NVIDIA has just announced a 3D cloud infrastructure initiative this morning. The idea is to render incredibly realistic graphics for a number of applications (home design, architecture, product design….) in the cloud and send the images back as a movie stream or most likely a single frame (rendering preview happens in seconds, instead of hours) to a client that has little or no 3D capabilities. The dataset, typically too large to reside on the client, would live remotely on the RealityServer, a solution that NVIDIA has been pushing for some time now.
Overall, I liked the idea and the applications looked like they could work in the real world. From Home Design to Computer Assisted Design (CAD), iRay could bring value to those who use Mental Ray (a bunch of people) for offline rendering. Keep in mind that there is probably an initial data upload time that could be considerable, depending on the project. This could be a turn-off for anyone who updates a few big files during each iteration, as the upload might outlast the rendering time.
Prospect clients should also be comfortable having their data hosted by an external “cloud service” company, or be capable of building their own GPU farm. Entities like movies studios or the U.S Military should be able to handle their own farms, but many smaller design companies that work for bigger clients (typically, product design agencies) can neither build their farms or host data outside of their walls. On the other hand, there are application that don’t require such a degree of confidentiality.
So what’s the market reality? I don’t know, but provided that NVIDIA or someone else can figure out and solve the data security concerns, if there’s a concern, for prospect clients, this could be an interesting trend to follow in the future. How would that impact sales of high-end GPUs? Probably not that much because they are mostly used for gaming, something that is better off executed on the client… for now.