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

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11/27/2018

Below are some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) around Intel® Virtual RAID on CPU (Intel® VROC) as relates to the Intel® Xeon® Processor Scalable family. For FAQs specific to the X299 High End Desktop platforms (HEDT), please see Intel® Virtual RAID on CPU (Intel® VROC) support on X299.

Click on the topic for details:

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?

The biggest advantage of Intel® VROC is the ability to directly connect NVMe-based SSDs to the new Intel® Xeon® Scalable Processor PCIe* lanes. It then makes RAID arrays using those SSDs without using a RAID host 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 is a highly integrated platform feature. There's deep enabling work required on platform BIOS, HW as well as drivers. Please ask your server provider for an Intel VROC capable server to try or buy. Intel PCSD (Platform Collaboration and Systems Division) also provides servers with Intel VROC capability.

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 served the RAID industry for years, supporting legacy SATA and SAS HDDs and SSDs, 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? Intel® VROC is a data center quality product with performance and CPU utilization metrics befitting such applications. New NVMe enabled hardware RAID HBAs are new to the market as well. Performance does vary depending on configuration and testing parameters, but generally, data transfer rates are comparable between the two technologies. HBAs do have on-card silicon to perform RAID calculations, so typically they use fewer CPU cores. However, from a system perspective, Intel® Xeon® Scalable Processors are efficient CPUs and RAID calculations with Intel VROC typically use a small fraction of the total cores available. Additionally, it's important to look at the work those cores are doing while being utilized, such as IOPS/CPU utilization.
 
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® Volume Management Device (Intel® VMD). Intel® VDM is offered with the new Intel® Xeon® Scalable Processors. Intel VROC utilizes 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 Intel® VROC into appropriate server and workstation platforms. We can provide guidance after the OEMs and ODMs launch their products, but at this moment, please query 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 Intel SSD Only hardware key needed Please see the Intel VROC Configuration List for a list of supported SSDs
Intel VROC Standard VROCSTANMOD RAID 0/1/10 support Standard hardware key needed Please see the Intel VROC Configuration List for a list of supported SSDs
Intel VROC Premium VROCPREMMOD RAID 0/1/5/10 support Premium hardware key needed Please see the Intel VROC Configuration List for a list of supported SSDs
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® Volume Management Device (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
In the future, Intel VROC will add SATA functionality and RSTe will be phased out.
 
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, at times, referred to as the RAID5 Write Hole (R5WH). Many RAID solutions have 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 by using the Status LED on the server enclosure. It will blink different patterns to indicate the different statuses of each SSD in the RAID array. LED management provides easier maintenance and helps avoid accidental human errors. Intel® VROC follows the blinking patterns defined by the International Blinking Pattern Interpretation standard.

What is the difference between Intel® VROC and Microsoft Spaces*?

Intel® VROC supports the following features that Microsoft Spaces* does not:

  • Bootable RAID
  • Linux* Support
  • RAID Management in pre-OS environment
  • Support LED Status indicator on SSDs in RAID arrays
What is the difference between Intel® VROC and Linux* MD RAID?

Intel® VROC for Linux* is built upon MD RAID, and the Intel VROC team has an MD RAID maintainer on the team. However, Intel VROC has the following extra features:

  • Provides UEFI HII and UEFI Shell command line RAID management
  • Provides webpage-based, remote RAID management and RESTful APIs
  • Fully validated and supported with Purley platform and industry-select SSDs
  • Provides hotfix/patch to specific customer issue on supported OS
How is Intel VROC performance different for Linux compared to Windows?

Intel® VROC for Windows and Linux are implemented in two separate architectures and implementations, so they present different performance. For instance, we're able to achieve 2.4M read IOPS in 4 disk RAID0 in Linux, but only 1.1M IOPS in Windows. We are continuously working on performance improvement.

To achieve better performance in Windows for now, user can aggregate performance across multiple RAID arrays from different Intel® VMDs. Please be aware, only 1 VROC license is required for the whole server and VROC can support up to 12 RAID arrays per server.

Compatibility

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 OEM platform configuration, it's up to the OEM/ODM to decide whether to offer Intel VROC. Please consult your server or workstation provider for specific information. There's also limited support on X299 systems on High End Desktops.

Does Intel® VROC support third-party SSDs?

Intel® VROC supports both Intel® SSDs and selected third-party SSDs. See the Intel® VROC Supported Configuration List 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?

Intel® VROC is primarily targeted to professional workstations and server platforms at launch. But it can be enabled on any platform with the Intel® Volume Management Device (Intel® VMD) feature. As of Sept. 25, 2017, Intel VROC is supported on X299 High End Desktop platforms (HEDT). For FAQs specific to Intel VROC support on X299 HEDT platforms, please see Intel® VROC support on X299. Please check HEDT marketing team for further information on Intel® VROC support on X299 platforms.

Please see the Intel® VROC Supported Configuration List for the most up-to-date information. 

Hardware keys

What is the Intel® VROC hardware key?

Intel® VROC is a licensed product for sale through the OEMs or ODMs with a support service level agreement. The Intel VROC 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. The Intel VROC hardware key must be inserted into that motherboard to enable the RAID license. Only one key is needed per system (that is, per server or per workstation).

Where can I get an Intel® VROC hardware key?

End users can expect the hardware keys to be installed in their servers by their OEMs, as long as end users request a server with a complete Intel® VROC solution. OEMs obtain the keys from Intel or Intel’s distributors. If an end user decides to upgrade to Intel VROC after purchasing a platform, they can purchase an Intel VROC key from their specific server OEM website. In this way, end users can get proper support for Intel VROC from the platform supplier. Occasionally, Intel may promote the Intel VROC Hardware Key and Intel SSDs together in a bundle. These bundles will be sold through various distribution channels.

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 HW 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 HW key. For instance: Intel® SSD DC P3608 Series. For any other regular x4 SSDs, without HW key, RAID0 might work, might not work. In short, an Intel VROC HW Key is required for official support for RAID0 with regular PCIe Gen3 x4 SSDs. Operating RAID0 in this situation is done at the risk of the user.

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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