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The cloud gaming era is upon us. Is your router ready?

Dec 18, 2018

cloudThe explosion of cloud services brings the bulk of computational load to the servers located on the Internet, freeing up the end devices from having to do this. This new paradigm gives rise to more demanding network requirements, both on the Internet and in the domestic routers used for access. Today we will focus on the requirements of cloud-based video gaming services, which, although incipient, are becoming increasingly accessible.

What is cloud gaming and how does it work?

Cloud gaming, also known as Game on Demand, is a video streaming platform specially designed for video games. The games are processed in the game provider’s data centers and their result is sent to the player through a video streaming system to be viewed. The player interacts with the videogame through an input device, usually a keyboard, controller or mobile device, and commands are sent back to the data center for processing and to generate new video scenes as a result of the interaction.

The advantage of this new architecture is that the player doesn’t need updated equipment to be able enjoy the latest games on the market. On the other hand, certain network features are required in order to provide a satisfactory experience.

What network requirements are there for accessing cloud gaming services?

The network requirements for accessing cloud gaming services are determined by network bandwidth and latency (or ping). The bandwidth limits the maximum image quality that can be viewed (download or downstream direction), while the latency limits the game’s reaction speed to user-generated commands (upload or upstream direction). This last concept is commonly known as input-lag in the world of video games.

As of today, and in accordance with the information provided by the NVIDIA GeForce NOW service, to cover the downstream requirements usually requires a 10 Mbps connection for a minimum resolution of up to 50 Mbps for reproducing 1080p at 60 FPS. To cover the upstream requirements the limit is usually a network latency of 60 ms, with a minimum recommended latency of 40 ms. These requirements require not only a fast and modern Internet connection, but also an access router that is capable of managing and routing traffic smoothly.

What techniques can be adopted in routers to meet the needs raised?

In view of the requirements, a device capable of routing traffic characterized by long continuous high-bandwidth traffic sessions is required for the downstream direction. The solution can be addressed by using routers with powerful processors capable of moving a lot of traffic, although traffic accelerators (hardware or software) can be used to alleviate these processing needs.

The traffic in the upstream direction can be characterized as very latency-sensitive bursty traffic. For this reason, powerful processors and traffic accelerators may not be enough; thus, QoS can be added to the equation here. To accelerate traffic in cloud gaming services, you must first identify it and then give a higher priority to the rest of the traffic routed by the router. Even so, some providers, such as GeForce NOW mentioned earlier, advise disabling QoS in case the access router is unable to correctly prioritize the traffic destined to its services.

And finally, if you are accessing the Internet via Wi-Fi, you must try to connect to the router using the 802.11ac standard on the 5 GHz channel, which supports the current maximum speeds, since the speed and delay are affected in the 2.4 GHz channel. Don’t forget though that connecting directly to the output router using an Ethernet cable will always be preferable.

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