VROC: expensive, integrated RAID-solution
Before we continue to the benchmarks, there is one more feature that should not remain unexplained. Like its counterpart, Skylake-X (and not Kaby Lake-X) offers a functionality that is called VROC: Virtual Raid On CPU.
VROC is basically a software RAID-functionality for PCI-Express SSDs, as it is available in the latest versions of Windows and Linux, but operates from the CPU and therefore one level below the operating system. This means that VROC can achieve better performance than traditional RAID software. Intel states that the performance and reliability of VROC is comparable to that of high-end separate, server grade RAID-controllers.
VROC is specifically designed for PCI-Express based SSDs. Because of this, you can combine one or more M.2 or insertion card SSDs.
This is where the good news ends, because with VROC we also have to mention a few critical caveats. Only the Raid 0 (striping) functionality is available out-of-the-box. If you want to use RAID 1 or RAID 5, you have to purchase a hardware dongle, a so-called RAID-key, that makes this functionality available. Intel did not yet fill us in with the details, but motherboard manufacturers are saying that a RAID 1 key will cost $ 99 and a RAID 5 key will cost $ 249. This might be normal in the server world, but with an extremely expensive desktop platform we almost see this as an insult toward your customers.
Around Computex we heard rumours, in part based on information coming from ASUS, that VROC only works with Intel SSDs. Back then it was labeled as a very dubious decision by the techpress worldwide, if only because Intel does not yet have high-end M.2 PCI-Express SSDs in their product range. The Intel 600p does not come close to the performance of SSDs such as the Samsung 960 Pro. In a few months we can expect Optane-based high-end M.2 Intel SSDs. In the end this turned out to be storm in a teacup and Intel has stated that VROC will also work with SSDs from other brands.
Because of the limited time we had for our Skylake-X review we do not yet have any hands-on experience with VROC. At a later time we will take a closer look at this technology.