Cloud

LiquidSky: A new paradigm for ultra low latency 3D rendering from a cloud-based VM?

LiquidSky, a new DaaS gaming platform, claims to deliver high performance cloud desktops that are latency-free. If true, users of resource-intensive business software should take notice.

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Image: LiquidSky

Rumors about the death of the desktop have, for quite some time, been greatly exaggerated. While the average user doesn't need a powerful rig to get work done there's still a place for heavy-duty computers in CAD/CAM, video production, photo editing, and gaming.

A new company on the block might be changing all that, however: LiquidSky's DaaS (desktop-as-a-service) platform plans to deliver resource-intensive 3D performance—all without latency—straight from the cloud.

Why cloud gaming?

LiquidSky cofounder Ian McLoughlin started out interested in video compression several years ago. "I found a way to stream video over WANs without any latency, and I knew I had something special," McLoughlin said. He dropped out of college and started looking for somewhere to apply his h264-based compression algorithm.

Around that time one of the first cloud-based gaming platforms, OnLive, came into being—but they had a serious issue: latency. "They couldn't eliminate latency, which is part of the reason they didn't succeed," McLoughlin said.

SEE: VDI vs. DaaS: What is the difference, and which is best for your business' virtualization needs? (TechRepublic)

LiquidSky was born out of McLoughlin's seeing early game streaming failures and realizing that he might have a solution. He partnered with cofounder Scott Johnson in 2014 and the two started working on a way to use his h264 compression algorithm to succeed where others had failed.

McLoughlin and Johnston also wanted to solve another problem they saw in cloud gaming: restricted catalogs. "We want to provide a basic VM that acts just like a regular PC," McLoughlin said. That means no proprietary catalog and no restrictive partnerships: just a cloud-based Windows machine that can run any software the user wants to install.

How LiquidSky does it

At the hardware level there isn't much to differentiate LiquidSky from other DaaS providers. They use IBM Softlayer to provide basic Windows Server VMs. But that's where the similarity ends.

LiquidSky uses McLoughlin's h264 algorithm along with a custom-built hypervisor and custom Nvidia drivers. All three work together to provide a low-latency experience that is designed to run the newest games and the heaviest rendering software without a hitch.

Gaming isn't all

"If you can win a gamer over you can win anyone over," McLoughlin said. LiquidSky plans to extend their platform into the business world, and to do so they've brought two power players on board: Scott McNealy, cofounder of Sun Microsystems, and Bill Raduchel, Sun and AOL/Time Warner's former CTO.

SEE: Don't let data gravity get you down, use these options to combat cloud latency (TechRepublic)

Raduchel, who is now the chairman of LiquidSky's board, didn't believe that McLoughlin and Johnson could solve the latency problem. "He dug into the tech and the next thing we knew he was investing," McLoughlin said. McNealy is an investor as well, and is working with the LiquidSky team as an advisor.

Gamers are the core audience for LiquidSky, and the team has managed to attract nearly 400,000 of them to the closed beta. Business users are there too, and McLoughlin said they've reported success using AutoCAD, Adobe Premier, Photoshop, and other high-demand applications that tax local workstations.

A DaaS revolution?

Virtualizing powerful desktops with minimal latency, whether for gaming or work, could be a game changer. One of the hurdles to widespread adoption of DaaS is performance, and LiquidSky believes it has solved the problem.

LiquidSky plans to launch its public beta in mid-September, and anyone who signs up gets a 24-hour free trial. If you're curious whether or not you could make use of LiquidSky to virtualize away expensive 3D rendering desktops now is your chance.

LiquidSky is available on Windows, Mac, and Android, with plans for an iOS client in the works.

Check out TechRepublic's video to see LiquidSky in action.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. LiquidSky, creators of a DaaS for gamers, claims to have solved the issue of high latency with high-demand 3D applications.
  2. If successful, LiquidSky could be used not only for gaming, but for CAD/CAM, video production, and other resource-intensive applications.
  3. LiquidSky's platform is software-based: it uses specialized video compression, Nvidia drivers, and a custom hypervisor.

Also see

About Brandon Vigliarolo

Brandon writes about apps and software for TechRepublic. He's an award-winning feature writer who previously worked as an IT professional and served as an MP in the US Army.

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