Computers-as-a-Service — How Accessing Technology Will Change Your Relationship With Computers

by Benjy Boxer

We are moving away from the world of fixed nouns and toward a world of fluid verbs. In the next 30 years we will continue to take solid things — an automobile, a shoe — and turn them into intangible verbs. Products will become services and processes. Embedded with high doses of technology, an automobile becomes a transportation service, a continuously updated sequence of materials rapidly adapting to customer usage, feedback, competition, innovation, and wear. — Kevin Kelly, The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future

At Parsec, we believe that a new era of computing is approaching where we access computers, rather than own them. Accessing computers would allow consumers to ignore their hardware and rely on software to deliver a computer-as-a-service. To make this a reality, we’ve spent the last year building software that enables access to remote computing via low-powered hardware. We demonstrated that you can get the power of a gaming machine in an ultra low cost computer. Today, our software helps people access the computing required to play the PC games they love at 60 frames per second with resolutions up to 1440p on the low-powered devices they already own. If it’s possible to access computing with this type of processing over the web today, why wouldn’t it become the default method for everyone to game or work?

Why Would It Be Valuable To Access Computers-as-a-Service?

If we eliminate computer ownership, we can free ourselves from the upgrade cycle and rely on improvements to computers that we never see. Those improvements and scaling will happen continuously while you worry about other things, like the weather today. This transformation will not happen overnight, but this is inevitable in our opinion. Parsec aims to build the software that connects you to the processing you need, when you need it.

Why Now?

The forces driving this change are happening all around us.

  1. Bandwidth costs continue to fall as broadband providers make significant infrastructure investments. In the US the cable companies also know that the cash cow of television is going to fade, so they need to differentiate and provide value through higher bandwidth connections.
  2. Cloud data centers where lots of computers are stored and can be rented are expanding rapidly. Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Alibaba, and many others are making significant investments and increasing the reach of their data centers.
  3. Wireless providers are promising a new standard, 5G wireless, which will blanket cities with wireless 1 Gbps connections with 1 millisecond pings to the tower. These are the ultimate high bandwidth everywhere connection.
  4. Data centers are investing heavily in adding GPUs to the cloud. They are doing this to support machine learning and artificial intelligence applications running CUDA, but the computer-as-a-service industry will also benefit. GPUs provide video rendering capabilities to cloud computers, which is a key component to delivering the visual experience we’re all used to.
  5. Hardware decoders have been a standard add-on to every GPU produced since about 2011. These hardware decoders support H.264 compression and newer ones support H.265. These dedicated devices require very little power and can decode an HD video stream in less than 5 milliseconds.
  6. Software-as-a-service has freed up many of the use-cases for local computing. Now, we typically depend on a small percentage of a computer’s horsepower. We’re paying a lot of money to buy a glorified typewriter with internet access. Our usage spikes when you start editing photos and videos, process videos that you download, render everything you see on your monitor, and interact with graphics-heavy applications.

Inexpensive Personal Hardware With A Long Battery-Life

With the computers-as-a-service model, you’ll be able to carry a low powered device with a battery that lasts for days. You’ll also be able to switch between devices with every piece of hardware feeling like the same machine and having all of your data persistent. This is because you’ll always log in to your one computer with hardware updating and scaling based on your needs.

There will always be software that requires local computing power, but we believe that with technology like Parsec, the number of applications requiring local compute will shrink. As long as the infrastructure for the internet continues to improve, we believe that technology like Parsec will end up being the platform of choice for accessing computers globally.

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