Ken and I have been refreshing our Google search results ever since seeing the term 'VROC' slipped into the ASUS press releases. Virtual RAID on CPU (VROC) is a Skylake-X specific optional feature that is a carryover from Intel's XEON parts employing RSTe to create a RAID without the need for the chipset to tie it all together.
Well, we finally saw an article pop up over at PCWorld, complete with a photo of the elusive Hyper M.2 X16 card:
The theory is that you will be able to use the 1, 2, or 3 M.2 slots of an ASUS X299 motherboard, presumably passing through the chipset (and bottlenecked by DMI), or you can shift the SSDs over to a Hyper M.2 X16 card and have four piped directly to the Skylake-X CPU. If you don't have your lanes all occupied by GPUs, you can even add additional cards to scale up to a max theoretical 20-way RAID-0 supporting a *very* theoretical 128GBps.
A couple of gotchas here:
- Only works with Skylake-X (not Kaby Lake-X)
- RAID-1 and RAID-5 are only possible with a dongle (seriously?)
- VROC is supposedly only bootable when using Intel SSDs (what?)
Ok, so the first one is understandable given Kaby Lake-X will only have 16 PCIe lanes direclty off of the CPU.
The second is, well, annoying, but understandable once you consider that some server builders may want to capitalize on the RSTe-type technology without having to purchase server hardware. It's still a significant annoyance, because how long has it been since anyone has had to deal with a freaking hardware dongle to unlock a feature on a consumer part. That said, most enthusiasts are probably fine with RAID-0 for their SSD volume, given they would be going purely for increased performance.
The third essentially makes this awesome tech dead on arrival. Requiring only Intel branded M.2 SSDs for VROC bootability is a nail in the coffin. Enthusiasts are not going to want to buy 4 or 8 (or more) middle of the road Intel SSDs (the only M.2 NAND SSD available from Intel is the 600p) for their crazy RAID – they are going to go with something faster, and if that can't boot, that's a major issue.
More to follow as we learn more. We'll keep a lookout and keep you posted as we get official word from Intel on VROC!