Microsoft is Bringing Xbox’s DirectStorage to Windows 10

Posted on September 2, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 10, Xbox Series X with 20 Comments

Microsoft announced that it will bring a key piece of Xbox Series X storage technology to Windows 10 for PCs. It’s called DirectStorage, and it was originally announced as part of a portfolio of technology innovations that Microsoft will include in its next videogame console.

“We’re excited to bring DirectStorage, an API in the DirectX family originally designed for the [Xbox Series X’s] Velocity Architecture to Windows PCs,” Microsoft’s Andrew Yeung writes. “DirectStorage will bring best-in-class IO tech to both PC and console just as DirectX 12 Ultimate does with rendering tech. With a DirectStorage capable PC and a DirectStorage enabled game, you can look forward to vastly reduced load times and virtual worlds that are more expansive and detailed than ever.”

DirectStorage will require an NVMe-based SSD drive because of its high bandwidth needs, and it apparently won’t work with all NVMe drives, either: DirectStorage will be supported only on “certain systems with NVMe drives,” Microsoft notes. If your system doesn’t support DirectStorage, games will simply continue to work normally, as before.

And the technology isn’t just about speed: Microsoft says that DirectStorage will enable games to be more detailed and expansive than before as well.

“By using DirectStorage, games are able to leverage the best current and upcoming decompression technologies,” Yeung explains. “The DirectStorage API is architected in a way that … maximizes performance throughout the entire pipeline from NVMe drive all the way to the GPU. [So] developers are given an extremely efficient way to bring [gamers] larger, more detailed virtual worlds that load in as fast as your game character can move through it.”

Getting DirectStorage into Windows 10 is going to require some time, Yeung adds. Microsoft has already begun prepping its partners for DirectStorage and is working to finish designing and building the API and its supporting components. The firm is hoping to get the first developer preview out next year.

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Comments (21)

21 responses to “Microsoft is Bringing Xbox’s DirectStorage to Windows 10”

  1. garymaker

    Could non game applications call this API for better storage performance?

    • fork

      In reply to GaryMaker:

      No, as I understand it DirectStorage is a method for transferring data direct from the NVMe drive to the GPU's RAM without going via the CPU. So it's not that it speeds-up storage read/writes per se (i.e. it won't improve the performance of you copying data between two NVMe drives), it's that it gets the data directly into the RAM in your graphics card. The speed benefits come from:

      1. No need to go via the CPU, it's direct to GPU RAM
      2. The decompression is done by the GPU so (and now I'm speculating) it's possibly hardware-optimised de/compression.

      There's slightly more info about this and how it works in yesterday's NVIDIA 3000-series announcement video (see their website for a link to the recorded version).

    • Paul Thurrott

      I don't see why not. DirectX is available to everyone. Granted, this is probably limited/optimized for specific use cases that include both the GPU and storage, so it would have to be a certain kind of app.
  2. ghostrider

    An announcement that will mean.... almost nothing to almost everyone. You can imagine the supported list will be very, very small and it wouldn't surprise me if it's an OEM only thing too.

  3. red.radar

    Well this stinks... only works on “certain systems”. So if I am buying hardware now, how soon before I can know I am buying one of these particular systems with the right stuff?

    • qaelith2112

      In reply to red.radar:

      Great question. This is a concern for me as well. I have a really bad history of buying a bunch of new stuff and then a few months later some incredibly useful or revolutionary thing appears in all of the stuff being sold, which I have to spend a few years without.

  4. rm

    This could speed up database management systems as well.

  5. whgb

    This looks great. But what I really want on PC is the quick resume feature, where you can spend multiple games and quickly resume them. That's the best feature of the XSX so far, I think.

  6. soulskillet

    I wonder if this might have any uses for CADD and GIS applications. Also, is this technology coming to the Server platform as well; thinking of GPU accelerated Citrix clusters.

  7. Daekar

    Well, add that to the list of compatibility checkboxes to tick on my next PC build.

    • Thretosix

      In reply to Daekar:

      It's being written into Direct X 12 Ultimate. You may already have the hardware. May want to upgrade your SSD for faster load times, but shouldn't take much on a PC built in the last 3-4 years. I believe even Pascal (GTX 1000 series), GPUs for Nvidia are supported.

  8. north of 49th

    I have to believe this exists so that Game Developers who have Games both on Xbox and PC with common code will have better incentive to use the feature.

  9. hellcatm

    "DirectStorage will be supported only on “certain systems with NVMe drives,” Microsoft notes" Ok this line sounds like it won't work with systems built by users but only certain OEM system builders which sucks since a lot of gamers build their own systems.

    Please tell me I'm reading into this wrong?!

    • codymesh

      In reply to HellcatM:

      I read somewhere that this will only pcie 4.0

    • cr08

      In reply to HellcatM:

      Much like how SSD's have become very commonplace these days, I think the conditions for this feature will slowly become more commonplace as well as newer equipment becomes the standard. Also this is very likely going to be a concern with enthusiasts most of all who will be building their systems to the required spec if possible. And as another comment mentioned below, I imagine the requirements are pretty simple in just needing a PCIe 4.0 based system and NvME drive (probably of a given base performance) which isn't even that hard to achieve now in mid-range equipment and will just get easier and cheaper.

    • Kendog52361

      In reply to HellcatM:

      I think it's more likely that it will almost require PCIe 4.0 or better, with all two/three devices (both graphics card, regardless of type, and the NVMe SSD) needing that support. With only AMD, plus the new mobile processors just announced today from Intel supporting PCIe 4.0, it's likely to take a couple of years for more widespread usage.

    • t-b.c

      In reply to HellcatM: I think that is incorrect. I think the reason it won't work for all PC's is due to the storage technology. If your home-built PC has a NVMe drive of the right type (probably Samsung) will work. I don't think this is an OEM only option.

  10. madthinus

    The issue here is the timing. Developer preview in 2021, final version...2022?

  11. hassan_timite

    This is very interesting.

    I knew this would happen and that it would be easier for PC to have XBox Series X IO System rather than PS5 like IO System as Microsoft is the editor for Windows after all. With such features available for and more PC, it would quite easy to port XBox Series X optimised games to PC.

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