When Intel introduced its ultra-high-end LGA2011 desktop platform last November, the associated X79 chipset was a bit of a disappointment. We were expecting loads of additional Serial ATA and SAS ports; instead, we got the same combination of two 6Gbps and four 3Gbps SATA ports used by Intel's mainstream chipsets. The X79 also lacked support for Intel's Smart Response Technology SSD caching scheme, a feature that had been available on the Z68 chipset for quite some time, and one that's currently supported by several other 7-series chipsets.
In the year since the X79's release, the chip has failed to grow additional I/O ports. (Those ports have popped up in the server-oriented C606 chipset, which some motherboard makers are deploying on high-end desktop boards.) However, it seems to have finally inherited support for Smart Response caching. ASRock is claiming to be the first motherboard maker to support SRT on an X79 motherboard. With a firmware update from ASRock and the latest drivers from Intel, the X79 Extreme11 should allow folks to configure their SSD as a cache for mechanical storage.
The release notes for Intel's Rapid Storage Technology 188.8.131.520 drivers mention support for SRT on X79, and they're available for anyone to download, making ASRock's "world's first" claim seem a little bit dubious. The drivers have been available since last month, so perhaps there's something to the required firmware update. We've asked Intel to confirm whether firmware tweaks are necessary for SRT to work on X79 and whether its own DX79SR motherboard now supports the SSD caching scheme. The other big-name motherboard makers have also been pinged about their offerings. We'll update this post with additional details as they come in.