Where can you get an 8TB SSD that will work on your workstation without being locked into a proprietary system? The new HighPoint SSD7101 series is such a product, but you don’t have to spend $6,500 to achieve a blistering 13,500 MB/s of performance. The company offers several solutions including a DIY model so you can add your own M.2 SSDs. Do you need it? Most likely not. Do you want it? Yes, you do!
HighPoint will soon release seven new products designed to satisfy performance enthusiasts. The upcoming SSD7101 series comes to market in a user-friendly bare DIY package or loaded with Samsung 960 EVO or Samsung 960 Pro NVMe drives. The possibilities are virtually endless, and unlike comparable products, you aren’t locked into a specific motherboard or PC brand.
There are several benefits to using an add-in card over your system’s existing M.2 ports. Most consumer-focused platforms, like Z270, only feature two M.2 ports, though some motherboards host three. Unfortunately, the ports usually route through the restrictive DMI bus that only provides a PCIe 3.0 x4 connection for all the devices connected to the PCH. Even normal use, like using a USB device or playing audio, will slow your storage system by chewing into the available bandwidth.
Products like the HighPoint SSD7101 really shine when you move away from the mainstream platforms and into workstation-class hardware. Intel’s new X299 platform supports vROC (Virtual RAID On CPU), a feature carried over from the enterprise market. The feature allows you to build RAID 0 arrays with up to 20 PCIe-linked storage devices. The array is bootable in RAID 0 without any add-ons, but you must purchase a dongle key to use SSDs other than Intel’s. The standard key enables RAID 1 functionality, but Intel will also offer a premium key that unlocks RAID 5 for data redundancy.
We would love to tell you more about the feature, but we are limited to the information that is publicly available. Intel’s vROC FAQ page refers us to a white paper for more details, but as of October 2017, the document doesn’t exist for public viewing. We’ve spoken with several motherboard vendors, but they also do not have the document that outlines how to use non-Intel SSDs. We will circle back and test Intel’s vROC features once the keys are available.
The other new workstation platform comes from AMD. The Threadripper CPU paired with the X399 chipset will support bootable NVMe RAID via a platform upgrade that recently came in the form of a BIOS update and driver package.
The best part about the two new workstation-class platforms is the PCIe lanes route directly to the CPU and not through the restrictive DMI bus.
Most of the current 4x M.2 adapters are dummy products. There is very little logic, so the drives just appear to your system as four independent SSDs. That means you have to build the array with software RAID. For Windows systems, software RAID is not bootable.
Window’s software RAID presents several challenges for storage testing. Some of our advanced software addresses the storage as a physical drive, but it cannot address the volume as a logical drive. We ran into the issue in our Aplicata Quad M.2 PCIe x8 Adapter review. HighPoint is the first company we’ve seen that includes a specific NVMe RAID driver and software package for this type of product. Not only do you get a very easy and intuitive way to build an array, but it also presents the array as one logical drive in the disk manager. […]