Internet cafe is different | Internet

Remember the Internet cafes? My great desire, as a child, was to participate in what we called an “owl”, when the place closed at night and the whole gang was there playing, obviously, until the sun came up. Nostalgia aside, these establishments were (or still are) those places we went to when we needed to use a computer, whether it was to do schoolwork or play Counter-Strike 1.6 on the local network.

In a shared environment, LAN houses solved the need for hardware. With the popularization of technology and the internet at home, they were dwindling. However, the need for equipment continues and our devices are not always sufficient. Symbolically, the Internet cafe only changed its place: it went to the clouds.

Cloud computing (or cloud computing)

Cloud computing is nothing new. In Brazil, the market leader Amazon Web Services (AWS) arrived 10 years ago, but was created in 2006. There are several cloud computing products, but the focus, at least for AWS, is on the corporate. Although some solutions indirectly affect the end consumer, it is the companies that take the most advantage of the products, whether to optimize work and reduce costs or even keep operating.

AWS defines cloud computing as “the delivery of IT resources on demand over the internet, with payment pricing based on the use of the platform’s capacity and/or services”. It is, then, the rental of a machine for a specific use, an internet connection being enough to access or manage such IT resources. While the concept is simple, this model has made room for many innovations in the industry — and it has been important in an unprecedented healthcare crisis.

Amazon Web Services (Image: Tony Webster/Flickr)

Fifty working machines ready in 24 hours

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many professionals retreated from the work environment and needed to improvise that location in a living room or bedroom. This was the case of Grupo Oncoclínicas, one of the largest conglomerates specialized in oncology, hematology and radiotherapy in Latin America.

With the social isolation, in March 2020, the group needed to support 300 employees in the home office. The solution was to use Amazon Workspaces to provide remote service, a solution that allowed us to have 50 virtual machines ready in 24 hours.

Amazon Workspaces is one of the services in the AWS (Amazon Web Services) portfolio, which allows the virtualization of a desktop, whether Windows or Linux, from any other compatible device with internet access. But, what makes it different from a traditional desktop, what is the advantage of “renting” a virtual machine instead of buying a device and not having more future costs?

O Techblog spoke with Fernanda Spinardi, Head of Solutions Architecture at AWS in Brazil, to understand the proposal.

The big thing here is that he [Amazon Workpaces] is a service that can scale very quickly, just like all other services in the AWS cloud. The big difference is precisely the issue of agility. You can move that service up very quickly and then make use of the AWS scale so that you can scale up the use of that service.

In particular, Grupo Oncoclinicas, one of the AWS public cases, reached the peak of 400 virtual desktops in the pandemic. To use a service like Amazon Workspaces, you still need a physical machine to install the AWS software and thus access desktop virtualization.

All it takes is a device with internet access to access AWS virtualized desktops (Image: Jacky Chiu/Unsplash)
All it takes is a device with internet access to access AWS virtualized desktops (Image: Jacky Chiu/Unsplash)

As Fernanda pointed out, scaling with Amazon Workspaces is faster. Imagine buying, configuring and delivering 400 machines to employees, for a “temporary” job at home, since in the work environment this equipment is already controlled and available.

Use of cloud computing during the pandemic

Needless to say, the pandemic has put companies’ IT sectors to the test. In the corporate world, Fernanda Spinardi noted three customer needs: financial preservation of the business, remote work and company resilience.

The first pillar was the financial preservation of the business. We also took actions during this period to help the client to optimize their cloud architecture designs and reduce costs. This is an everyday practice at AWS, we actually call the customer to say “look, you can spend less with us”. This is already a practice, but during the pandemic, we made a point of putting in a dedicated team to speed up this process for customers and help reduce costs.

In remote work, the case of Grupo Oncoclínicas is included. “In addition to having the employee figure working remotely, organizations needed to scale their back office systems to support this remote work. In some cases, they even needed to make some process changes to be able to scale this remote work”, comments Fernanda.

The third pillar, which I think was perhaps the big call for all of us, was the question of “how resilient is your business?”. Nobody expected a pandemic of this proportion and duration, with such a significant impact on virtually every sector.

So customers began to question the resilience of their IT systems, but also the resilience of their business. For example: if I close my store, I lose a sales channel, am I well prepared to make this contingency and support sales via a digital channel? So we helped many customers to grow their digital channels, for example, sales.

Between the corporate and the end consumer

Thinking, again, about the need for hardware to accomplish a task or optimize a work routine, there is a use that is not very evident outside the bubble of some professionals: render farms — rendering farms, in free translation.

Image not even illustrative of a render farm (Image: Stijn te Strake/Unsplash)
Image not even illustrative of a render farm (Image: Stijn te Strake/Unsplash)

It is the rental of a processing, in the cloud, for the rendering of a graphic project, be it an animation or just a 3D frame. Thiago Carneiro, Lead Unreal Generalist at Pixomondo in Toronto, told the Techblog that there is a render farm inside the studio itself, but when you do freelance work that requires rendering, you choose a render farm to streamline your projects.

It turns out that, during rendering, professionals prefer not to touch the computer to avoid project slowdowns or some processing overhead that could interrupt the work. Therefore, in this process, the user who does not have an extra machine, in addition to the one that is rendering, is “idle”.

We will always use the render farm for various things within the studio. Sometimes we use it just to be able to have the computer available, when you’re going to do a test or something else that needs to be rendered. When you are a freelancer and if it’s a small test, you do it on your machine, but at the company, in the studio, you need your machine available to work, you can’t wait for something to be completed, so we always play for the render farm.

As a freelancer, it’s the same for me. Let’s assume, sometimes I’ll render something on my machine, even though it’s a good machine, let’s say it’s going to take 20 hours to finish. For me, spending 20 hours in a function without being able to use [o computador] for that time it’s quite expensive, so I take it and go to a render farm.

Thiago Carneiro.

In agreement, Felipe Stevanatto, 3D artist also makes use of rendering farm, comments that there is another important factor that makes him opt for a cloud rendering solution:

In some cases there is a hardware limit on rendering capability. Generally, our hardware has the limit of you opening the renderer and if it goes beyond that limit, it won’t even start rendering, it will close. So, this capacity limit is also a point that the rendering farm has as an advantage. There are projects you can’t render [localmente], so the render farm saves on that.

The uses of cloud computing are still well connected with the corporate world, in applications and products to help companies and professionals in this process optimization. But, there is a “palpable” example of how this technology is also in control of the common user, the end consumer. Not for work, but for fun.

Cloud gaming: fun anywhere (almost) anywhere

Playing via the cloud, over the internet, is also not a new practice in some countries, but it is still in Brazil: services such as Google Stadia, Microsoft xCloud, Nvidia Geforce Now or Amazon Luna are not available here. They are part of the reality of some people around the world, as an alternative to video game consoles or PC gamers.

Google Stadia Control (Image: Disclosure / Stadia)
Google Stadia Control (Image: Disclosure / Stadia)

Edinardo Silva, known as Dino Saverin on YouTube, lives in France. Your channel has approached cloud gaming. The player declares himself an enthusiast of these cloud services, so much so that he insists on subscribing to everyone listed above, except Luna, which is not yet available there.

While I was browsing the news site, I saw an advertisement that read “Google Stadia: try it…”. So I went there and tried it, you know? I got three free months, right at the beginning.

And man, at the beginning I admit that we noticed some crashes, some error in the game, then you had to open it again. At that time, I played only on the computer, but even so I thought the service was very good.

Today, Edinardo says he doesn’t know the difference between playing via the cloud or on a local console, precisely because of the evolution of the service.

I took a recent trip to Barcelona (Spain) and the internet at the hotel I was staying at was 15 Mb/s and as I’m playing Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, I went to continue because I took my control of Google Stadia. Worked perfectly.

Although the services are not officially in Brazil, for anyone to join, it is possible to bypass territory blocks with a VPN and take advantage of some of these offers. This is the case of Rivison Delmondes, a radiotechnologist who lives in Salvador (BA).

Here we have to use VPN, the experience will not always be full, there are days when it is good, there are days when it is not so good; but when the VPN is good, my friend, it’s like playing on a console, ok?

Rivison still has a console, an Xbox One, and has been a player since the Master System. Discovered cloud gaming services about two years ago with Nvidia’s GeForce Now. “I only had the option to play on Android, via cell phone, small screen. But I was amazed at how a small screen would play console games. Because it’s not an emulator, it’s a console where you’re playing current generation games,” he explained.

Microsoft xCloud (Image: Disclosure/Microsoft)
Microsoft xCloud (Image: Disclosure/Microsoft)

Also declared an enthusiast, Rivison divides gameplay between Xbox One, Stadia, GeForce Now and xCloud — the latter without the need for VPN, as he is one of the beta testers in Brazil. However, he recognizes that the experience is still not 100% due to the requirement to use a VPN (for Stadia and GeForce Now).

I, for example, have always had a video game, but we know that in the video game market (…) most people do not have access to this. So I look at cloud gaming as a way to democratize games, many people who haven’t played yet will be able to play.

As well as cloud products for companies, cloud gaming also brings advantages for gamers, one of which is the extinction of local downloads or updates. Theoretically, just click and play. That expected game released now? Great, just come in and play.

From the moment I started playing on the cloud, I stopped buying physical games and basically all the games I bought recently were cloud games. From my point of view, this is the future, you know? Even more because of piracy, with this type of service you greatly reduce piracy, companies have more control over mods. I don’t know which company didn’t want to release a PC game because of that, because the person was going to change it (…). So I think the cloud service makes games more secure. They have many advantages.

Edinardo Silva.

Rivison cited the democratization of video games, access for more people, but the advantage is also on the side of companies. While consoles require big brands to distribute hardware around the world (Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft), cloud services are more flexible, after all, it is a service, allowing more companies to compete for this market.

Is the future high?

Is the future in the clouds? (Image: Floriane Vita/Unsplash)
Is the future in the clouds? (Image: Floriane Vita/Unsplash)

As long as we can get access to the clouds, maybe. If there is no connection, there is no service. You can see that this is the way to go, but if we think about a future that is only in the clouds, when the internet is unavailable, which is not uncommon here, we may be without communication, work or leisure.

On the cloud gaming side, another point to consider is the fixed broadband limit. Streaming play consumes a lot of bandwidth, Google estimates a consumption of 20 GB per hour, in a 4K game. Depending on the contract, the deductible can be exhausted in days or hours. In Brazil, Anatel prohibits the reduction of speed or cutting of the internet, but we still need to fear this limit.

Until the future is in the clouds, there is a lot to grow and change (in services, customs and legislation), but it is certain that the potential is there.

When I look at cloud technology adoption, studies show that only 5% of the world’s IT investment is in the cloud, the other 95% is still on-premises. This, for me, reflects the potential for innovation that these companies can still achieve, transforming our experience as a citizen, user and resident within our home.

I think the next step for games with platforms like Luna is what I’ve seen happen with Netflix’s “videocassette virtualization”: I left the physical device to have an on-demand service running in the cloud, which we are proposing with the gaming platform.

Fernanda Spinardi.

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