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The data center world is currently experiencing a price collapse for NAND flash memory as vendors try to clear out their inventory.  This is in response to recent demand for NAND memory from data centers being lower than expected, which is good news for consumers as the current average unit price for a 512GB SSD is the same as a 256GB SSD from just a year ago with prices expected to continue dropping throughout 2019.  This has resulted in widespread adoption of SSDs in consumer PCs, meaning that they are now becoming the standard storage option across the board.


There is no doubt that SSDs greatly outperform traditional hard disks when it comes it speed, but consumers and data center customers probably aren’t harnessing the true potential of their flash storage devices.  The SATA interface is still the standard storage connection used by the majority of consumers and is still very widely used in data centers, despite being a legacy technology.


SATA was announced in 2000 and first introduced in 2001 to replace the IDE interface and was designed for the mass storage devices of the time such as hard disk drives and optical drives.  The SATA interface has not been a bottleneck for computer systems throughout the 2000s and early 2010s as the interface is suited to the speed and throughput of traditional HDDs, so there was never a need for another interface.


However, modern SSDs can be several times faster than even the fastest hard drives, and the SATA interface is not designed for these high levels of throughput, which is why PCIe based SSDs have been gaining popularity.  PCIe is much better suited to the NAND format because it is several times faster than SATA and provides much more throughput and parallelism.

To put this into perspective, a SATA-based SSD would be like a super-fast motorway but with only 1 lane, it’s fast but the fact there’s one lane means it’s quite inefficient.  A PCIe-based SSD on the other hand would be like a motorway going at the same speed but with more lanes open, allowing much higher data throughput.


PCIe SSDs are not groundbreaking technology and are not particularly new,  they have been readily available to consumers for a while in the form of M.2 drives and are becoming even more popular with the memory price collapse.  One of the reasons they haven't been widely adopted in the past was the price difference between PCIe and SATA drives, with the former costing quite a bit more due to the PCIe controller.  This is no longer the case these days, as SATA and PCIe devices cost more or less the same because the PCIe controller is now manufactured with ease, thanks to Moore’s Law.

Click here to see more information on Moore's Law

As demand grows for faster, higher throughput storage options, and with the collapse of memory prices, data center customers may be looking to PCIe-based SSDs as their go-to option for storage instead of SATA.  There is certainly incentive for this to happen as data centers who  adopt this technology will definitely have an edge over those who don’t and there is not much to lose at all as the price difference between SATA and PCIe drives continues to get smaller.


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