How to Install the Intel QAT Driver

Introduction

On August 23rd, 2022, Microsoft released SQL Server 2022 RC0, which is Build 16.0.900.6. One of the new features in SQL Server 2022 RC0 (that is now public) is Intel Quick Assist Technology (QAT) for SQL Server. This feature lets you use integrated offloading and acceleration with Intel QAT with SQL Server 2022. In order to use this feature, you must download and install the free Intel QAT driver. This post is about how to install the Intel QAT driver.

Why Does This Matter?

The initial use case for Intel QAT on SQL Server 2002 is backup compression. QAT backup compression has two modes, hardware and software. In order to use hardware mode, you must have SQL Server 2022 Enterprise Edition and some sort of Intel QAT hardware. The upcoming Intel Sapphire Rapids server processors will have QAT hardware support built in. You can also use an Intel QAT 8970 PCIe AIC, in any system that has an available supported PCIe slot.

How to Install the Intel QAT Driver
Two Intel QAT 8970 AICs

Intel QAT will also work in software mode, with or without any Intel QAT hardware. If you have SQL Server 2022 Standard Edition, you can only use software mode, even if you do have QAT-capable hardware. Regardless of what QAT mode you want to use or what Edition of SQL Server 2022 you have, you must have the Intel QAT driver installed on the system.

If you decide to use Intel QAT backup compression with SQL Server 2022 on any of your systems, you will want to have the Intel QAT drivers installed on all of your SQL Server 2022 instances. This is because if you have a QAT-DEFLATE compressed backup, you MUST have the Intel QAT driver installed on your instance in order to be able to restore the backup.

This is especially relevant in a DR situation. BTW, this feature only works on SQL Server 2022 on Windows.

How to Install the Intel QAT Driver

The first step is to download the latest Intel QAT driver. It will come down as a zip file that is about 45MB in size. Next you need to extract the zip file and navigate to the QuickAssist/Setup directory.

How to Install the Intel QAT Driver
Setup Directory

Just double-click on QatSetup.exe to start the installation. In this case, I am installing on a system that does NOT have any Intel QAT capable hardware. This will be a common scenario right now, since most people will not have any Intel QAT capable hardware. I point this out because in this scenario, you will get a somewhat scary warning dialog as soon as the setup program starts.

Initial Warning Dialog

You must click the Yes button to go ahead and install the QAT drivers when no QAT hardware is present. Intel could have eliminated the red X icon in the dialog and reworded the message to make it less intimidating.

After that, you must accept the license agreement.

License Agreement

Finally, click Install. The installation is very fast, since it is not installing very much.

Ready to Install

On my system, the install was so fast, I could not get a screen capture of the installation progress before it was done. Here is the completion screen.

Install Wizard Completed

This is what the installation summary should look like when you don’t have any QAT hardware present. This will be a very common scenario.

QATInstallSummary.log

After you install the Intel QAT drivers, you still need to do some configuration in SQL Server 2022 to enable the feature. I will cover that in a subsequent post.

Final Words

I think this will be a very useful feature for many organizations. Luckily, I have been extensively testing it for quite some time and I am pretty impressed with how it works. It will give you more choices about how you can configure your database backups in order to meet different goals or mitigate real problems you may be having with older versions of SQL Server.

This is also relevant for cloud VMs. Different cloud providers are likely to offer QAT capable processors in the near future. Regardless of that, you can still use software mode (even on SQL Server 2022 Standard Edition) on any system, whether it is a cloud VM or not. Just install the Intel QAT drivers and do some simple configuration in SQL Server 2022.

This is another reason why hardware still matters in the cloud! I talk more about that in this post:

If you have any questions about this post, please ask me here in the comments or on Twitter. I am pretty active on Twitter as GlennAlanBerryThanks for reading!

Intel, PC Hardware, SQL Server 2022 , ,

10 thoughts on “How to Install the Intel QAT Driver

  1. Great post! I was not aware of QAT and its capabilities prior to reading your post. I now have a better awareness and understanding, and a thirst to learn more.

    Question #1: Based on your screen shot of the QAT install summary log, it looks like the driver installer conditionally installs parts of the driver based on the QAT capabilities present or absent at the time of driver install. This is OK for that point in time, but may not be appropriate for a future point in time when the status of installed hardware and QAT capabilities change – adding or removing QAT (especially for VMs that can easily be moved to newer or older hardware without OS / software reinstalls).

    • Is the burden on IT support folks to proactively identify / know the changes in QAT capabilities at future points in time? (and pay a price for not knowing or acting on such QAT capability changes over time?)

    • Or should it be the responsibility of the QAT driver software (possibly by installing all driver parts, and auto-detect / configure which driver parts / capabilities are actually enabled and used later)? Perhaps at system boot time (with a reboot needed to resolve a change in QAT capabilities)?

    • A manual driver install-once and auto-detect ongoing approach – versus a manual driver reinstall initially and again in the future as needed and no auto-detect approach?

    Or perhaps I misunderstood what parts of the QAT driver are installed and configured at driver install time versus at future points in time?

    Question #2: Are the Intel QAT drivers supported only on most recent Windows server OS versions (2019, 2022)? Or are they also supported on other older OS versions (2016 or earlier)?

    I realize that the capabilities of the QAT driver and installer are an Intel responsibility (and not yours). Just exploring how to make that process operationally sound.

    I read some of your other QAT-related posts – more great info – especially on the backup benchmark comparisons.

    Question #3: Do you have future plans to include backup benchmark comparisons on backup file size metrics (uncompressed versus native SQL backup compression / no QAT) versus software QAT versus hardware QAT (to build on your backup ET and CPU usage published metrics)?

    Question #4: Do I understand correctly that the new Intel QAT backup compression capabilities are / will be only available for SQL 2022 (as of now)? Or have you heard whether they may be available at some future date by Microsoft on prior SQL Server versions (such as SQL 2019 or older)?

    As usual, your level of detail and documentation for topics like these is outstanding, and are most useful to practitioners interesting in assessing and applying these topics effectively in our respective workplaces / client engagements. Thanks again!

    1. Thanks for your comment!

      Question 1: I believe that the Intel QAT driver installer installs everything that is required for SQL Server QAT Backup compression (hardware or software mode). QAT can be used for other scenarios, such as encryption.

      This would be easy enough to test though, by doing a driver install with no QAT hardware present, and then installing a QAT 8970 card and see if it works as expected.

      Question 2: The QAT driver will work on Windows Server 2016 and newer. Keep in mind that SQL Server 2022 also requires Windows Server 2016 or newer. I think you should be using Windows Server 2022 with a new SQL Server 2022 instance.

      Question 3: The included script (that has all of the test code and results) shows the backup compression ratios. QAT backup compression tends to compress slightly better than legacy backup compression, typically less than 5% better. That is not a huge difference, but it is better than nothing.

      Question 4: I seriously doubt that Microsoft will backport this to SQL Server 2019. I would bet a lot of money that they won’t backport it to anything older than 2019. Personally, I don’t want them to backport it. I want to use this feature to help convince more people to upgrade to SQL Server 2022, especially if they are on a much older version.

  2. Is there an equivalent technology on AMD CPUs? If so, is this also supported in SQL2022?

    1. Nothing that has been announced. Upcoming AMD Genoa server CPUs will have AVX512 support, which could be used to offload compression. We already know that Microsoft is going to leverage AVX512 for query processing in SQL Server 2022

  3. Hi Glenn,

    Nice post is there an easy way in tsql to check to see if Intel QAT Driver software driver has been installed? I’m looking at this from an automated build process. So that there’s a pre-check prior to enabling sp_configure and alter server statements

    Thanks,
    Steven

    1. Not with T-SQL. You can probably write something with PowerShell to just check the QAT driver by itself. This query will also tell you indirectly.

      — Get detailed accelerator status information (Query 9) (Accelerator Status)
      SELECT accelerator, accelerator_desc, config, config_in_use , mode, mode_desc,
      mode_reason, mode_reason_desc, accelerator_hardware_detected,
      accelerator_library_version, accelerator_driver_version
      FROM sys.dm_server_accelerator_status WITH (NOLOCK) OPTION (RECOMPILE);

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