22 November 2019

Cloud gaming as driver for the Internet traffic of the future

On the occasion of the recently launched Google cloud gaming service Stadia, DE-CIX’s CTO Dr. Thomas King sheds light on the current challenges and what needs to happen for cloud gaming, even on a massive scale, to be successful. 

For many years now, the cloud has been a mainstay of the IT world. Cloud gaming, on the other hand, is still a relatively recent phenomenon. Up until now, installations on local drives are what has been prevalent in the gaming world. However, this is due to change in the future, because cloud gaming services – such as the recently launched Google cloud gaming service Stadia – are on the ascent. If cloud gaming reaches the point where it is the norm, this will lead to an enormous increase in data transmission – a trend that will also have implications for the infrastructure of the Internet. 

Cloud gaming will create immense amounts of data 

So far, relatively little information has been transmitted via online gaming. The really large program files are stored on the user's own hard drive. Cloud gaming is changing this. Since all computing operations are performed on one server, there will no longer be the need for local installation of the games. Then the home computer, smartphone, or other devices will only serve as an output medium. If you look at the increasingly realistic depictions of current games, you can readily imagine the immense amounts of data that will have to be dealt with. 
There are already current challenges with the transmission of games from the cloud; if the content is then transmitted in 4K, the bandwidth requirement increases further. A standard HD stream needs between 3 and 5 Mbps, but if it has 4K quality, it can easily reach 20 to 50 Mbps depending on compression. But this is not the end of the line yet; soon we will be talking about 8K.  

Latency will become even more important 

In addition to bandwidth requirements, latencies pose a major challenge for cloud gaming. A low latency time depends on many factors, one of which is definitely spatial proximity. For data transmission, the speed of light is a natural speed limit. At some point, an ever-faster transmission will therefore no longer be feasible. Therefore, other methods will be required: servers and nodes must be closer to the user. Data packets already take 15 milliseconds to get from Frankfurt to Madrid, and 40 milliseconds longer across the Atlantic. An ego shooter hosted in the USA can therefore hardly be reproduced seamlessly in Europe. And nobody likes jerky games. It will be crucial for cloud gaming providers to get their data and computing capacities as close as possible to their customers.