Xbox One, Azure and the creative power of the cloud


The following is a post from Frank X. Shaw, Corporate Vice President of Corporate Communications at Microsoft.

It’s been another one of those weeks here in Redmond – equal parts exhausting and exhilarating, and one where I have to remind myself just how privileged I am to work with such amazing people.

If you haven’t had the opportunity, I encourage you to set aside some time this weekend to watch this great discussion about the making of Xbox One that Major Nelson hosted with Todd Holmdahl, corporate vice president of IEB hardware; Boyd Multerer, partner director of development for the Xbox; Nick Baker, distinguished engineer, Xbox; and Dan Greenawalt, creative director of Xbox Turn 10 Studios, the team that brings you Forza Motorsport.

During the discussion, Boyd makes the point that the team was able to take advantage of great resources from Microsoft Research, great technologies developed elsewhere within the company like Hyper V and great engineering talent like Dave Cutler, who joined the team more than a year ago and built the hypervisor that does the switching between the Xbox and Windows operating systems that are part of Xbox One.

Now I had to smile when I heard Boyd talking about Dave, because a lot of engineers in our industry have stood on the shoulders of Dave’s work; he’s forgotten more about software development than most have learned. Talking about Dave, Boyd said, “We’re super lucky to be able to work with people of that depth and talent, and it has made this kind of project possible.”

Super lucky, indeed. I’ll come back to this panel. But there were other significant developments this week that didn’t receive as much fanfare as the Xbox One announcement, but were equally significant in the company’s transition to devices and services.

The news actually occurred in Asia, where, over a three-day timespan, we announced:

  • The delivery of Windows Azure cloud services in Australia, allowing us to better address the needs of customers and partners in this country, while ensuring data sovereignty goals are met
  • That we’ll be bringing Windows Azure public cloud services to China, via our partner, 21Vianet This makes Microsoft the first multinational organization to make public cloud services available in China
  • That we’re bringing Windows Azure services to Japan with new capacity in the Tokyo Kansai areas

Satya Nadella, president of our Server Tools business, summarized the news with this post earlier this week. Exciting stuff.

The cloud is transformational for businesses and, as it turns out, for game developers as well, as our panelists discussed this week.

Talking about the new Xbox One and the cloud, Greenawalt said that he and other game creators now have the best of both worlds.

“One thing I’d really like to comment on is it’s a more powerful box, which is fantastic. It’s not just that it’s more powerful, it’s also connected. It’s connected to the cloud and this gives us as creators the ability to offload some of the processing that we would use…So we can move things: Physics. AI. Worlds. We can move incredible rendering capabilities to the cloud, and that means this box is going to evolve. So this is a radically different way that we think about how we work as creators on a box.”

Multerer agreed, saying this next generation of gaming and entertainment technology, is about embracing ongoing change.

“Next gen isn’t just about having lots of transistors local, it’s also about having transistors in the cloud. The best way I can explain it is that to me ‘next gen’ is about change. I’ve got these games that stay the same. I’ve got apps that are changing, but now you start throwing in servers that are just one hop away and that can you can start doing things like…you look at a game and there’s latency-sensitive load and there’s latency insensitive loads. Let’s start moving those insensitive loads off to the cloud, freeing up local resources and effectively over time your box gets more and more powerful. This is completely unlike previous generations.”

Later on, in discussing the system’s architecture, Multerer adds, “To me the really big, fundamental disruption is the fact that we can’t expect these boxes to be static. They don’t live in a static world.”

No static at all.

Not for our business customers.

Not for entertainment.

Not for gamers.

Not for game developers.

And certainly not for Microsoft as our business expands into the cloud.

Pinch me.

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