Why Future Apps Will be Streamed, Not Installed

by Phil Eisler

It’s no secret that, in the software space, faster systems make for happier, more productive workers.

But that gets increasingly challenging as apps get bigger. These days, visual-heavy apps like video games top 20GB, which can take four hours to download on a typical 10 Mbps connection. Even apps for workstations reach 10GB and take two hours to download. Regular updates and patches take up more time.

A solution is now in sight, though, with the rise of cloud computing and the availability of virtualized GPUs, thanks to our NVIDIA GRID technology. They will make digital downloads as much a relic of the past as CD-ROM drives.

Dawn of App Streaming

Several announcements this month show that we are at the dawn of the era of app streaming. Consider the following:

  • Amazon Web Services launched its G2 graphics instances based on NVIDIA GRID technology
  • OTOY released ORBX, software that sits on top of a G2 instance and enables any application to be streamed to your browser
  • Autodesk said it’s testing with OTOY the streaming of a suite of workstation apps to a browser using the NVIDIA GRID-based G2 instance
  • Playcast deployed its cloud gaming system to the AWS G2 instance and demonstrated Warner Bros’s “Batman: Arkham City” video game streamed to your smart TV
  • Mainframe2 demonstrated Adobe Photoshop running on NVIDIA GRID at AWS and streamed to a browser
  • Amazon announced AppStream, an in-house software for streaming apps

I’ve had the opportunity to test all of these technologies and many more yet to be announced. But the one that took my breath away was Mainframe2’s Photoshop demo.

I don’t have Photoshop installed on my computer. Instead, I followed Mainframe2’s beta link. It connected to an NVIDIA GRID G2 instance in the AWS data center, and the app loaded in my browser in under four seconds. The quality was astounding at 1080p and 60 fps, and it was perfectly interactive.

It struck me that the two-hour software digital download is dead.

A Call to Action for Software Companies

The technology business has always been about inflection points driven by disruptive technologies. Market share is won by pursuing the important ones. Never before in my 20 years in the business have I witnessed a technology so disruptive that it can reduce customer acquisition time by three orders of magnitude — from hours to seconds.

The Kepler generation of NVIDIA GRID GPUs with on-chip H.264 video encoders is already capable of rendering, capturing and encoding up to 32 streams per server. We think this metric will grow like Moore’s Law over the coming decade, driving down the cost of app streaming and making it ubiquitous.

The music and movie industries have already crossed the chasm from distributing disks, to offering digital downloads, to the convenience and instant gratification of streaming pulled by consumer demand.

This month we learned that the software and video game industries are about to go through the same inflection point to streaming led by leading companies like AWS, NVIDIA, OTOY, Playcast and Mainframe2. And pulled by consumers who will demand the same convenience, instant gratification and any-screen access.

Businesses should take seriously this inflection point in cloud computing, software application delivery and customer acquisition, and incorporate it in their strategic planning. The technology and business teams here at NVIDIA are available to help you navigate the app streaming era of computing.