The backbone of the Xbox Series X’s ultra-fast storage technology is coming to Windows

Microsoft’s reveal of the Xbox Series X already makes the console look like a top-of-the-line gaming PC in terms of its specifications. But Microsoft said Monday that at least part of its revolutionary new storage architecture, DirectStorage, will be coming to real PCs. 

DirectStorage is the Windows API that will be used to control what Microsoft calls the Xbox Velocity Architecture. It’s Microsoft’s approach to reducing the storage capacity that an Xbox Series X game will require, promising to load the game and its assets as quickly as possible.

It’s a small but key part of the Xbox Series X game console, whose specifications were released in full in a Monday blog post. In the post, Microsoft said, “This newest member of the DirectX family is being introduced with Xbox Series X and we plan to bring it to Windows as well.”

xbox velocity architecture Microsoft

Microsoft’s Velocity Engine Architecture even has its own logo.

How the Xbox Velocity Architecture works

Before today, Microsoft had already made some of the details surrounding the Xbox Series X public, including that it’s powered by a CPU based on AMD’s latest Zen 2 core, as well as an advanced Radeon GPU that supports hardware-based ray tracing. Microsoft also told us that an SSD would be included, so as to virtually eliminate load times. One of its mysteries, though, has been what a large, undefined slot on the back of the console will be used for. 

Xbox Series X external storage Microsoft

The new Seagate NVMe drives will plug into the back of the Xbox Series X.

Well, now we know. The slot will receive the Seagate Storage Expansion Card for Xbox Series X—a custom, removeable 1TB NVMe drive that will (obviously) be manufactured by Seagate. The NVMe interface, which connects directly to the PCI Express bus, will be used to minimize latency. It guarantees 2.4GB/s of throughput that will allow the drive to serve as a sort of virtual memory, according to Digital Foundry’s behind-the-scenes look. The 1TB removable memory card will double the Xbox Series X’s existing 1TB internal SSD storage, though there apparently will be other capacity points as well

The SSD and the DirectStorage API will be two of the four parts within the Xbox Series X Velocity Architecture, which also includes a dedicated hardware decompression block, and what Microsoft calls Sampler Feedback Streaming. All will work together to reduce latency in loading new games and restoring old saved game states quickly. Microsoft calls this latter feature Quick Resume, and it will allow gamers to quickly resume saved games across multiple games, and not just one. 

Seagate Storage Expansion Card for Xbox Series X Seagate

A closer look at the new Seagate Expansion Card for the Xbox Series X.

“The CPU is the brain of our new console and the GPU is the heart, but the Xbox Velocity Architecture is the soul,” said Andrew Goossen, the technical Fellow on Xbox Series X at Microsoft. “The Xbox Velocity Architecture is about so much more than fast last times. It’s one of the most innovative parts of our new console. It’s about revolutionizing how games can create vastly bigger, more compelling worlds.”

At this point, many questions about Xbox Velocity Architecture remain unanswered. For example: whether it’s an open design that will be licensed to other storage manufacturers to reduce prices; whether the interface will allow users to daisy-chain or otherwise combine cards to avoid having to replace them; what price Seagate will charge for these cards; and what performance penalty users will face if they use USB-connected drives with the Xbox Series X.

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