Microsoft: Each Xbox One will contain the power of four machines thanks to the cloud

The Xbox One will technically outstrip the PS4 thanks to the power of the cloud, Microsoft has claimed.

The platform holder made lots of noise about its 300,000 server network during last week’s Xbox One reveal, but the claims it has since made are staggering.

The headline here is that individual Xbox One owners will actually have the equivalent of four machines at their disposal.

"We’re provisioning for developers for every physical Xbox One we build, we’re provisioning the CPU and storage equivalent of three Xbox Ones on the cloud," group program manager of Xbox Incubation & Prototyping Jeff Henshaw told OXM.

"We’re doing that flat out so that any game developer can assume that there’s roughly three times the resources immediately available to their game, so they can build bigger, persistent levels that are more inclusive for players. They can do that out of the gate."

Indeed, other execs have expanded on this line of thinking to claim that the computational potential of each Xbox One is, in theory, limitless – or limited only by the cloud resources Microsoft can afford to throw at it.

However, the tech heads at Digital Foundry have questioned these claims.

In fact, having looked at average broadband speeds it concludes that the additional computational grunt offered by the cloud is somewhat less impressive than we’ve been led to believe.

Whatever cloud computing power is available, consoles will have available to them an average of 1MB/s a second of processed data,” the report says. If we compare that to the sort of bandwidth consoles are used to, the DDR3 of Xbox One is rated at around 68,000MB/s, and even that wasn’t enough for the console and had to be augmented with the ESRAM.

The PS4 memory system allocates around 20,000MB/s for the CPU of its total 176,000MB/s. The cloud can provide one twenty-thousandth of the data to the CPU that the PS4’s system memory can. You may have an internet connection that’s much better than 8mbps of course, but even superfast fibre-optic broadband at 50mbps equates to an anaemic 6MB/s.

This represents a significant bottleneck to what can be processed on the cloud, and that’s before upload speed is even considered. Upload speed is a small fraction of download speed, and this will greatly reduce how much information a job can send to the cloud to process.

Taking the Forza crash example, if the console has to upload both the car collision mesh and scenery mesh to the cloud for it to calculate whether they have collided or not, that’s going to take several seconds. We’re certainly not seeing the notional results of a four-fold increase in Xbox One’s processing power.

Microsoft needs to prove its position with strong ideas and practical demonstrations. Until then, it’s perhaps best not to get too carried away with the idea of a super-powered console, and there’s very little evidence that Sony needs to be worried about its PS4 specs advantage being comprehensively wiped out by ‘the power of the cloud’.”

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