Jacob, John, Faith and Joseph Seed are the family of zealots who want to save you from the Apocalypse by violently forcing you to subjugate yourself to them. That's the premise of Far Cry 5, a blockbuster game created by Ubisoft that served as the test bed for a demonstration of the power of edge computing. Edgegap, a company that works with cloud and edge service providers to deploy its software for dynamic server selection, recently released data showing how dramatically edge computing can slash latency.
The results of the company's Far Cry 5 edge computing tests could help move the sector further along by helping to create demand for such services. And that could have significant implications for companies like CenturyLink, Verizon, Akamai and Ericsson that are working to build out edge computing services and business models.
A better game
In Far Cry 5, the rules of the game allow multiplayer cooperation but the rules of the Internet prohibit peer-to-peer connections in many cases. Some players have restricted peer-to-peer access due to network address translation, which translates their private IP addresses into public addresses before forwarding packets to another network. Ubisoft works around this problem by redirecting the data transmission with a component called a "relay," which is essentially an intermediary between the restricted player and the other players in a game. But if the relay is too far from the players, the problem is not solved and players' connections might not be able to keep up with the developments in the game.
That's where Edgegap comes in. The company's Arbitrium software is designed to automatically choose the best edge site for each game instance. Instead of using public sites which may be located far away, Edgegap enables relays in the form of edge servers that can be closer to the players. Edgegap is able to automate decisions as to where relays should be deployed in real time.
In a recent test with Ubisoft, the company was able to show significant reductions in latency, jitter and dropped packages. Edgegap said its automated deployment of real-time relays improved gamers' experiences 95% of the time. The reason was faster round trip times for data exchanged between players -- the average round trip time with the Edgegap relays was 58% less than without. Average round trip time was just 49 milliseconds, versus 116 milliseconds with Ubisoft's current architecture.
Milliseconds can be worth millions in the gaming world. According to Edgegap, players with round trip data times above 100 milliseconds are the most likely to trash a game in online forums, which of course can put a big damper on sales. There's a lot at stake: the global games market is now worth an estimated $152 billion according to the latest research from Newzoo.
And gaming online is rapidly catching fire, given the launch of Stadia by Google and Microsoft's plans to bring its xCloud service to its Xbox console.
Location, location, location
Edgegap tested its system with Far Cry 5 using 142 potential computing locations, 35 times as many as Ubisoft currently uses. The company says latency is more closely related to distance than to any network-based factors. Creating the relays that are physically closer to the gamers means fewer hops, fewer routers and faster reaction times.
Right now, most of the edge sites used by Edgegap are in North America and in Europe, with a handful in Asia. The company says the locations are a mix of different edge computing infrastructure providers and public cloud providers. It is hoping to leverage more sites as telecom companies deploy edge computing. Edgegap markets its software as a way for telecom companies to further monetize their edge servers by increasing traffic flow.
Life on the edge
Startups like Edgegap are counting on the construction of more edge computing sites, and that will require companies that have the capital and expertise to deploy these sites to make a leap of faith. There is no guarantee that these sites can be monetized, but that hasn't stopped startups like Vapor and EdgeMicro from deploying miniature data centers in strategic locations. Vapor's financial backers include Berkshire Partners, Goldman Sachs and Crown Castle, which has experimented with placing Vapor's Kinetic Edge servers at tower sites.
If service providers and others continue to invest in mini data centers for edge computing, the telecom industry and the gaming industry could have a lot to offer one another. Gamers need the proximity of edge servers, and the companies that invest in those servers will need the traffic to generate financial returns.
After all, if online gamers can find a faster way to annihilate Joseph Seed, wireless carriers may find a faster way to pay for 5G networks.
— Martha DeGrasse, special to Light Reading. Follow her @mardegrasse