The Rising of Cloud Gaming: My views
- Life, IT and Video Games - Part 1/6
- The Boom of The Cloud - Part 2/6
- Game On and Heads Up! - Part 3/6
- From your Room to the Data Center - Part 4/6 ⇐ You are Here.
- Google Stadia and Beyond - Part 5/6
- Cloudy Games - Part 6/6
Virtual Desktops Infrastructure
Among the IT solutions I design at work, Desktop Virtualization is the one I focused on. Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) is what is what I call a big topic, yet a basic concept of VDI is essential for this post series. I do believe that VDI plays an indispensable role in the evolution of cloud gaming.
Virtual Desktops Infrastructure (VDI) is nothing but allowing workers to access a remote computer, located in an organization's premises or a data center (the cloud), from any device. This, while making things easy for the IT department and improving desktop mobility. The biggest challenge? Offering the worker the same or better user experience than a PC or laptop.
I have prepared several presentations about VDI, for the Sales and Marketing divisions, for colleagues and customers; and always it has been a challenge to explain VDI using a few words due it technically covers so much; that everyone gets quickly overwhelmed.
Take a look at one of my first posts: They thought VDI was... simply VDI.
Lucky for you, we can easily separate the idea of VDI using the back-end infrastructure and the front-end user experience. If you are the user, a final customer, then you don’t need to know what is happening on the back-end. Let the CIOs, IT Administrators, System Administrators, and Solutions Architects 🙂 to worry about the design of all this bulky and expensive infrastructure.
Similar to cloud computing, VDI was initially born to improve the IT infrastructure, fast provisioning, and better management. VDI has also evolved into the cloud; systems infrastructures are welcoming Desktop as a Service (DaaS) solutions from companies such as AWS, VMware, or Microsoft Azure, providing a full cloud desktop alternative.
In this cloud era, the future of VDI and Cloud Gaming also stands with the mobility tendency, “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD). The concept of BYOD is self-explanatory, and the idea is that having your own device, you can have full ownership of it, while still accessing remotely to a working platform. Or even now, a gaming platform.
One more time, the key to a successful VDI solution is the user experience! No user cares about the design; no user need to know what brand of hardware is used, no user needs to understand the back-end configuration of the infrastructure. Users just need their “remote computer” to work. Failing to understand this, and the solution will fail.
Note: Severe and critical tasks can separate Cloud Gaming from Desktop Virtualization. If the first fails, the game is over, if the second fails, the work is over.
“The world’s first GPU for Cloud Computing.”
What is the crucial computing resource to improve the user experience in gaming computers? The GPU.
In 2012, Nvidia announced the world's first Graphic Processor Unit (GPU) developed for cloud computing, based on Nvidia's Kepler GPU -the Nvidia VGX. Nvidia’s purpose was to have the VGX in a datacenter so that users could access a real powerful remote virtual machine from any device. [Source]
GPUs in a data center were originally intended for a niche target, CAD users, and some 3D applications, now, it has boomed to all standard VDI users. It's so important the use of GPUs that if in 2019 you don’t consider them on a VDI project you’ll have a big chance of failure. GPUs offload computing resources from the CPU, so that, this latest can perform other heavy computing stuff. Just consider this, even regular laptops under $500, are including GPUs. Would you like to downgrade your user experience moving to a non-GPU device? No, you already learned that sacrificing user experience is not an option.
The same year (2012) Nvidia announced the video cards for VDI, was the same year I started working with VMware vSphere projects. I was already amazed by the virtualization technology, and my first thought when I realized about GPUs for the data center was: “Wouldn't be cool to play video games on/from a virtual desktop?” I also remember mentioning the idea to a friend of mine and my wife, saying, “I want to work on this idea so bad.” Bah! of course, the idea was developed already, and I meant to do “shirt,” but I started to understand the business’s concept.
Also, the idea in my head was simple. “I can create powerful computer (virtual machines) on multiples servers (cluster) to play any game, and when a new graphics-rich game is released, I just need to add more computing resource, CPU, GPU or RAM, or simply migrate it to a most powerful or new server. We are just getting all the advantages of virtualization! But wait! What if as same as virtual desktops (Now DaaS), these machines are rented monthly or even better, just charge for played time, similar to a ‘public console room’? Cool, Imaging creating several machines and play on the same server to take LAN parties to a different level.”
Yep, I wasn't the only one, for sure. Like many in the IT industry, working on similar solutions, we had the same idea. This business model is very well developed now and knows it as a cloud gaming.
So, let’s recap this section again. If GPUs got essential for ordinary office workers, what do you think is the situation for gamers? It is even more crucial; it is imperative.
Shadow, You got my Curiosity.
I must admit to you that even I’ve been following this industry very close for a long time, Shadow got me by surprise. It was the first time I saw “that exact same idea I had” years ago on production. And being honest, this video was the real motivation to write this blog series.
Shadow is one of the most active players in this cloud gaming era.
The video below is the best example to understand what I explained before about VDI and GPUs section. The YouTube channel Linus Tech Tips published this video under the name of “The gaming PC days are numbered” and is sponsored by Shadow, so don’t trust everything, get your takeaway to understand the big picture of this section.
The reason that Shadow got my curiosity was due to their services work under the same principles of Virtualization and VDI in general. Shadow has its own data centers to run their gaming platform services, for now, unlike other competitors that run and take advantage of cloud computing platforms like AWS.
“Forget about hardware: Shadow is a full Windows computer you can access through a simple app. Anything you can do on a high-end computer, you can do on Shadow.” Just like VDI, right?
With Shadow, you won’t only access to a gaming platform; the powerful computer hosted by the data center could also be easily used as a remote work station for designers or CAD users from any device. By the way, Google Chromebooks are considered the most versatile devices to connect and work on VDI solutions. Probably, shortly, also to access your favorite gaming platforms such as Shadow or Google Stadia.
The video also shows that Shadow is intended to be used with a proprietary zero client device, the Shadow Ghost. This device can be used to play games from any TV, and its primary function is to lower the internet latency, meaning, improving the user experience.
The gaming latency is going to be one of the biggest challenges that this gaming industry needs to resolve soon to win the heart of new gamers and not disappoint the true veteran players.