DirectStorage, the API that supercharges data processing in Microsoft's Xbox Series X, is coming to Windows to optimize high-speed PCIe 4.0 SSD speeds.
Today Microsoft re-confirmed DirectStorage is also coming to Windows 10 PCs. The news was confirmed a bit ago, but has been reiterated thanks to yesterday's big new RTX IO announcement, new NVIDIA tech that allows SSDs to stream data directly to GPUs. DirectStorage is responsible for the underlying fabric of the Xbox Series X's Velocity Architecture and essentially makes next-gen gaming possible on the Xbox Series X.
DirectStorage API is part of the DirectX 12 Ultimate tech that powers both Xbox Series X and Windows 10 gaming. It's optimized specifically to unlock the potential of high-speed NVMe SSDs by matching the real-time IO data processing of games with the high bandwidth of Gen4 SSD storage. Up until now, APIs simply couldn't match up fast SSD perf with the massive amount of IO that modern games demand--a limitation that created bottlenecks and hampered in-game performance.
Think of DirectStorage as the Autobahn in Germany. Unlike highways in America, certain parts of the Autobahn have no speed limit. DirecStorage essentially lets you drive your brand new Ferrari at max speeds instead of being held up in traffic.
In the closed-system Xbox Series X, DirectStorage controls the hardware-based decompression block to significantly streamline data processing and reduce CPU overhead from 5 cores to just 1. The API is also responsible for other features like Sampler Feedback Streaming, new revolutionary tech that gives developers much more granular control over how texture data is loaded into RAM and the GPU for processing. SFS will allow for much more efficient data processing and rendering because only certain portions of the textures are used instead of the entire mipmap.
All of this technology will be included in Microsoft's Xbox Series X in 2020, and it's coming to Windows 10 PCs as part of the DirectX 12 Ultimate API.
Check below for a quick explainer of DirectStorage:
Game workloads have also evolved. Modern games load in much more data than older ones and are smarter about how they load this data. These data loading optimizations are necessary for this larger amount of data to fit into shared memory/GPU accessible memory. Instead of loading large chunks at a time with very few IO requests, games now break assets like textures down into smaller pieces, only loading in the pieces that are needed for the current scene being rendered. This approach is much more memory efficient and can deliver better looking scenes, though it does generate many more IO requests.
Unfortunately, current storage APIs were not optimized for this high number of IO requests, preventing them from scaling up to these higher NVMe bandwidths creating bottlenecks that limit what games can do. Even with super-fast PC hardware and an NVMe drive, games using the existing APIs will be unable to fully saturate the IO pipeline leaving precious bandwidth on the table.
That's where DirectStorage for PC comes in. This API is the response to an evolving storage and IO landscape in PC gaming. DirectStorage will be supported on certain systems with NVMe drives and work to bring your gaming experience to the next level. If your system doesn't support DirectStorage, don't fret; games will continue to work just as well as they always have.
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