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Intel Rapid Storage Technology Roadmap: Windows 8, SSD RAID TRIM and Many More

Intel X79 Chipset

Our kindly vacuum cleaner lady gathered intel around the upcoming features of Intel's Rapid Storage Technology (RST), and we have to openly admit – Intel is planning a smokin' 2012 in terms of storage features.

Along with its multi-billion dollar push for Ultrabooks and Atom based mobile devices, Intel is preparing a serious entrance into the world of enterprise-class storage with its chipsets. As we all know, while Intel had enterprise features in platforms such as vPro and the enterprise line-up – using an on-board storage controller was a big no-no if you needed reliability and quick rebuilds.

It took some time, and we even saw disabling Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) from Panther Point (7-Series chipset) since it was producing a number of errors. Of course, we cannot forget the catastrophic Sandy Bridge (CPU)/Cougar Point (6-Series chipset) launch with the recall of said chipsets and a billion dollar loss. The reason was of course, erroneous storage controller.

In 2012, it looks like Intel learned its lesson and the company is bringing serious improvements with its Rapid Storage Technology software suite 11.5 and 11.6 (Windows 8 refresh).

The company is making a big cleanup in order to prepare for Windows 8. For example, all chipsets are being updated to support "UEFI pre-OS Solution", one of primary requirements for Windows 8. Furthermore, CLI 32-bit and 64-bit utilities are replacing the old RAIDCfg32 and RAIDCfg64 command line utilities, supporting "Windows 8 specific features".

We have already disclosed that RST 11.5 is bringing what we believe to be the key feature for adoption of Solid Storage Drives (SSDs) into enterprise, and that is TRIM and Garbage Collection when SSDs are inside a RAID array. We know today that the supported RAID arrays modes are 0 (stripping), 1 (mirror), 1+0 and 5 (min three drive stripe with redundancy).

RST RAID is also getting a Verify and Repair Scheduler, enabling users to "schedule V&R operations on daily, weekly or monthly basis". Given that out of all RAID controllers we have tested Intel has the slowest RAID5 rebuild time, this is a welcoming change.

The most welcoming piece of news is that Intel RST 11.5 will even support several year old Eagle Lake (3-Series) and Montevina (4-Series) Chipsets. We are talking about ICH9M, ICH9ME, ICH10R, ICH10DO and ICH10D Southbridges. Support for Ibex Peak (5-Series), Cougar Point (6-Series) and Panther Point (7-Series – Maho Bay, Chief River and Carlow-WS) is also a given. RST 11.5 is expected to formally debut in the first half of 2012 (alpha versions are in the wild already), with 11.6 being a refreshed version with full support for Windows 8 which are expected to arrive during third quarter of this year.

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