Microsoft Highlights Storage Advances in Xbox Series X

Posted on July 14, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Xbox Series X with 4 Comments

As part of an ongoing series of posts describing the technology in the Xbox Series X, Microsoft today highlighted its Xbox Velocity Architecture.

“When we set out to design the Xbox Series X, we aspired to build our most powerful console ever powered by next-generation innovation and delivering consistent, sustained performance never before seen in a console with no compromises,” Microsoft director Jason Ronald writes. “To achieve this goal, we knew we needed to analyze each component of the system, to push beyond the limitations in traditional console performance and design. It was critical in the design of the Xbox Series X to ensure we had a superior balance of power, speed and performance while ensuring no component would constrain the creative ambition of the world’s best creators, empowering them to deliver truly transformative next-gen gaming experiences not possible in prior console generations.”

At the heart of this system is the custom AMD processor that powers Xbox Series X with its RDNA 2 and Zen 2 architectures delivering over 12 teraflops of GPU power and over 4 times the CPU processing power of the Xbox One X. Better still, the Xbox Series X has a higher memory bandwidth than the PlayStation 5, thanks to its 16 GB of GDDR6 memory and 10 GB of GPU optimized memory, which runs at 560 Gbps. There was just one problem: Storage.

“As we analyzed the storage subsystem, it became clear that we had reached the upper limits of traditional hard drive technology and to deliver on our design aspirations, we would need to radically rethink and revolutionize our approach with the Xbox Series X,” Ronald continues.

The result? Something Microsoft calls the Xbox Velocity Architecture, which features a 1 TB NVME SSD that delivers 2.4 GBps of raw I/O throughput—over 40 times the throughput of the original Xbox One—and is designed for consistent, sustained performance as opposed to peak performance. It’s supported by hardware-accelerated decompression of game assets, a new DirectStorage API that offers fine-grained control over I/O operations, and Sampler Feedback Streaming, “a brand-new innovation” that allows the Xbox Series X GPU to provide roughly 2.5 times the effective I/O throughput and memory usage above and beyond the raw hardware capabilities on average.

“The Xbox Velocity Architecture was designed as the ultimate solution for game asset streaming in the next generation,” Ronald says. “This radical reinvention of the traditional I/O subsystem directly influenced all aspects of the Xbox Series X design. If our custom-designed processor is at the heart of the Xbox Series X, the Xbox Velocity Architecture is the soul. Through a deep integration of hardware and software innovation, the Xbox Velocity Architecture will power next-gen gaming experiences unlike anything you have seen before.”

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