With the launch of the Skylake generation of processors and Lewisburg platforms in 2017 Intel introduced a new technology called VROC, short for Virtual RAID on CPU. The main idea with Intel VROC was that it would replace the need for RAID controllers and HBAs in systems that utilized NVMe storage instead of traditional SATA/ SAS. We wanted to make a quick reference guide for VROC keys, similar to what we did for the Intel QuickAssist parts, since this requires a hardware component.
Intel VROC Key Quick Reference Guide
Intel sold the VROC key as a way to build volumes without a traditional SAS/ SATA HBA. Here is Intel’s diagram on how this works:
In order to have VROC work on a system, the requirements were something like:
- Intel Xeon Scalable (Skylake or newer) system with BIOS support for Intel VMD
- The motherboard needs a header for the VROC hardware key
- A VROC hardware key needs to be installed with the correct level of functionality you want
There were three hardware keys:
- Intel VROC Standard – VROCSTANMOD
- Intel VROC Premium – VROCPREMMOD
- Intel VROC Intel SSD Only – VROCISSDMOD
The main differences are that the Standard key does not support RAID 5, but costs $150 less than the Premium. The Intel SSD Only was slightly strange insofar as it only supported Intel SSDs but at a $20 discount to the Premium key. The Premium and Intel Only keys also had Intel VROC Integrated Caching, or VROC IC, that could use Optane SSDs as cache in Linux OSes. Our recommendation is to get the Premium keys if you want RAID 5 and not have to deal with which SSDs one can use. Here is the easy table:
Intel also had the option to enable these features without the hardware key but only for the Premium and Intel SSD Only tiers with VROCPREM (Premium) and VROCISSD (Intel-SSD Only.) If your system did not come with that from the factory, it is likely you need a hardware key.
Hopefully, this will help our readers in the future when they need to find VROC keys. Adding VROC can be challenging since not every server supports VROC. Certain “Swell” OEMs wanted to continue selling proprietary RAID controllers and HBAs and thus did not put the VROC key headers on their motherboards. Still, for many, this is going to be a good option as pre-PCIe Gen5 servers become the lower-cost options. Adding a VROC key saves the cost of a PCIe card and the PCIe slot while lowering power consumption so we can see this becoming very attractive in value servers for the next few years.