StoreMI isn't a complete hardware-and-software package like Intel's Optane. Optane is an actual stick with onboard 3D NAND memory, whereas AMD's StoreMI is just software. We talked about Optane so much because it illustrates both the hardware and software points, and both might be used in next-gen consoles.
StoreMI also utilizes tiered storage, which is different from the cache method that Optane uses. Tiered storage is a method of combining two separate drives into one virtual drive.
Enterprise machines typically use tiered storage to combine slower mechanical HDD drives with faster SSDs drives to keep costs down while not tremendously jeopardizing speed.
StoreMI is software that AMD licensed from an enterprise company called Enmotus, and it comes with the AMD X470 chipset for Ryzen desktop processors. It could come natively installed on PS5 and Project Scarlett hardware too.
StoreMI essentially unifies your storage into one big package and hybridizes your drives into a big pool of available storage. So if you have a 2TB HDD and a 250GB SSD, StoreMI links the two and the operating system recognizes one drive with 2.25TB of storage.
StoreMI speed comparisons of an WD Blue HDD and Samsung SSD 860 Evo (Credit: Gadgets360)
Your new virtual drive won't magically ignore the lower speeds of the HDD, of course, and it won't typically be as fast as an SSD on its own, but the speeds don't drop all that much.
"If you are adding an SSD to a system with an HDD, the system will perform at SSD speeds. If you are adding an HDD to a system with an SSD, the system will continue to perform at SSD speeds, but you will enjoy the added capacity without needing to manually manage data across both drives."
As with Optane, StoreMI uses a machine-learning algorithm to prioritize important files. But StoreMI doesn't cache anything; instead it moves prioritized data from slower storage (HDD) to the faster storage (SSD) to allow speedier access. This would translate to faster load times in games as well as speedier texture pop-ins, asset loading, etc.
So why would Microsoft and Sony opt for this solution? It's simple: To save money on storage without having to give up higher speeds.
Here's how AMD explains StoreMI in laymen's terms:
"StoreMI kind of gives you the capacity of your hard drive with the speed of your SSD," AMD's Robert Hallock said in a walkthrough video.
"StoreMI merges your drives into one single storage device. What StoreMI does is looks at the files that you use most often, looks at what blocks of those files are being loaded most often, and then starts migrating them from the hard drive to the SSD.
"So, you have all the capacity of both drives, but you get the speed of your SSD in the files, or programs, that you use the most.
"The next thing StoreMI can do is pull in a little bit of RAM. We'll pull in about 2GB of RAM into this equation as well. So now I have the capacity of a hard drive, the speed of an SSD, and the super speed of memory. So now we get supercharged from the RAM as well."
With the drives unified and recruiting RAM to boost speeds, the entire system is now communicating in a more deeply-connected way. The onboard GDDR6 RAM could drastically accelerate data. Remember that consoles reserve a portion of RAM for OS usage, and its this pool the system could tap to supercharge data transfers from storage to the APU.