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June 24, 2009
Otoy changes the game
Because responsiveness and action are so central to many games, developers are concerned that the lag between when the distant cloud computer renders a scene and when that scene shows up on a player's screen will spoil cloud computing's promise. "The real-time nature of games means that cloud processing will have too long a latency to help with the biggest bottleneck in real-time game graphics," says Tobi Saulnier, CEO and founder of 1st Playable Productions, in Troy, N.Y.

Julien Merceron, worldwide chief technical director of the London-based Eidos, creators of Tomb Raider, says latency and limited bandwidth "will tend to severely limit the type of game that could benefit from the cloud and limit the resolution at which you can play the game."

The concerns expressed in this article about latency are surmounted by Otoy, which can spread thousands of games and other apps across scores of thousands of graphics processors and meet all the real-time requirements of the most demanding games. There is no perceptible delay on transmissions of up to 500 miles.

In my alternative life in venture capital, I support Otoy, led by Jules Urbach (well known to Telecosm attendees). Moving from cloud computing to storm-cloud services, Otoy changes the game. It can exploit commonalities in all the popular browsers to move all games or other applications, of any complexity or latency rules, to his petaflop Fusion Render Cloud built with clusters of AMD-ATI graphics processors, playing these aps on any device from a settop box to a cellphone.

The most striking moment at E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) for me came when Jules showed Crysis, a game too demanding to handle on any console or ordinary PC, playing with full features on a netbook and a cellphone. The CTO of the Crysis company from Frankfurt could suddenly see the market for his niche high end game opening up to billions of customers around the globe at a cost of single digit or even ultimately sub-digit dollars per customer per month.

This demo means to me that virtually everything is going to move to the cloud, but the cloud will be dispersed around the globe in 40 square foot petaflop containers.

Browsers turn out to work well with graphics processors running in massively parallel arrays without any further customization. For high definition, 4K and 8K progressive images, a 200 kilobyte download is needed. But in general the game is over and graphics processors have won.
As Bob Metcalfe said a decade ago the browser has become the operating system.

See: "OTOY Demo Puts Crysis, Grand Theft Auto 4 on Your Phone."

Related entry: "The bandwidth conundrum" (4-25-2008).

June 6, 2008
Telecosm recap

You should have been there! Telecosm was thrilling. I will list the ways, in chronological order in two or three posts over the next few days. (Below is Part 1.)

1) Lawrence Solomon, author of The Deniers, demonstrated, beyond cavil,
that nearly all the relevant scientists, outside of the government
echo-chambers, completely repudiate the climate panic. He concluded by
pointing to evidence for a cooling trend ahead.

2) After I presented the statistics showing that most of the global
economy is driven by innovation in the Telecosm--teleputers, datacenters,
optical fiber, fiberspeed electronics--Steve Forbes gave a magisterial
tour of the world economy. Relevant to the debates on the Gilder Telecosm
Forum subscriber message board was his assertion that the Fed had been too
loose in the face of a collapse in the demand for dollars caused by the
muddled cheap dollar leadership from the administration. Later in the
conference, in an incandescent speech mostly about the amazing expansion
of freedom and supply side economics in China, John Rutledge maintained
that the Fed had been too tight, measured by the flat monetary base. But
then, as far as I could grasp, Rutledge contradicted himself by showing a
dramatic surge of bank lending to small and midsized businesses. If it was
caused by the collapse of other lending sources, he did not give any

3) Nicholas Carr gave a suave and lucid presentation of the themes of his
The Big Switch book, comparing the emergence of cloud computing to the
rise of the centralized power grid. Raising an issue that recurred
throughout the conference, our regnant expert on the power grid, Carver
Mead, dismissed the analogy as simplistic, since one-way power delivery
and two-way information transfer are radically different processes. Bill
Tucker, author of the forthcoming Terrestrial Energy, pointed out in a
compelling speech that Moore's Law is about miniaturization of bits while
the energy industry is better described by a Law of More--more power and
more efficiency. He explained that all the energy in the atom is in the
nucleus and pointed to the immense heat caused by nuclear fission and
fusion within the earth. Then he impugned the venture capitalists'
compulsion to waste arable land and space twiddling with electrons and
photons and presented much evidence that solar energy in all its forms
would never provide adequate power for an ever growing economy. Physicist
Howard Hayden of Energy Advocate enthusiastically confirmed this view.

4) Andy Kessler followed with an uproarious investigation of Who Killed
Bear Stearns?. His answer pointed not to the usual culprits (though he did
politely finger front row auditors me and Bob Metcalfe) but to Bear
Stearns' itself. After preparing a feculent feast of sub-prime pork ("they
knew better than anyone else what was in it"), then packaging it all into
putatively succulent AAA delicacies, they totally lost it and ate their
own sausages.

5) The Exaflood Panel presented Andrew Odlyzko's dour but learned analysis
of Internet traffic, which concluded that the real danger is not too much
traffic but not enough to sustain all the businesses in the sector. Joe
Weinman, a brilliant strategist from ATT, however, confirmed the Exaflood
thesis, and Johna Till Johnson of Nemertes offered compelling evidence
that the best way to examine the issue is from the supply side. If you
don't build it, they definitely will not come. Traffic in the core is
dependent on access from the edge, which still lags in the US, as even
Odlyzko showed rates of usage in Korea and Hong Kong six times US usage
rates. Lane Patterson of Equinix confirmed aggressive estimates of traffic
growth and still more ambitious growth of Equinix datacenters, but said
that patterns of traffic confirm that the core is being starved by
inadequate access on the edge.

October 30, 2007
Healthy Huber

Peter Huber with a long and typically brilliant article explaining why the new medicine makes socialized health care impossible. Excerpt:

Insurance makes sense for risks that people can't control. Or to put it more bluntly, socialized medicine was a smart idea back when medicine was too stupid to halt infectious epidemics, discourage suicidal lifestyles, or discern the perils in killer genes.....

But we're now past the days when infectious diseases were the dominant killers, and heart attacks and lung cancer seemed to strike as randomly as germs. And insurance looks altogether different when your neighbor's problem is a persistent failure to take care of himself. Many people willing to share the burden of bad luck eventually tire of sharing the cost of bad behavior.

The new medicine certainly hasn't banished luck completely--molecules don't predict car accidents and can't yet cure Huntington's disease, cystic fibrosis, or many rare cancers. A widely shared sense of common decency also impels protection of children and the elderly. In between, however, the unifying interest in health insurance is surely the sense that anyone can be struck out of the blue by a ruinously expensive health catastrophe. And step by relentless step, molecular medicine is taking luck out of the picture.

Now consider what that does to insurance economics. Most critics of the status quo focus on the more manageable of the two core problems that health insurers now face: runaway cost. But the real problem is that for many people, health care is getting cheaper. This is what makes actuaries wake up screaming in the night: disease is coming out of the closet, and the new medicine splits health-care economics in two. For the health conscious, skipping the Cherry Garcia may be difficult, but it's cheap, and Lipitor at almost any price is much cheaper than a heart attack. The health careless skip only the pill, not the ice cream, and end up in desperate need of what helps the least and costs the most. Doctors, hospitals, and scalpels summoned late in the day cost far more, and accomplish far less, than chemistry tuned to the point where there's never plaque to cut.

No one-size, one-price insurance scheme can keep people happy forever on both sides of this ever-widening divide. Aetna can't offer uniform coverage to individuals who face radically different risks, and who know it, too. Governments can't, either.

August 6, 2007
Gilder at Always On

Watch our colleague George Gilder discussing technology and the Net on two panels at last week's Always On conference at Stanford:

(1) In Out of the Lab and into the Market , George moderates a discussion among IBM, SAP, and HP executives about innovation at large companies.

(2) Next, in The Democratization of Media: Good or Bad?, George responds to Andrew Keen, author of Cult of the Amateur, which argues that the open Net, social networks, and Web 2.0 are negative cultural forces.

March 15, 2007
Digital Prosperity Report Concludes IT Investment Critical

Policy makers should recognize information technology as the centerpiece of economic policy and develop their plans accordingly, concludes the Digital Prosperity study published this week by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.

"In the new global economy information and communications technology (IT) is the major driver, not just of improved quality of life, but also of economic growth," writes Foundation president, Dr. Robert D. Atkinson, author of the study.

Atkinson is a widely respected economist who formerly served as project director of the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, and is the former director of the Progressive Policy Institute's Technology and New Economy Project of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council.

Based on reviews of other studies, and Atkinson's own research, the report maintains, "IT was responsible for two-thirds of total factor growth in productivity between 1995 and 2002 and virtually all of the growth in labor productivity" in the United States.

Continue reading "Digital Prosperity Report Concludes IT Investment Critical" »

October 27, 2006
Can Technology Defeat Terrorism?

The following is a transcribed excerpt of Peter Huber's Gilder/Forbes Telecosm 2006 keynote, delivered earlier this month in Lake Tahoe:

When a deliberate nuclear release occurs in the United States, as I think it inevitably will, we will almost certainly find that the material originated somewhere mundane--a hospital, a factory, an industrial setting. There is a whole lot of nuclear material out there all over the place. It has many useful applications. People who want it will find it.

The London subway bombers used Triaceatone Triperoxide (TATP). They brewed it in the bathtub using acetone, drain cleaner, and bleach. The Japanese subway attackers home-brewed their Sarin gas. The Oklahoma City bombers mixed liquid fertilizer and diesel fuel.

Continue reading "Can Technology Defeat Terrorism?" »

October 12, 2006
Another Telecosm Bit: Health Care

64%20slice%20ct%20scan%201.jpgAnother thought from our Telecosm conference last week: We had a couple very good presentations on health care from Andy Kessler and Art Robinson. Kessler's new book, The End of Medicine, focuses on advances in digital imaging, as we go from single "slice" CT scans to 4 to 16 to 64, 256, 1024, down the line. The scanners are getting faster, higher resolution, and can now create 3D images. These things put out enormous amounts of data. The new ones yield around 2 gigabytes (GB), or about as much as a full-length DVD movie. Read just a bit about these marvelous new technologies, and one thing radiologists say over and over is that the data storage and bandwidth problems associated with all this output are significant. We're going to need huge new telecom and datacom capacity if we are going to handle and fully exploit these new technologies that have the real possibility of making us all much healthier.

-Bret Swanson

October 9, 2006
Telecosm Tidbits

We often forget about the secondary and tertiary effects of massive capital infrastructure investments. Two panel discussions at George Gilder's 10th annual Telecosm, just concluded in Squaw Creek, California, indirectly reminded me of these virtuous side-effects.

On the first night of the conference, Terry Turpin of communications equipment vender and hyper-tech defense contractor Essex Corp., was listing some of the pluses and minuses of the telecom boom (bubble?). Essex makes optical processors capable of the most demanding computational tasks ever known, from breaking codes to looking through the walls of caves in Afghanistan. Can you do 5 petaflops on just 10 watts? Didn't think so.


Anyway, Turpin mentioned that some of the machines he's built in the last half-decade would never have been possible without the late-90s optical network buildout boom. Waves of new optical components -- and old components at rock-bottom prices -- flooded the market. Lenses, prisms, coatings, gratings, free-space interferometers, and assortments of lasers with more power and better precision. Pieces that Turpin had previously hand-made at prohibitive cost and pieces that previously did not exist were now available in bulk at reasonable prices. The super-secret machines Turpin has turned out, one by one, for decades could now be supercharged with the volumes of high-end technology churning out of the telecom industry.

The next morning of the conference, Gilder had engaged Google, Equinix, Mozy, and others in a discussion about data centers and the massively parallel computing architectures that deliver your Gmail, YouTube clips, and most other web services. Bottlenecks abound in these giant, bandwidth hogging, power sucking, behemoth hardwarehouses. But one key bottleneck that emerged from the discussion was the dearth of cheap 10 Gigabit Ethernet components needed to connect the tens or hundreds of thousands of processors and disks.

In the past, the motherboard bus and other computer system communications links had been faster than the network to which they would one day connect. Today network bandwidth is beginning to outstrip PC-level communications. But 10 GigE links are not yet made in the volumes needed to make economical the connection of these server farms with wires 10 or 100 times faster than the 100 base T Ethernet or 1 Gig E connections used today.

The fiber optic metro and access networks being built by the telcos today, however, are making abundant use of 10 GigE and 1 GigE links. Should government regulators in Washington and the states allow these gigantic fiber optic buildouts to go forward, a new wave of optical and electronic components will flood the market, trickling down into the storewidth data centers and across the network. One part of the ecosystem feeds the others.

Telecom investment is thus not important only for our entertainment and communications capabilities today, not just for our productivity next year, but for the long-term health of a range of military, security, high-tech, high-growth industries as well.

-Bret Swanson

January 27, 2006
I'm so relieved...

Mobile phones, yet again, are shown to be brain-safe...

-Bret Swanson

July 21, 2005
George v. Joy

George Gilder and Bill Joy just finished their panel on "Is Technology Making Us Safer?" at the Always-On conference at Stanford University. Joy, once a co-founder of Sun Microsystems and now a new partner at Kleiner Perkins ventures, seems to have somewhat moderated his views on the "relinquishment" of technology -- for example, saying biologists should have a sort of Hippocratic oath to help prevent the spread of dangerous bio-information rather than a bureaucratic government response as he previously suggested -- but he is still just as worried about global warming as ever. He asked George, "Don't you read Nature magazine?" as if the climatologists published there are dispositive. Joy said there is a consensus about global warming, and asked why would George fight it. George countered that science isn't about consensus -- in fact, science is the antithesis of consensus based knowledge -- science is about truth. Joy's dabbling in politics and economics is actually bad for the problems of mankind he cares so much about. By distracting himself with things he knows little about, he takes himself away from the realm where he really can contribute to human wellbeing -- technology. I guess it's good, therefore, that Joy is now back in technology as a partner with KPC&B, and not writing socialist or anti-technology tomes. Even at KPC&B, however, he envisions his primary goal not simply to make great investments but to compensate for today's dangerous (as he sees it) political environment.

-Bret Swanson

Dotted Divider Line

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