Intel VROC Tested! - X299 VROC vs. Z270 RST, Quad Optane vs. Quad 960 PRO
More Confusion, Configuration, and Test System Setup
Quick note: After this article went live we did manage to boot from an Intel SSD VROC array *without* a VROC key installed! Now let's continue.
I'd first like to point out that we have no idea how or why this is even working in the first place. Observe these two conflicting pieces of information. First from the Intel VROC FAQ:
...and second from the ASUS Hyper M.2 X16 Card press slides:
Alright, so we have Intel saying 'No RAID support' without a key, but ASUS saying RAID-0 'No need' a hardware key. But here I am staring at this:
I can choose any of those options. They all work. They all create usable arrays that report as bootable, though the interface is reporting that I am in a 'Trial mode' for a 90-day period. While everything seems to work, except for boot support actually working (which we can only assume is due to the BIOS needing a key installed for that feature to function), there are additional points of confusion to bring up:
Once VROC is enabled, the BIOS allows you to configure arrays directly. Note that the pair of Intel 600P SSDs can be selected, while a pair of Samsung 960 PROs can not. Now you might expect this since Intel initially said only Intel SSDs would be supported, however:
There are the same two SSDs configured in an array within the VROC Windows driver GUI. Note that they also report as bootable (right pane). This array actually works and is completely usable.
After all of this, we are left wondering if we are even using true VROC here. There are multiple points in the 'for' column (needs a driver installed to see any connected SSDs in this mode, etc), but there are also plenty of points in the 'against' column as well (SSDs that shouldn't work yet do, etc). We even have another 'WTF' column (bootability is broken even with Intel products, etc). Maybe it's all just half-baked and incomplete at this point, but hey, it appears to work well enough to throw some tests at it, so I guess we can see how it looks, eh?
We've already skimmed a lot of the basics here, but a few additional steps you'd need to do in addition to configuring the BIOS, installing the SSDs to the card, installing the card, etc:
While you can configure the array within the BIOS (assuming you had a VROC key for it to all work properly), you would likely need to load the 'F6 Driver' during the Windows install in order to see the array. We're all spoiled with operating systems having many common RAID drivers built in, but VROC is a new thing, so be sure to copy those drivers onto your USB installer.
If you used the simple 'F6 driver' while installing Windows directly to a VROC array, or if your OS was new enough to see the array without one, you will still need to install the full VROC driver package once within Windows if you wish to get the RSTe GUI, where you can check on array status and configure additional arrays.
Test System Setup
For these tests, we will be using two platforms:
- X299 (VROC) Testing:
- ASUS X299
- Intel Core i9-7960X (16 core, 32 thread. No overclock)
- 32GB DDR4
- Z270 (RST) Testing:
- ASUS Z270
- Intel Core i7-7700K (4 core, 8 thread. No overclock)
- 16GB DDR4
To better represent real-world QD=1 performance, c-states were disabled on both platforms. QD=1 benchmark tests on some platforms do not load the CPU sufficiently to observe full system responsiveness as the lower clock rates negatively impact storage performance. This occurs because storage benchmarks focus only on the storage and nothing else. Real-world applications would be performing calculations or otherwise doing something with the accessed data, causing the system to operate at a higher clock rate. Disabling c-states gets us closer to that real-world state while running these simpler tests.