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DirectStorage API is finally here on Windows

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Recent advancements in SSD and PCIe technologies, specifically NVMe tech, have allowed a lot more flexibility and speed for games across the board. Anyone who has swapped to NVMe storage on their PC boot drive can attest to comparatively lightning-fast load times. And the recent generation of gaming consoles also wanted to get in on the fun. The implementation of the PlayStation 5 is of note here. Sony went with a specialized and highly tuned software/hardware solution, designed to speed up the delivery of assets, textures and more. By using specialized compression algorithms on dedicated chipsets, the PS5 can compress and deliver high-quality assets much faster than just its NVMe SSD could normally achieve. But now, Microsoft has finally brought this thinking to PC gaming.

What is DirectStorage API?

Microsoft’s own answer to the power of the PS5 came around the same time. The API was first introduced in the Xbox Series X, and has now been brought forward into the full Windows environment. The bandwidth provided by NVMe storage is massive compared to even SATA SSDs, and more games are starting to take advantage of that expectation. When loading something complex like a 4K texture, many games will break up the number of requests into smaller chunks, pulling data through IO at a faster but less efficient rate. The DirectStorage API offers a go-between for developers to smooth out the delivery of assets in larger chunks, reducing IO requests.

This allows consoles like Xbox and PS5 to handle a much higher performance workload with grace, compared to the previous generation of consoles. That 120 FPS isn’t easy to hit when you’re dealing with image and texture resolution approaching 4K. Now, Windows 10 & 11 both have this potential with the DirectStorage API. It’s important to note that it’s still very early days though, as GPU decompression is not in yet. Microsoft plans to add GPU decompression, which could speed up handling of assets in the same way the PS5’s dedicated chip does, in a future update.

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The DirectStorage API is basically the software side of modern console thinking applied to leverage the full bandwidth available to NVMe SSDs. The company notes that the best possible performance improvement will be seen on SSDs, but any storage medium should see some kind of improvement. The incoming SDK will allow developers to streamline their asset delivery by directly integrating the API into the applications. “While you may see benefits on any kind of storage device, installing games to an NVMe SSD will maximize your IO performance and help you more fully experience the benefits of DirectStorage, “ said the software giant.

This first release of DirectStorage includes the SDK framework that developers can use to put the feature into games and other apps. Later this month, Microsoft will appear at GDC to demo the new SDK, and to talk up its features.

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