2019 Preview: Edge computing advances will bolster video streaming and cloud gaming

PCCW Global has joined the Google Cloud Partner Interconnect program (Image MF3d / iStockPhoto)
The network edge is the place to be. (MF3d/iStockPhoto)

Editor’s Note: This article is part of our 2019 Preview feature, which looks at the big topics facing the industry next year. Click here for the 2019 preview in the wireless industry, click here for the 2019 preview in the video industry and click here for the 2019 preview in the wireline industry.

Edge computing—as an extension of cloud services in the market—is already having an impact in the streaming industry. But as video traffic continues to grow in 2019 and cloud gaming takes off, it will become more important than ever.

One of the benefits of edge computing—which essentially means moving compute power closer to the end user than the cloud data center can typically get—is a reduction in latency. That means live video streams can improve the experience and get closer to broadcast quality. It also means streamed games can get near-instantaneous response times between controls and on-screen action.

The rise of video on the internet is already well documented. But still, recent figures from Cisco about video traffic are astounding. According to the company’s newest Visual Networking Index, video traffic will quadruple by 2022. At that point, video will account for 82% of all IP traffic, up from 75% today.

Somewhat less well known is how big cloud gaming might eventually get. Both Google and Microsoft are currently conducting trials by streaming AAA titles over the internet, and heavyweight hardware companies like Nintendo and Sony have been streaming games.

Peter Chave, principal architect at Akamai Technologies, said trials like these could be the seeds of a cloud gaming industry that rivals the scale of today’s video streaming industry.

“Eleven years ago, Netflix launched its ubiquitous online-streaming platform, setting the stage to change the way we consume video content. WebRTC is poised to cause a similar level of disruption for the gaming industry,” Chave said. “There have been many fits and starts in cloud gaming over the past decade, but new attempts are proving stable and impressive. In ten years time, we might see the cloud-based gaming model become the industry standard.”

But for live video to continue improving and for cloud gaming to truly arrive, cloud computing will have to get edgier.

By decentralizing the processing power and using network edge architecture, companies can avoid creating peering bottlenecks while handling streaming video and game data, according to Mike Milligan, senior director of product and solution marketing at Limelight Networks.

“By instead sending source video streams to edge computing instances where they are replicated and scaled closer to viewers, content providers can optimize video workflows. This helps bypass middle-mile bottlenecks, reduce transit costs and deliver a higher-quality, low-latency stream to viewers. For video gaming, processing game data closer to players (rather than sending it to distant data centers) delivers faster performance while minimizing the number of network hops that data has to travel,” Milligan said.

As video streaming and cloud gaming grow in 2019, so will edge computing. — Ben | @fierce__video