Frequently Asked Questions about Intel® Virtual RAID on CPU (Intel® VROC)

Last Reviewed: 11-Jan-2018
Article ID: 000024550

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What is Intel® Virtual RAID on CPU (Intel® VROC)?

Intel® Virtual RAID on CPU (Intel® VROC) is an enterprise RAID solution specifically designed for NVMe*-based solid-state drives (SSD).

What is the biggest advantage of Intel VROC?

You can directly connect NVMe-based SSDs to the new Intel® Xeon® Scalable Processor PCIe* lanes, then make a RAID solution using those SSDs. It provides the ability to manage RAID volumes with NVMe-based SSDs directly connected to CPU PCIe* lanes without using a RAID hot bus adapter (HBA). As a result, Intel VROC unleashes NVMe SSD performance potential without the complexity and power of a traditional hardware RAID HBA.

How can I try Intel VROC?

Intel VROC support is specific to certain workstations and/or servers from original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and original design manufacturers (ODMs) or channel motherboard providers. Ask your server or workstation provider for sampling opportunity.

Since Intel VROC can RAID SSDs directly connected to the CPU, does that mean I don’t need hardware RAID HBA?

Intel VROC does not need a hardware RAID HBA for NVMe-based SSDs. However, hardware RAID HBAs have been serving the RAID industry for years; supporting legacy SATA and SAS HDDs and SSDs, and evolving to add NVMe functionality. Intel VROC provides a compelling alternative way to RAID NVMe SSDs. Our goal is to migrate SSDs from the legacy SATA/SAS interfaces designed for much slower HDDs, to the modern NVMe protocol.

How is Intel VROC performance and CPU utilization compared to a hardware RAID HBA solution? The new NVMe enabled hardware RAID HBA products are just arriving in the market, so we do not have that data yet.
Is Intel VROC software or hardware RAID?

Intel VROC is a hybrid RAID solution. It has attributes like hardware RAID because of the key silicon feature, Intel VMD. Intel VDM is offered with the new Intel® Xeon® Scalable Processors. Intel VROC uses Intel VMD to aggregate NVMe SSDs allowing bootable RAID. Intel VROC also has attributes like software RAID. For instance, it uses some of the CPU cores to calculate the RAID logic. Because of this combination of software and silicon, Intel VROC is called a hybrid RAID solution.

Which original equipment manufacturer (OEM) or original design manufacturer (ODM) has designed in Intel VROC?

Several OEMs and ODMs have designed in Intel VROC into appropriate server and workstation platforms. We can provide guidance after the OEMs and ODMs launch products, but we recommend you ask your server or workstation provider directly.

What are the different Intel VROC SKUs?

Intel VROC has four different SKUs:

SKU Product Code RAID Support Hardware Key Other Information
Intel VROC Pass-Through   No RAID support No hardware key needed stand alone NVMe*-based SSDs connected to Intel® Volume Management Device (Intel® VMD) enabled PCIe lanes. License included in Platform Control Hub (PCH).
Intel VROC Intel SSD Only VROCISSDMOD RAID 0/1/5/10 support   Only supports data center and professional SSDs.
Intel VROC Standard VROCSTANMOD RAID 0/1/10 support Standard hardware key needed  
Intel VROC Premium VROCPREMMOD RAID 0/1/5/10 support Premium hardware key needed  
How is Intel VROC different from Intel® Rapid Storage Technology Enterprise (Intel® RSTe)

Intel VROC is part of the Intel® Rapid Storage Technology Enterprise (Intel® RSTe) product family. The SATA RAID portion of Intel RSTe is still the same, but Intel VROC replaces the NVMe RAID. Intel VROC uses Intel VMD to provide these new features that Intel RSTe legacy NVMe RAID does not have:

  • Bootable RAID
  • Surprise hot-plug
  • LED management
  • RAID5 Double Fault Protection
  • Support for third-party SSDs
What is RAID5 Double Fault Protection?

Intel VROC can protect RAID5 data even when both unexpected power loss and RAID volume degradation occur at the same time. This double fault condition is also known as RAID5 Write Hole. Many RAID solutions dealt with this challenge by requiring a backup power unit. Intel VROC addresses this problem by using patent-pending journaling.

What is LED management?

The LED management feature supports SSD indicator lights on the server enclosure. The lights blink different patterns to indicate the different statuses of each SSD in the RAID array. LED management provides easier maintenance and avoids accidental human errors. Intel VROC follows the blinking patterns defined by the International Blinking Pattern Interpretation standard.


Which platform supports Intel VROC?

Intel VROC is primarily targeted to professional workstations and server platforms. It requires the Intel® Volume Management Device (Intel® VMD), a hardware feature only available on the new Intel® Xeon® Scalable processors. Because the types of RAID support are very specific to the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) platform configuration, it is up to OEM or original device manager (ODM) to decide whether to offer Intel VROC. Consult your server or workstation provider for specific information.

Does Intel VROC support third-party SSDs?

Intel VROC supports both Intel® SSDs and selected third-party SSDs. See the product brief for supported third-party SSDs.

We saw Intel VROC on an Intel Core processor and X299 chipset-based high-end desktop motherboard shown at Computex 2017. Is Intel VROC supported by this platform?

When it launched, Intel VROC was primarily intended for professional workstations and server platforms. However, you can potentially enable it on any platform with the Intel VMD feature. As of September 25, 2017, Intel VROC is supported on X299 High End Desktop platforms as well. Check HEDT marketing team for specific Intel VROC support on X299 platforms.

Hardware keys

What is Intel VROC hardware key?

Intel VROC is a licensed product for sale through OEMs or ODMs with a support service level agreement. The Intel VOC hardware key is the mechanism to obtain a license to the Intel VROC software. Certain OEMs/ODM have built servers and workstations that support Intel VROC by adding a key header to their motherboards. You must insert the Intel VROC hardware key into that motherboard to enable the RAID license. Each system only needs one key.

Where can I get an Intel VROC hardware key?

OEMs and/or system integrators usually install the hardware key in their servers, as long as end users request a server with a complete Intel VROC solution. OEMs and/or system integrators obtain the keys from Intel or Intel’s distributors.

I found RAID0 works without Intel VROC hardware key. But the product brief says I need VROC hardware key for RAID0. What should I do?

An Intel VROC hardware key is required to use RAID 0/1/5/10 for most SSDs. However, Intel VROC is also designed to provide RAID0 for Intel PCIe Gen3 x8 SSDs without requiring a hardware key. For instance: Intel DC P3708. For any other regular x4 SSDs without a hardware key, RAID0 might not work. An Intel VROC hardware key is required for official support for RAID0 with regular PCIe Gen3 x4 SSDs.

Performance varies depending on system configuration, and may require enabled hardware, software, or service activation.

Intel VROC is available only to OEMs and ODMs. Ask your service provider for sample availability. Over time, it will be more broadly available to distributors and resellers.

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