Microsoft has unveiled the latest update from its cloud-computing service, Azure, in a demonstration at the recently concluded MS Build Conference. Slated to be Microsoft’s answer to Google and Amazon web services, Azure utilizes the power of the cloud to “enable new kinds of experiences that have never been possible”.
At the MS Build Conference 2014, held in San Francisco, Microsoft introduced a one of a kind cloud ecosystem within the Microsoft Azure. The new service, which promised to deliver fully a integrated cloud experience, allows users to access cross-platform technologies, tools and services, all in one place. Aside from adding .NET back-end support, offline data syncing and the Active Directory authentication system, the Azure platform can be used to enhance your current games.
Game developer Respawn Entertainment utilized Microsoft Azure for the Xbox One shooter, Titanfall. In the demonstration, which you can watch here, Microsoft highlights how Azure can utilize the power of the cloud to speed up rendering and other applications.
The Next Generation of Gaming?
As part of the second day keynote address at Build, the demo team measured a typical PC’s GPU performance with that of a PC connected to the Azure cloud service, using a simulation of a building being destroyed via rocket launchers.
As seen in the demo, the PC that was running without being connected to Azure worked at a greatly reduced frame rate of 2 FPS. This is due to randomly generated debris and particles showing on screen, affecting the PC’s GPU performance.
On the other hand, the PC rig connected to Azure maintained its 32 FPS frame rate and was able to handle all physics computations. The simulation, which is a prototype, illustrates the next step in gaming.
While there’s no word on when the service will be offered, Microsoft is showing the kind of features which can be utilized using Azure and how amazing it would be if cloud computing is integrated into gaming development, particularly in first person shooter genre.
Playing Catch Up
Now that the new Azure is out and it’s promising a myriad of features, the question is, are developers willing to give Azure a try when similar more established cloud infrastructures like Amazon and Google are offering massive computer power at better price points? Developing apps and tools for the cloud is certainly challenging for developers.
But Microsoft promises to simplify the process, and promising to deliver benefits without compromising speed, scale or cost.
Microsoft definitely has a lot of catching up to do. But with the unveiling of Azure’s new updates, Microsoft is hoping to separate itself from other cloud-computing service providers by offering different apps and tools for development.
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In addition, while the demo looked promising, the technology behind it is still in its first stages. One obvious caveat about utilizing Azure for gaming is that the service will require computing factors and bandwidth connectivity to play a game. Such games will require high speed Internet, which is fine if you live in the city, but for many of us who doesn’t live in the city, such speed is nearly impossible to achieve.
Another factor that game developers will need to hurdle when integrating Azure services into their games, is the downtime. In the past, Microsoft Azure was down for 8 hours across the country, leaving hundreds of subscribers seething. The outage shows how moving essential services to cloud-based platforms does not guarantee an uninterrupted service for users.
Microsoft leaves every other cloud-computing vendor in the dust (at least for now) with its Azure cloud-based infrastructure, but the tech giant has barely scratched the surface as far as the potentials of cloud computing go.
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While cloud-based gaming leaves more questions than answers, due to the technology being limited, there’s no doubt that this is an exciting time for gamers.