This is a guest post from Andrew J. Nusca of TechRepublic’s sister site ZDNet. You can follow Andrew on the ZDNet blog Between the Lines, or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Cloud computing can’t possibly handle streaming a Blu-ray movie or Adobe Photoshop, can it?

Jules Urbach says it’s not only possible, but scalable as a business.
Urbach, founder and CEO of Los Angeles-based OTOY, is working with AMD to pair that company’s supercomputers with OTOY’s brand of server-side rendering technology.

I spoke with Boswell and Urbach separately about how they’re inventing a new business model with the AMD Fusion Render Cloud.

(For the other side of the partnership, read Charlie Boswell’s interview.)

ZDNet: Tell me about OTOY’s contribution in this partnership with AMD.

Jules Urbach: We’re primarily a software company, and AMD is primarily a hardware company. We provide a service that will run on servers built by AMD to primarily use their graphics cards, which have never really been used in the software space before.

Our service runs that remotely – it’s a game-changer. You have companies like OnLive that are a kind of service, which may get rid of gaming consoles. Our focus with AMD is not just getting the streaming to work – which is hard – but making this a viable business model.

With this software, we can deliver on AMD’s petaflop system announced at CES that can run potentially 10,000 users.

We’re heavily dependent on the graphic card development cycle. Everything we do is GPU-bound. So you may see 20,000 or 40,000 users on a server. A doubling of efficiencies on the same power supply is how these businesses will scale.

ZDNet: Explain how your technology works.

JU: A graphics card typically displays things on a monitor. Our technology does compression and virtualizes a game or application and it runs on a compressed stream to a client. In a browser, it will run instantly – no Flash, no browser, just HTML.

We developed a codec for this use that installs on the Webpage – then you can get HD streams that replicate your entire desktop in the cloud. This implementation allows you to play a Blu-ray disc full screen, or Photoshop, or SolidWorks.

Those are much simpler than a high-end first-person shooter. Something like Photoshop at full-resolution can practically run on a dialup speed. That same 45K or 90K plugin will replace anything you want, like your desktop.

Take the CrunchPad – we can stream anything to that.

We showed Crysis running on a Samsung OMNIA (Editor’s note: see the video below) and the E3 guys said that with a service like this, you don’t have to develop for anything anymore. It can be much greater that one computer or one console can do.


There’s an enormous demand for people to play games they haven’t. Casual gamers. Here’s a Web browser with no barrier for entry and be exposed to it.

Think of World of Warcraft: bought out of box, it takes hours to install. When you have that instant experience delivered, you’re improving the experience for game publisher Blizzard as well as the user. So the numbers of gamers for World of Warcraft could increase.

You’re going to be hard-pressed to have a Playstation 4 or an Xbox 720 that has better quality than the cloud.

ZDNet: Not everyone has broadband access, though.

JU: The problem is U.S. bandwidth. The typical U.S. user has 1.5-megabit to a 6-megabit connection. It’s enough to do 720p games, equivalent to the Xbox output resolution. But you’ll need higher end connection, and Verizon FiOS and other services are coming around.

It’s not just [gaming] consoles that will be threatened by this – it’s your PC. It’s your Blu-ray system.

It’s going to be a very thin, cheap device that can connect to the cloud. Or maybe you’ll see a hybrid solution in the meantime.

Ari Emanuel – [White House Chief of Staff] Rahm Emanuel‘s brother – is working in the White House, and his brother is in charge of how that stimulus money is spent. There have been a lot of discussions about how this could help.

So why not just get a $200 tablet display for schools and run everything from there going forward? We have to prove this thing out.

ZDNet: What’s OTOY’s next step?

JU: Our next step is going into beta and bringing in content publishers on the game and movie side to test the market out. We’re taking a really different approach – we’re white labeling the service to a large degree. You may see publishers with their own sites, and sites with games from many publishers.

We’re going to be like Flash at 90K. It’s a really remarkable experience.

The question then becomes: what kind of content can you create for the system?

The other half is visual effects – we can render those effects in real time. You don’t need to spend 40 hours rendering one frame, you can do it instantly. Now you can render 100 cinema-quality viewpoints on one graphics card. That delivers you high-end games that are higher quality and more realistic than what you see today.

Certain movies, too. Take [The Curious Case of] Benjamin Button. The skin on that [film] was scanned in; like optical motion capture. They scanned Brad Pitt’s face, that gave us a perfect likeness, and it all gets captured, like a hologram. But we’re using supercomputers to render that data in real-time at a better quality than what we can do in a movie.

We’re going to be delivering content that’s never been seen before. We’ve never had that kind of rendering power. AMD’s the first to build a supercomputer built entirely out of graphics chips.

Read more in an interview with AMD’s Charlie Boswell.