Microsoft will bring DirectStorage API from the Xbox to PCs to reduce IO bottlenecks in...

nanoguy

Posts: 567   +8
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Why it matters: In between touting the innovations present in the Xbox Series X and trying to hide the existence of an Xbox Series S, Microsoft is also working on bringing some of its new software tricks to the PC. A new DirectX API called DirectStorage will make console ports a bit easier for developers and bring the same speed benefits on some compatible PCs equipped with NVMe SSDs.

Microsoft has been talking a lot about the hardware and software improvements in its upcoming Xbox Series X console, including a technology stack called the Xbox Velocity Architecture, which is supposed to slash loading times and enable games with bigger and more detailed worlds.

The Velocity Architecture in the new Xbox console is a combination of a proprietary NVMe SSD, a specialised hardware block for data decompression, and new software tools -- Sampler Feedback Streaming and the DirectStorage API. Microsoft says it will soon bring the latter software technology to Windows 10 PCs to solve the same storage bottleneck.

NVMe SSDs are just landing on console, but they've been available for PC gamers for several years with speeds well beyond that of HDDs and a price that is constantly dropping every year. As games have ballooned in size, developers found more efficient ways to load all the needed data into video memory, but they were still bottlenecked by existing storage APIs. This is why a relatively inexpensive SATA SSD will be almost as fast as an NVMe SSD in terms of game load times.

DirectStorage is designed to exploit the full potential on NVMe drives by making it possible for games to make tens of thousands of IO requests. It can achieve this feat through clever paralelization and a reduction in the overhead of every IO request. In existing storage APIs these requests are processed one at a time, which is no longer adequate for next generation games.

Earlier this week, Blizzard revealed that a solid-state drive is not just recommended, but actually required if you're looking forward to running the upcoming World of Warcraft expansion. That said, there will be a while before game developers can leverage the DirectStorage API on PC -- Microsoft says it's currently working with industry partners to make it a reality, with a preview planned for next year.

It's also worth noting that not all systems equipped with an NVMe SSD will be able to take advantage of the new API, as this will have to be supported by the GPU as well. The first confirmed hardware to be able to do this is Nvidia's 3000 series GPUs, as the company is working on a feature called RTX IO to tie in with DirectStorage, although that's still one year away.

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Irata

Posts: 811   +1,148
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I suspect AMD will market this for Big Navi as an RTX IO equivalent next month.
Think so, as well, seeing how their APU is in the XBox as well as PS5.

Just hope the API comes to the PC sooner rather than later to avoid having games with proprietary nVidia or AMD solutions.

I wonder if they are waiting for Intel to catch up on the PCIe front, both as far as bandwidth and number of lanes from the CPU are considered.
 
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fps4ever

Posts: 497   +535
"It's also worth noting that not all systems equipped with an NVMe SSD will be able to take advantage of the new API, as this will have to be supported by the GPU as well."

Well that just took the wind completely out of the sails. Was hoping for a free performance boost. Of course there are always gotchya's.
 
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Lionvibez

Posts: 1,985   +1,273
"It's also worth noting that not all systems equipped with an NVMe SSD will be able to take advantage of the new API, as this will have to be supported by the GPU as well."

Well that just took the wind completely out of the sails. Was hoping for a free performance boost. Of course there are always gotchya's.
Not really surprised to be honest.

It has to be supported by

GPU
Game
OS
 

Thanthan

Posts: 47   +97
Classic nvidia to take a feature someone Else is developing, implement it, and Come up with a branding scheme that makes it sound like you invented it. Nvidia g sync compatible anyone?
 

mbrowne5061

Posts: 1,604   +906
Isn’t the point that RTX IO and DirectStorage bypasses the CPU by writing from storage straight to VRAM, bypassing CPU and system memory?
Maybe operationally, but I don't see how they could physically make the connections in most modern systems. Pretty the I/o goes right through the CPUs at this point - though I may be wrong.
 

neeyik

Posts: 1,306   +1,384
Staff member
Maybe operationally, but I don't see how they could physically make the connections in most modern systems. Pretty the I/o goes right through the CPUs at this point - though I may be wrong.
That’s the whole idea behind this. It allows the GPU to directly access and managed transfers from the main storage. So instead everything being copied in system memory first, and then copied in the GPU’s local memory, it skips the intermediary stage. This is also why it requires specific hardware and API support to do this, as current systems have no such capabilities.
 
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Farkinell

Posts: 38   +35
That’s the whole behind this. It always the GPU to directly access and managed transfers from the main storage. So instead everything being copied in system memory first, and then copied in the GPU’s local memory, it skips the intermediary stage. This is also why it requires specific hardware and API support to do this, as current systems have no such capabilities.
PCIe 4 and Nvme storage is a given but is DirectStorage going to need a new motherboard?

I have an ageing 7700K that I was planning to replace to pair with a 3080 or 3090 but will hold off If it means having to buy a new mobo a few months down the line.
 

neeyik

Posts: 1,306   +1,384
Staff member
PCIe 4 and Nvme storage is a given but is DirectStorage going to need a new motherboard?
The full hardware requirements haven't been issued yet, but it will almost certainly only work on certain motherboard+CPU combinations+nvme drive combinations.
 
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Farkinell

Posts: 38   +35
That’s good to know, I’ll wait until they release the requirements before taking the plunge. My 7700K isn’t bottlenecked (much) at 4K anyway, so has a few more months left.
 

Angga B

Posts: 85   +77
Just as we have went through whenever there is new feature, new API, let alone a hardware direct access mechanism, it will just opening way for new exploits to be invented.
Not that I am not excited but hardware level io access is always.... yeah...