Now that we know how cache-acceleration and tiered storage works, and their potential, let's talk about what next-gen console storage could look like.
AMD has StoreMI, its own tiered storage software, but if the companies go with a cache solution, there's something missing: The actual modules themselves. This would have to be filled by OEMs, at least on Microsoft's part. Luckily OEMs are working on ReRAM solutions, including WesternDigital.
But Sony is making its own ReRAM solutions, and it's very likely the PS5 will have a built-in cache acceleration module similar to Intel's Optane solution, at least in practice.
With ReRAM persistent memory, the PlayStation 5's storage setup could look like this:
- 32GB - 64GB of ReRAM cache memory
- 1-2TB NVMe or even SATA SSD
Samsung also hinted that it'll provide the PlayStation 5's NVMe SSDs, and the same could be true for Microsoft.
With this setup, the PlayStation 5 and Project Scarlett systems would have easily expandable memory--hooking up an external SSD or HDD would tap the onboard ReRAM modules--and allow for easy internal SSD swaps. Well, at least for the PlayStation 5. Swapping out the Xbox One's internal drive is a nightmare.
It's also possible both Microsoft and Sony could just ship consoles with both an HDD and SSD, without an actual caching module to reduce costs. This could use the tiered storage approach with StoreMI.
Tiered storage solutions could look a little something like this:
- 1-2TB mechanical HDD
- 256GB NVMe PCIe 3.0 SSD (max capacity supported by StoreMI without buying into the FuzeDrive software upgrade)
- Both drives unified with AMD's StoreMI technology
StoreMI does seem unlikely, though. There are discrepancies between the HDD and SSD, and other problems like the 256GB SSD cap without buying into the FuzeDrive upgrade. The biggest roadblock is adding a new drive.
As for expandable drives, this could get tricky. Since StoreMI fuses two drives together, AMD confirms that StoreMI only works with two physical drives. It also doesn't work with any drives attached via USB--only SATA or NVMe. Anything more than two drives won't actually reap the benefits of the hardware.
If StoreMI is used, then gamers may have to copy their games from an external device over to the actual console storage to get the benefits of the software. Otherwise, the data would be based around the external storage's speeds and wouldn't enjoy the prioritization boost.
The solution could be AMD and Enmotus developing a special version of StoreMI specifically for consoles, allowing for more specially-formatted drives to be connected to the system. The same could be true for Project Scarlett.
Again, this is pretty unlikely. But we thought tiered storage was interesting enough to mention in this article.