Sony creating new PS3 hardware for PS Now - report

Digital Foundry says Sony is essentially "shrinking the equivalent of eight PS3s onto a single motherboard, housed in a slimline server cabinet"

Following Sony's CES reveal that it's about to enter a closed beta of its Gaikai-based cloud gaming service, PlayStation Now, "sources who have been briefed on the project" have informed Digital Foundry that Sony is reengineering its PS3 hardware to make the streaming service possible.

Initially, Sony tested the idea of putting standard retail PS3 units into data centers, but a number of constraints - space, power efficiency, etc. - made this look ineffective. Instead, Sony was reportedly able to shrink the equivalent of eight PS3s onto a single motherboard, and it's all housed in a slimline server cabinet.

Importantly, this new PS3 server design enables Sony to shave a few milliseconds from end-to-end latency, which might not sound like a lot, but as we all know, latency is one of the biggest technological hurdles still holding back cloud gaming in the real world.

"In creating new PS3 servers for the PlayStation Now, the team worked closely with their new [Gaikai] colleagues in engineering, creating a new PS3 adapted to the cloud streaming challenge," said Digital Foundry's Rich Leadbetter. "The 'secret sauce' of the new design remains just that - in its briefings to publishers participating in the current closed beta testing, Sony has only revealed rough details of the servers..."

Check out the full article on Digital Foundry for more details and a healthy dose of educated guesswork from Leadbetter.

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Latest comments (8)

Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.4 years ago
I'm rather shocked they even considered retail units to begin with. Server infrastructure design has a lot of standardizations for good reasons. Going with retail units in their own enclosures, using the built in ethernet, power supply, etc...just seems downright silly when you're working on a massive scale.
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Nick Parker Consultant 4 years ago
Does this seem a large investment for backward compatibility or am I missing something? The Gaikai deal was not just to provide economies to backward compatibility cost but to underpin the future on-demand streaming requirements of PSN/PS Plus for successive platforms like PS4. Maybe little steps at the moment....
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Tosin Balogun Studying International Business, Anglia Ruskin University4 years ago
I think the issue of game ownership will resurface in the future when this Cloud thingy gets popular
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Simon Morris Technical Director, Strawdog Studios4 years ago
If we look over the fence at streaming services for music and movies, consumers can now have on demand access to both old and new content - which of course due to the subscription model generates a long tail of revenues for publishers that will last decades.
So backwards compatibility in this case, might probably be better described simply as back catalog - a wealth of PS1/PS2/PS3 games will be available to be discovered by new (and old) consumers over the coming years, without the need to own dedicated hardware. I know myself there are many PS2 and PS3 games I still haven't got around to playing, but technology such as this will let me find and play it for many years to come. Brilliant move Sony!
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Abraham Tatester Producer 4 years ago
Hey, Sony, how about dropping one of these miniaturized PS3s in the PS4? I'd buy one much sooner than later if you did.
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Andrew Ihegbu / 4 years ago
@Jim It wouldn't have been retail units as we see them, as it would be impossible to be space efficient with even superslim PS3's in boxes and the firmware, software and PSU needs tearing out anyway (so they can start using ganged power supplies and networked UPS which is a must in the server space).

They probably meant retail motherboards + fans etc attached via custom packaging to blade racks. That would allow them to maintain the current economy of scale they have on a large portion of the hardware they would need, and allow them to simply pull from the retail pool for most repairs and so on.

This may turn out to be way more costly for them.
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Andrew Ihegbu / 4 years ago

I think Sony are being really smart about gamer integration. As we all know there are many gamers opposed to cloud gaming and it is sometimes seen as Hardware as a Service, and worse (thanks to compression) looking than real metal. This is problematic in lots of ways. Gamers wanting to own games rather than constantly rent them. SaaS is already seen as dangerous. (Take the controversy over certain F2P pricing models like MechWarrior Online, or the sales model of Office 365 as two examples) And most importantly, games don't like to venture into the unknown en masse unless it's really compelling, which in this case it isn't.

The real reason this is smart is now when you upgrade, it is forced upon you if you want to still play your legacy games on your new console. Many people won't be buying too many next gen games so their existing catalog is going to be important and that will now be streamed to them, forcing them to acclimatise to any latency just to keep using what they currently have.

Once you're inducted, yo're inducted though, and doing this now will mean a lot less player resistance moving forward as there will be a large user base of PS4 owners that use Gaikai already, know it, and thus aren't worried about latency and it's purported problems the way we are.
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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.4 years ago
Andrew, I'd still be surprised at the idea of using retail motherboards. For a massively scaled service, you don't go 1:1. You condense and virtualize as much as possible. And certainly upgrade the NICs.

It's hard to say regarding costs. True, they lose out on quick replacements and economies of scale. But they gain a lot back in operational costs and overhead.
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