The cloud has proven itself to be an ideal technology for the global and mobile business world. But the cloud doesn’t have to be all about work. Gamers are also turning to the cloud. However, to truly optimize cloud-based gaming, companies need an infrastructure that can scale to handle millions of new users, with world-class reliability and vendor neutrality to control costs. Historically, cloud gaming systems have been closed-source with proprietary protocols, but slowly, the open cloud is making its way into the gaming world.
For instance, a group of researchers developed what they consider to be the first open cloud gaming system that can be used on any OS and is supposed to match or exceed the processing capabilities of some of the most popular cloud gaming systems. Sony has also introduced an open cloud gaming platform, Gaikai.
The Benefit of this Open Cloud Gaming System
The benefit of this open cloud gaming system, according to website The Art of Service, is the ability to “play games which normally require systems with powerful graphics cards and tons of RAM on even lower-end systems.”
From a technical point of view, there is very little difference between an open cloud gaming system and a closed cloud gaming system, according to Benjamin Ellinger, Director of the Game Design Program and Software Production at DigiPen Institute of Technology. “The difference is whether there is an established service such as Gaikai or OnLive that is providing the servers and bandwidth, or whether you have to host your own servers and provide your own bandwidth,” he said.
Almost the entire challenge for cloud gaming comes down to being able to stream a live game at a low enough bandwidth and with low enough latency to create a good player experience, Ellinger pointed out.
“While the software to do this is a little bit of a challenge, it’s the location and cost of the server farms that are the real issue,” he said. “OnLive went with server farms that were fewer in number and further apart (but more cost-effective), and arguably the increased latency this caused was a major factor in their downfall. Gaikai went with more server farms that were on average closer to the players (but more expensive), then got bought by Sony (so they obviously think this strategy will work, although it remains to be seen if it does.”
The challenge of even these well-funded closed systems shows the problem with an open system: the servers are the hard part. “If I try to run my own cloud servers for a game I make (or even for a set of games my studio makes), I’ve got a huge on-going cost that I can’t make cheaper by load-balancing a lot of different games from different studios/publishers,” Ellinger continued. “A closed service is going to be able to do that much cheaper (and with lower latency, better reliability, etc.), so I’m much better off just paying them a cut to do it for me. It makes sense that a platform company, like Sony, would run a service like this because they have a huge number of games on their platform, so it could in theory work.”
Cloud gaming could introduce a whole new audience to the gaming industry, primarily through its ease of use. Even better, open source gaming takes away the barriers of operating systems, browsers, and cost.
Sue Proemba blogs for Rackspace Hosting. Rackspace Hosting is the service leader in cloud computing, and a founder of OpenStack, an open source cloud operating system. The San Antonio-based company provides Fanatical Support to its customers and partners, across a portfolio of IT services, including Managed Hosting and Cloud Computing