, and more. In fact, NVMe is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 29.7% from 2020 through 2025. Conversely, since the introduction of NVMe in 2011, SATA market share has been steadily declining, and it is projected to be under 10% by 2026. Almost a decade and half ago the last major revision of SATA, SATA 3.0, was released with relatively minor improvements. As a result, SATA SSDs are becoming a thing of the past and lack the advantages that come with a thriving ecosystem.
To fully realize the benefits and performance of new storage technology and modern features, in both software and hardware, your infrastructure must keep pace. With this is mind, converting from SATA to an NVMe interface is not only important—it's inevitable. The question is not if but when you will switch. Cost is a primary deciding factor when planning for such a transition.
NVMe-based Solidigm™ 3D NAND QLC SSDs offer higher density, improved performance, and a substantial cost advantage that aids even the most cost-sensitive deployments. Moving from SATA to NVMe removes the interconnect bottleneck, allowing customers to expand capacity with increased performance. Solidigm’s QLC SSDs offer flexibility that customers can leverage for modernizing their deployments to service applications faster or service more applications without changing the footprint of the deployment.
The table below shows the range of SATA performance for bandwidth and IOPS alongside NVME PCIe Gen3 performance, although many users who already use the NVMe ecosystem have switched over to PCIe Gen4, with some in the process of transitioning to PCIe Gen5.
As the table clearly indicates, NVMe SSDs easily outperform the maximum limits of SATA specification—even at a lower bar of performance with PCIe Gen3 speeds. For NVMe performance, Solidigm P5430 at 3.84TB capacity was used as a baseline. Higher capacities combined with PCIe Gen4 speeds widen this performance chasm further.
With NVMe PCIe Gen4 SSDs reaching read bandwidth of 7GB/s, a single drive could then provide the read performance equivalent of up to 12 SATA SSDs. This makes deployments flexible to tune capacity and performance to fit their needs with significantly smaller footprints.
An interface speed comparison alone shows an across-the-board performance improvement with over 5x improved read performance. Solidigm QLC 3D NAND SSDs can strike a balance between performance, density, and cost while providing an opportunity to make a move to an improved interface.
SATA interconnect speeds max out at 960GB. Going from 960GB all the way up to 7.68TB for SATA drives yields no performance gains despite the increased capacity, since a 960GB SATA drive is able to fully saturate the SATA 6Gb/s interface. Additional capacity in the drive will incur higher costs without any added performance gains, thus decreasing performance per GB of capacity.
SATA form factors are an artifact of evolution from HDD, which means they are not as efficient at optimizing capacity and cooling as NVMe solid-state drives. For deployments where physical space is starting to become a concern, NVMe provides an ideal alternative. With form factor innovation, customers can shrink the footprint of their deployments without losing performance.
For customers in search of relatively fast RAID performance with redundancy to protect against drive failure, RAID 1 and RAID 10 are suitable options. Customers currently using SATA drives with RAID 10 can reduce the number of drives in the RAID array, achieve the same or better performance, and retain the same usable capacity by switching over to RAID 1 with higher capacity NVMe drives.
Our sample case study shows one way in which a SATA to NVMe transition can be accomplished on a small scale. This example demonstrates gains even with the lowest capacities. With larger capacities in high-density Solidigm 3D NAND QLC SSDs like the P5430, performance and capacity scaling are realized at a better total cost of ownership.
By converting from SATA HW RAID to NVMe HW RAID, deployments can leverage scalability, manageability, reliability, and a multitude of other benefits offered by the NVMe ecosystem. Recognizing the trend of conversion to the NVMe ecosystem, RAID vendors have been developing solutions that support NVMe devices, such as tri-mode HBAs and high-performance RAID solutions.
Solidigm’s QLC drives are value-optimized and competitively priced, so switching to low-cost NVMe QLC drives like the Solidigm P5430 not only offers better read performance but also provides a TCO advantage.
To prove the TCO benefits and read performance advantage in a RAID environment, we used 4 x 1.92TB S4520 SATA TLC drives in a RAID 10 configuration and 2 x 3.84TB P5430 NVMe drives in a RAID 1 configuration. We used FIO (Flexible I/O Tester) to measure the bandwidth and the IOPS for the RAID array. The RAID 10 configuration uses SAS/SATA RAID HBA, and the RAID 1 configuration uses tri-mode RAID HBA. See below for the test configurations.
Our results show that by making this transition, customers can achieve double the read bandwidth with a 25% TCO improvement, all while keeping the same usable RAID capacity. This conversion allows customers to also work around the complexity of choosing the optimal stripe size and therefore fully leverage the underlying QLC NVMe SSD performance for a variety of applications through a mirrored RAID.
The last decade has seen an unprecedented data explosion and the increasing need to access data from massive data stores at higher speeds. Data stores keep getting larger, driving the need for an interface that can keep up with the performance requirements of this growing demand. Capped in performance and capacity, SATA is not a strong contender for this new paradigm in storage. NVMe, with its thriving ecosystem of advancements and innovations, is the right choice for such solutions.
Learn more about Solidigm QLC SSDs like the D5-P5430 and P5336.
Sarika Mehta is a Storage Solutions Architect with over 15 years of storage experience. Her focus is to work closely with Solidigm’s customers and partners to optimize their storage solutions for cost and performance.