Intel has packed a bundle of new features onto its Intel Xeon Scalable processors, including the following:

This series explores these new features to help explain why Intel says its new server platforms represent the “biggest platform advancements in this decade.” This post looks at both Intel VMD and Intel PTT.

What Is Intel Volume Management Device?

Intel VMD is technology integrated on to root ports of Intel Xeon Scalable processors. It lets data center administrators hot swap NVMe SSDs—which are connected to the PCIe bus—and it standardizes the LED status light on these drives. The technology redirects NVMe SSD insertion and removal events to storage-aware drivers. Without Intel VMD, these events are handled, with varying degrees of success, by a combination of a system’s BIOS and operating system. Intel VMD ensures smooth additions and removals of NVMe drives from the PCIe bus, which helps improve uptime and serviceability.

Intel VMD matters because it enables the following benefits:

  • Improve uptime and serviceability: High-performance NVMe SSDs are much closer to the Intel processor than drives have been in the past—right on the PCIe bus. With Intel VMD, administrators can now hot-swap these drives without a service outage.
  • Identify drives by their LEDs: Most drives, whether hard-disk drives (HDDs) or SSDs, have two LEDs: “activity,” which is controlled by the drive itself and blinks to indicate input and output (I/O), and “status,” which visually communicates the drive’s status and is controlled by the system. The status LED has four states: OK, Fault, Rebuilding, and Locate, which are communicated by blinking patterns specified in the International Blinking Pattern Interpretation (IBPI) standard, or SFF-8489. Intel VMD supports the activation of the status LED on NVMe SSDs so you can easily see which drive (or drives) needs to be serviced—sometimes out of a group of thousands. This drive light specification (SFF-8489) has existed for years supporting SAS and SATA devices through a host bus adaptor (HBA). Intel VMD brings this functionality to NVMe SSDs.
  • Implement ecosystem-wide enablement: Intel is sharing this technology across the ecosystem, which includes system OEMs/ODMs, BIOS writers, PCIe switch vendors, SSD vendors, and operating-system and ISV vendors. This means that, no matter which vendors you use in your data center, you can benefit from Intel VMD.

What Is Intel Platform Trust Technology?

Intel PTT is a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) integrated directly into the chipset. It eliminates the need for a separate TPM and makes it easier for organizations to take advantage of additional Intel security technologies.

Intel PTT:

  • Is compliant with TPM 2.0
  • Can be enabled or disabled during manufacturing or through the BIOS at runtime
  • Can be a tamper-resistant location to store encryption keys
  • Helps reduce total cost of ownership (TCO) by eliminating the need for a discrete TPM
  • Allows establishment of a hardware-based root of trust

Why Intel VMD and Intel PTT Matter

These two technologies, embedded in the silicon of Intel Xeon Scalable platforms, can help data center administrators deploy important technologies with greater confidence. For example, NVMe SSDs can be real game-changers when deployed with transactional applications. Intel PTT contributes to an essential, hardware-based root-of-trust environment in which protection extends up from the silicon through the platform hardware and firmware. This trusted-platform approach can help defend physical and virtual infrastructures against numerous and evolving security threats.

Click here to learn more about Intel Xeon Scalable platforms and the many technologies that make them a game changer for the data center.

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