DirectStorage 1.1 will soon decompress your PC gaming GPU

Microsoft has announced that DirectStorage will get its first major update later this year with DirectStorage 1.1, and it will bring a major new addition in the form of GPU decompression. The goal is to reduce load times further by offloading decompressing assets onto the GPU rather than using the CPU for it.

DirectStorage debuted on Xbox Series X consoles | S, but the API was rolled out to PC game developers earlier this year. However, the initial release did not include all the promised changes. Microsoft focused first on stack optimizations, reducing the burden when reading data from NVMe SSDs and enabling parallel I/O requests so that more data can be transferred to the CPU or GPU at one time. By allowing different requests to be processed, fast NVMe drives can take advantage of maximum bandwidth, rather than keeping users waiting for each request to complete before starting the next. By itself, these changes can actually reduce load times by up to 40%.

But decompressing the GPU is also a big problem. When you install a game, assets – such as decorations – are usually compressed to free up space on your drive. However, when the game is loaded and launched, it is normal for these assets to be quickly decompressed for use, and this is usually handled by the CPU, which then sends the uncompressed assets to the GPU so they can be accessed as needed. In the past, compression formats were mostly optimized for CPUs, so this made sense. But, as Microsoft explains, GPUs are great for handling decompression tasks like this, so offloading that work to the GPU means assets are decompressed more quickly. If the assets are optimized for GPU decompression, you can get much faster speeds.

In the example below, Microsoft shows how 5.65GB of assets loads about three times faster using GPU decompression when properly optimized. You also see that the CPU usage is much lower during this process, so it frees up resources for other tasks.

A sample screenshot from an asset decompress, showing how a GPU decompressor can process 5.65GB of files in just 0.8 seconds, compared to 2.36 seconds using a CPU decompressor

To help bring this together, Microsoft worked with Nvidia to create GDeflate, a new compression format optimized for GPU decompression, ready to take advantage of DirectStorage 1.1. In addition to higher speeds, the new format should help you save disk space and also save interconnect bandwidth. While Nvidia contributed to the format, any GPU maker can take advantage of it, and Microsoft is working with Intel and AMD to enable their drivers to take advantage of it as well.

Of course, there are some hardware and software requirements that fully utilize DirectStorage. Both Windows 10 and 11 are supported, but the latter has certain improvements to the storage stack that make it more efficient. You’ll also need a computer with an NVMe SSD and your GPU needs support for DirectX 12 and Shader Model 6.0, although Microsoft also recommends support for DirectX 12 Ultimate. Additionally, keep in mind that DirectStorage 1.11 is a tool for developers, so you’ll need to wait for games to actually use them once they’re released, so it won’t just be a magical upgrade for every game out there. Microsoft says it will release the upgraded API by the end of 2022.

source: Microsoft

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