DirectStorage: Microsoft finally deploys storage technology on Windows 11

Written by Guillaume
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This article is an automatic translation

A technique for accessing stored data that Microsoft has been promising us for two years and that should finally land on our PCs.

At the launch of its new home console, the Xbox Series X, Microsoft presented a new technology designed to considerably reduce the loading time of certain data while relieving the load on the main processor. A technique that should be particularly useful in video games, where the amount of data to be loaded has increased considerably in recent years, particularly due to the use of textures in very high definition to exploit the 1,440p and, even more, the 2,160p (or 4K).

On Xbox Series X, the technique has been in place since the console's release. However, as early as mid-2020, Microsoft explained that Windows PCs would benefit from it " quite quickly ". Called DirectStorage, the thing was however slow to materialize and while it should concern Windows 10, it finally branched off to the only Windows 11 available for a few months now, but it was still waiting. As Microsoft explained ina blog post, DirectStorage is now available.

The idea behind DirectStorage is to make the data of a game more directly accessible to the graphics card and its GPU. To do this, it is a matter of "short-circuiting" the CPU so that the communication between the SSD storing the data and the GPU processing it can interact directly. As you can see on the illustrations above, without DirectStorage, Windows is obliged to pass the data from the SSD to the RAM where the CPU comes to carry out the decompression before the GPU can really use it.

In contrast, with DirectStorage, things are done with fewer intermediaries. The data stored on the SSD is always taken to RAM and then to video memory. There the GPU can access it to perform all the necessary tasks without the CPU having any "say" in the matter. Of course, fewer intermediaries means faster processing of information. On a PC, to take advantage of this solution, you will need DirectX 12 and an SSD. In its blog post, Microsoft confirms that, finally, the technique is not limited to Windows 11 alone - Windows 10 is therefore also concerned - and that the once indispensable PCI Gen 3 NVMe SSD is no longer a sine qua non: a SATA SSD could also work, but we imagine that this will have an impact on performance.

However, one should not be in too much of a hurry yet on PC. Indeed, in its article, Microsoft states that DirectStorage is available, but it explains it " for developers ". In other words, this means that developers will now be able to integrate it into their productions, which will obviously take some time to master all its subtleties. Only then will we be able to take advantage of it in games developed to use DirectStorage, which means that we can't expect to see the first fruits before the end of the year at best.