Sony creates custom PS3 hardware for PlayStation Now Quote:
Sony has developed brand new PS3 hardware to power its PlayStation Now streaming service, revealed earlier this month at CES in Las Vegas. Sources who have been briefed on the project suggest that the new PlayStation 3 consists of eight custom console units built into a single rack server. It's the new PlayStation hardware that everyone will have access to, but few will actually see.
Initially, Digital Foundry has learned that Sony experimented by placing standard retail units into datacentres, but plans to use this for the actual PlayStation Now service were shelved for a number of reasons. For starters there's the sheer space requirement, along with power efficiency issues, as even the most recent PS3 hardware can still draw up to 80W from the mains. Sony's engineers were able to mitigate both issues by shrinking the equivalent of eight PS3s onto a single motherboard, housed in a slimline server cabinet.
The second reason for the all-new PlayStation 3 server design is that it allows Sony to make hardware changes to the PS3 configuration that claw back a few vital milliseconds here and there to lower end-to-end latency.
To understand this, we start by looking back at the PC-driven OnLive and Gaikai services, which are very similar. The idea with those services is that games run at 60Hz (or even higher) on PC hardware, lowering end-to-end latency by something in the region of 50ms compared to the console 30fps standard. Second-gen cloud hardware like GeForce Grid actually improves on that significantly by tying the video encoder directly into the graphics hardware.
These latency-saving measures are then offset against the cloud streaming workflow - video encode, transmission over the internet, and client-side decode. In a very best-case scenario with OnLive and Gaikai, we can see input lag that is very, very close to a 30Hz console experience. Indeed, in our original Gaikai testing, we were able to play Bulletstorm with an end-to-end latency that occasionally hit 133ms - the same as the Xbox 360 version. It was an exceptional result (one captured for posterity if you're interested), but as a proof-of-concept it was extremely effective - and achieved on a standard ADSL connection.
In order to retain compatibility with the existing library of games, the code-facing hardware within PlayStation 3 cannot be changed significantly: Cell and RSX - the CPU and GPU of the veteran console - can't be radically changed without introducing incompatibilities with the existing library of software. This presents a problem: the majority of PS3 titles run at 30 frames per second with input latency in the region of 100-150ms. Add on the cloud overhead and you're looking at a rather unsavoury, laggy experience.
Gaikai was primarily a software team, but once it was bought up by Sony it was suddenly faced with a problem that could only be tackled by bespoke hardware. In creating new PS3 servers for the PlayStation Now, the team worked closely with their new colleagues in engineering, creating a new PS3 adapted to the cloud streaming challenge. The "secret sauce" of the new design remains just that - in its briefings to publishers participating in the current closed beta testing, Sony has only revealed rough details of the servers - but we can make some educated guesses on how the existing PS3 design could be tightened up for improved cloud gameplay.
Interesting stuff and more at the link.
8 bespoke PS3's in one server rack sounds a lot better than having one console run one game
If remote play is anything to go buy then I believe the guys at Gaikai will develop this well.
Only problem for me is the 2015 europe launch date.