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X299 motherboards and the VROC scam

BenJeremy

Senior member
Oct 31, 2004
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So my BIL bought a Gigabyte Aorus Gaming 7 motherboard ($400!!) because it advertised 3X M.2 RAID. His plan was to buy 3 512gb Samsung 960 Pro nvme sticks and RAID0 them as a boot drive. I have something similar working great on my own Gigabyte Z170X Gaming 5 motherboard (using 2x Plextor drives).

We assembled the system, and everything else, at least, worked great.

Reading the fine print, the system is "Optane-ready" which appears to mean, if you aren't using Optane, or shell out extra money for the currently non-existent VROC key, no bootable RAID0 for you. Worse, the third M.2 slot is not recognized, and I don't think this is because the motherboard is faulty, since the manual mentions the VROC Upgrade Key in association with that specific slot.

After spending hours shuffling drives around, trying various BIOS settings to varying (but very disappointing) results, we are left, in best case, with only TWO usable M.2 slots, and while you can create a RAID0 array with non-Optane drives without the VROC key, you CANNOT boot from that RAID array - Windows 10 1607 install will not recognize it.

So the scam is this: You already paid a premium for a motherboard that advertises 3 usable, RAID-able M.2 slots, and says nothing about restricted to Optane-only drives or requiring a VROC key to actually use the feature. It certainly says nothing about not being able to boot from a RAID0 array without the VROC key or Intel-branded SSDs. In my mind, this is worse than false-advertisement.

Obviously, some of the problems arise from rushing these boards out two months early, but there is no excuse for Intel's greedy nonsense.
 
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BenJeremy

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Oct 31, 2004
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You're able to run CPU RAID on Z170?


For my data drive, I have a couple SanDisk SATA drives in RAID-0 array.

If Intel's iRST Premium wasn't hobbled by the VROC nonsense, and able to work as advertised, my brother-in-law's system would not have the bottleneck my Z170 has even with three drives, according to reports. As it is, in the Z170 system, you'll probably top out around 3GB/s, but that's still better than a single nvme stick would have given me.
 

XavierMace

Diamond Member
Apr 20, 2013
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It certainly says nothing about not being able to boot from a RAID0 array without the VROC key or Intel-branded SSDs. In my mind, this is worse than false-advertisement.
At what point did they say you COULD do that?

But I have to ask, what is your BIL trying to accomplish by doing a 3 drive stripe? You're adding failure points and complexity for a few MB/s on a synthetic benchmark?



Your random 4K high queue depth are the only numbers that are substantially better than my single 960 Pro. Your sequential writes are actually slower. What exactly do you think you're bottlenecking with only a single NVMe drive?
 

XavierMace

Diamond Member
Apr 20, 2013
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Yeah, I know. I've been trying to figure out why. That bench was with the Samsung NVMe drive. I get higher sequential with the standard driver but the queue scores drop even lower.
 
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BenJeremy

Senior member
Oct 31, 2004
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At what point did they say you COULD do that?

But I have to ask, what is your BIL trying to accomplish by doing a 3 drive stripe? You're adding failure points and complexity for a few MB/s on a synthetic benchmark?



Your random 4K high queue depth are the only numbers that are substantially better than my single 960 Pro. Your sequential writes are actually slower. What exactly do you think you're bottlenecking with only a single NVMe drive?
My brother in law is just trying for one-upsmanship, I think, LOL....

At any rate, Intel was promising upwards of 16GB/s with their new tech, and specifically targeting NVMEs for RAID arrays. The claim was that you could have 20 drives in a RAID0 array and have almost no bottlenecks.

As for my own system, I built that last summer, and I had already RAID0'd some Samsung SSDs in my previous build, but also I wanted to push NVMEs as far as they could go, and also get some sort of decent capacity for my boot drive. It's very possible I'll forgo a RAID in my next build, if I can get decent capacity in a single stick (without paying too much). Ideally, I'd like to see NVME hit 2TB capacities at the near same price/GB as 512GB sticks, and 4TB SATA drives similarly extrapolating in price. Personally, I need some capacity for my development work.

As for my assessment of VROC, which is the important thing here, it looks like there might be an issue with one of the drives, which led me to believe one of the sockets was outright disabled, but it looks like it merely can't be used for RAID in any way without the VROC or using an Intel Optane stick.

At any rate, the main complaint still exists: No bootable RAID0 arrays without VROC or Intel-branded storage. It is an artificial limitation that should not be in place, outside of pure greed.
 

Elixer

Lifer
May 7, 2002
10,376
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At any rate, the main complaint still exists: No bootable RAID0 arrays without VROC or Intel-branded storage. It is an artificial limitation that should not be in place, outside of pure greed.
Can't argue there, these artificial limits are 100% pure BS.
At least we are getting (well, soon will be getting) some solid competition with x299 vs x399 now.
 

JoeRambo

Golden Member
Jun 13, 2013
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After spending hours shuffling drives around, trying various BIOS settings to varying (but very disappointing) results, we are left, in best case, with only TWO usable M.2 slots, and while you can create a RAID0 array with non-Optane drives without the VROC key, you CANNOT boot from that RAID array - Windows 10 1607 install will not recognize it.
I think it is Windows problem, not Intel's. RAID0 is there and perfectly functioning, the problem is that Windows does not by default have new IRST drivers to recognize it.

https://downloadcenter.intel.com/download/26865/Intel-Rapid-Storage-Technology-Intel-RST-?product=55005

You need the
  • f6flpy-x64.zip - For 64-bit versions of the operating system

Extract it on USB drive, put it in during setup and point the WIndows install to look for storage drivers.
Should work fine on Windows 10 x64.
 

BenJeremy

Senior member
Oct 31, 2004
687
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I think it is Windows problem, not Intel's. RAID0 is there and perfectly functioning, the problem is that Windows does not by default have new IRST drivers to recognize it.

https://downloadcenter.intel.com/download/26865/Intel-Rapid-Storage-Technology-Intel-RST-?product=55005

You need the
  • f6flpy-x64.zip - For 64-bit versions of the operating system

Extract it on USB drive, put it in during setup and point the WIndows install to look for storage drivers.
Should work fine on Windows 10 x64.
No, drivers weren't a problem. In fact, Build 1607 apparently already had drivers (it would not recognize the pre-install drivers to install), but on further reading, Intel specifically states that "you can build all the RAID-0 arrays with non-Intel storage you want, but they won't be bootable"

Gigabyte actually has the newest pre-install drivers, newer than those on intel's site.

So Intel hobbled their RAID's ability in several ways, and only the nonexistent VROC keys or using crappy Optane-branded NVMEs will work.
 

uplink777

Junior Member
Jul 20, 2017
4
2
41
Hey there

Just a little update for You VROC wanna have guys. VROC isn't supported on x299 yet. M.2 are connected to PCH, and not cpu. Thus the DMi bottleneck. For cpu You need pci-e card with m.2 to be connected directly to cpu via dedicated pci-e ports. Etc. Intel is a fraud. I have Gaming 9 an 3 Intel 750 1.2 TB SSD, aic and 2x u.2.I ntel wrote me that x299 doesn't support Vroc yet, so they screwed us all up.
 

uplink777

Junior Member
Jul 20, 2017
4
2
41
What is VROC and the Upgrade Key?
VROC is an abbreviation for Virtual Raid on CPU. Formerly proprietary C grade chipset technology, used exclusively by Xeon processors in the past. Now this technology is migrating to desktop [HEDT - high end desktop] platform. As of this day, we used to create raid arrays via RST/RSTe on our consumer-grade/enthusiast-grade motherboards. They were all connected to CPU via PCH [platform controller hub, successor of south bridge], which uses DMi [direct media interface] to connect to CPU. On previous enthusiast-grade platform [X99], the PCi-e and M.2/U.2 ports were capable of switching themselves among the PCH and CPU direct access [or that's what I think, but they were definitely able to direct access CPU]

X99-DELUXE II

Storage
New Intel® Core™ i7 Processors :
2 x U.2 port, support PCIe 3.0 x4 NVM Express storage
1 x M.2 Socket 3, with vertical M Key design, type 2242/2260/2280 storage devices support (Support PCIE SSD only)

Intel® X99 chipset :
1 x SATA Express port, Compatible with 2 x SATA 6.0 Gb/s ports
8 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s)*4,
Support Raid 0, 1, 5, 10
Supports Intel® Smart Response Technology*5


Whilst X299 isn't housing any of the onboard m.2/u.2 ports connected directly on the CPU lane [for now, I'm having high hopes for EVGA X299 FTW K.]

An example of Storage on X299:
Storage
Intel® X299 Chipset :
1 x M.2 x4 Socket 3, with M key, type 2242/2260/2280 storage devices support (SATA & PCIE 3.0 x 4 mode)
1 x M.2 x4 Socket 3, with M key, type 2242/2260/2280/22110 storage devices support (PCIE 3.0 x 4 mode)*3
7 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s)*4
1 x U.2 port
Support Raid 0, 1, 5, 10
Supports Intel® Smart Response Technology
Intel® Rapid Storage Technology 15 support
Support Intel® Rapid Storage Technology enterprise 5.1 for X-Series(6-core and above) CPU RAID
Intel® Optane™ Memory Ready


Thus, all of X299 are in a need of PCi-e AiC adapter for M.2 drives [like this [which is totally unavailable], or this one], in order to use the the VROC, instead of RST/RSTe alone. [VROC is a part of RSTe though].

However, Gigabyte told us that VROC depends on Intel's RSTe driver, which is software you run on top of Windows.

Problem which we're facing nowadays is, that there's most likely not a single consumer/enthusiast grade board, that has fully functional Intel VMD implementation [Volume Management Device], which is a prerequisite to use RSTe VROC. I believe that Asus X299 Prime Deluxe could have it, but can't confirm it yet]. And if it has, as Intel stated:

Hello Bryan,

Intel® VROC will be supported on Intel® i9 processors using x299 chipsets, however since the product was recently released the current product scope is to support servers running Intel Xeon® processors + Intel C20 Chipsets.

Motherboard manufactures have released x299 Intel® VROC ready boards in order to provide immediate support once available.

Best regards,

Luis
Intel Customer Support


VROC upgrade key is a dongle, inserted into proprietary port on motherboard, that enables the raid1 functionality for ~100$ and raid5/[10?] functionality for 200 - 300$ or so. It's a default practice to have this "feature set" present on enterprise grade hardware, but it's just preposterous to have such a "feature" implemented on enthusiast grade hardware.

TLDR - Intel showed of a technology as a purchasebait for enthusiast, which isn't functional, nor fully implemented at the day of release and a few months after being released.
 
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