Microsoft officially launches DirectStorage 1.1 - GPU-accelerated asset loading is coming
GPUs can decompress nearly 3x faster than CPUs, and free up CPU headroom for other tasks
Published: 9th November 2022 | Source: Microsoft |
DirectStorage 1.1 is here, and it adds GPU-based decompression to dramatically speed up loading times
Microsoft launched their DirectStorage 1.0 technology earlier this year, but it was missing some key components. DirectStorage is designed to accelerate the performance of storage inside modern PC and consoles, with high-end NVMe SSDs being Microsoft's primary area of focus.
DirectStorage 1.0 is designed to eliminate many of the bottlenecks that can lower storage performance, enabling faster game loading times and better utilisation of modern SSDs. The problem with DirectStorage 1.0 is that is only offers support for decompression on CPUs, leaving plenty of room for additional acceleration.
Microsoft has now launched DirectStorage 1.1, and delivers support for GPU decompression using a new decompression format called GDeflate, a compression format that was contributed by Nvidia. DirectStorage 1.1 is designed to further accelerate game loading times and asset streaming by using GPU resources to do these tasks instead of CPUs.
What does DirectStorage 1.0 do?
DirectStorage 1.0 is designed to improve the data transfer speeds of applications, allowing users of high-end NVMe storage devices to make use of the higher levels of bandwidth offered by their hardware. When combined with the storage improvements that Microsoft has included with Windows 11, Microsoft has claimed that DirectStorage 1.0 can shorten loading times by up to 40%.
Now that Microsoft has given developers full access to the performance of modern storage devices, developers now want ways to make use of this data in a more efficient manner. Having access to this level of bandwidth is not useful when fully utilising it will force high decompression loads on your processor. This is why Microsoft has decided to focus on data decompression with DirectStorage 1.1.
How does DirectStorage 1.1 improve things further?
Let's face it, GPUs have seen their performance levels increase at a much faster rate than CPUs over the past decade. With this in mind, it makes sense for developers to offload CPU related tasks onto GPUs whenever possible. With DirectStorage 1.1, Microsoft has added support for GPU decompression, which allows scenes to loads nearly 3x faster than CPU decompression.
Using DirectStorage 1.1 with GPU Decompression allows developers to make use of the high data rates available from NVMe SSDs and allows GPUs to accelerate data decompression. This allows CPU headroom to be freed up for other tasks, and allows developers to load and use data from storage much faster.
Developers can use DirectStorage 1.1 to deliver ultra-fast loading times and to allow more assets to be streamed into games on-the-fly. This is a big deal for fast-paced games and large open-world titles where game worlds can change at an ultra-fast pace.
Early DirectStorage 1.1 GPU drivers from AMD, Intel, and Nvidia
GPU decompression is supported on all DirectX 12 + Shader Model 6.0 GPUs. However, one of the benefits of DirectStorage 1.1 is that GPU hardware vendors can provide additional optimizations for their hardware, called metacommands.
For more information about support for these metacommands from Microsoft's partners, please follow the links below. As always, it is recommended that you update to the latest drivers for your gaming hardware for the best performance.
DirectStorage 1.1 will help to make future games less CPU-limited and allow games to load significantly faster. In time, GPU manufacturers could also add specific hardware that is dedicated to GPU decompression, taking load off their shaders and compute units to eliminate DirectStorage's impact on GPU performance.
With DirectStorage, Microsoft is giving developers space to innovate with their future games by effectively removing loading times and data streaming bottlenecks that could inhibit their creativity. In time, we expect DirectStorage to evolve further, and for developers to make creative use of its feature set.