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Does Gaikai herald another change in Internet infrastructure?

By on July 10, 2009

Gaikai claims to offer near-instantaneous gameplay of high-end games on low-end consumer hardware. Is this trend going to spell the end of the Content Delivery Networks?

In the early days of the Internet, bandwidth was limited. As web pages changed from being primarily text-based to carrying images and other media files, load times increased until the user experience became unbearably bad.

The solution for many was to provide local servers close to all the major population centres. Companies such as Akamai mirrored popular sites which reduced the delay in asking for lots of separate files (images, text, ads and so on.)

Recently, however, the trend has been for bandwidth-hungry websites to need to send one big file, not lots of little ones. If you are streaming a video or downloading a game, you only need one file, but you want it to come down the fattest pipe you can find.

Enter the Content Delivery Networks (CDNs).

CDNs, such as Limelight Networks, have a small number of datacentres but these are wired up with some of the fattest pipes in the Internet today. It may take a long time (in Internet latency terms) for the request to stream Shrek 2 to reach their datacentre, but once the file starts coming down, it’s blisteringly fast.

But Gaikai suggests that they need to reverse the trend towards centralisation and have more points of presence. “OnLive says it’ll have five datacentres… Our strategy is to go much, much more denser than that,” Perry told Eurogamer. “We’re going to be constantly adding datacentres.”

So if Gaikai (and services like it) take off, the priority will not be to have vast datacentres in the Nevada desert. It will be to have small server-farms located near population centres.

It’s like 2000 all over again.

Gaikai screenshot

About Nicholas Lovell

Nicholas is the founder of Gamesbrief, a blog dedicated to the business of games. It aims to be informative, authoritative and above all helpful to developers grappling with business strategy. He is the author of a growing list of books about making money in the games industry and other digital media, including How to Publish a Game and Design Rules for Free-to-Play Games, and Penguin-published title The Curve: