The latest round of PR from the Microsoft camp would have us believe that the next generation Xbox One console will have up to 5 teraflops of power behind it with game processing being moved to the cloud. However, many are questioning whether or not these claims have any grounding in reality or if they are simply a way to compete against the rival Playstation 4 console from Sony which is already locking down some superior specs, particularly after Microsoft came under fire for initial plans to block pre-owned games.
Microsoft Claim That Xbox One Will Be Twice As Powerful As PS4
Even before the official reveal of the Xbox One, whitepaper leaks had already outed some of the console’s hardware specifications and when compared with the Playstation 4 Microsoft’s console seemed to pale in comparison as it would feature an inferior memory bandwidth and a less powerful graphic core. However, during the live reveal and the publicity that followed the event Microsoft were keen to push the potential computing power of the console with continual references to ‘the power of the cloud.’
In one interview, Microsoft’s Australian spokesperson Adam Pollington suggested that the Xbox One would be forty times more powerful than Xbox 360. Meanwhile, general manager of Redmond Game Studios and Platforms, Matt Booty suggested that, ‘a rule of thumb we like to use is that [for] every Xbox One available in your living room we’ll have three of those devices in the cloud available.’ If these claims are true then the console will not only be more than twice as powerful as the PS4 and comparable to some high end gaming PCs. It is this which is casting some doubt on Microsoft’s claims.
The Limitations of The Cloud
The basis of cloud computing is that large groups of servers where the generic processors can be switched between tasks as required. Microsoft currently operate the Azure cloud platform which rivals competing products from Amazon and Google. In terms of a server interface, Microsoft has developed Orleans which is currently used for games in the Halo franchise. So all of the pieces are there to allow developers to send requests to servers and access the processing power they require, but there are still some pieces missing if the claims surrounding Xbox One are to come to fruition, namely latency and bandwidth.
Latency is something which will have a direct impact on how quickly computational requests on the cloud will be addresses. This means that games will send a request and wait on a reply, which will be hindered by the general speeds of the internet which is slow in relation to real time computing. Data could be retrieved from a CPU’s cache within a few nanoseconds, but data not stored in the cache can take a few hundred nanoseconds. When internet latency is factored in, responses could take up to 100,000 nanoseconds which is bad news for gamers.
It may be possible to work around latency, but the main stumbling block is going to be bandwidth. The most recent ‘State of the Internet’ report indicates that the average broadband speed in the developed world struggles to meet 8mbps. This means that regardless of the processing power available on the cloud, Xbox One consoles have only 1MB/s of processed data to work with.
These issues mean that the cloud is actually not suited to use for real time jobs leaving us wondering how it is going to work in gaming. At the moment the idea does not seem feasible, and Microsoft will need to put in some major effort to create a practical demonstration if they hope to sway consumers!
What do you think? Leave a comment below on if you think Microsoft will be able to handle the limitations mentioned in the article.
Andy Heaps is both the editor and chief technical advisor with thecomparison.co.uk . Andy loves using the knowledge that he has gain in his 15 years working within the telecoms industry to share information with others on tech related issues and encourages all consumers to compare broadband by TheComparison.co.uk .