DIGITALIZATION

The Rise of the Metaverse Will Have Major Impacts on the Internet Infrastructure and Data Centers

Overview

In recent years, the global buzz about the “metaverse” has accelerated to such a high level that virtually everyone is aware that it is coming. But there continues to be confusion about what the term really means, and it can be difficult to separate hype from substance as the metaverse evolves.

It’s clear that many large companies are investing billions of dollars in metaverse implementations targeting a wide range of entertainment, business, and other applications. It’s also becoming increasingly evident that, however the metaverse evolves, it will have major impacts on the existing internet infrastructure and the demands on data centers to ramp up in support of new applications.

What is The Metaverse?

Although much of the recent attention has been generated by Facebook committing over $13 billion USD to its metaverse strategy, and even changing the company’s name to Meta, the underlying technologies have been evolving long before Facebook’s initiatives.

In their announcement, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg referred to it as “an embodied internet that you’re inside of instead of just looking at.” While quite broad, that definition is a good starting point.

The technological underpinnings of the metaverse are deeply rooted in both virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), complementary concepts that are already deepening and expanding the ability to deliver more immersive experiences for users.

VR puts users into fully immersive virtual environments and enables them to interact with their surroundings and with other people accessing the same virtual world.

In contrast, AR starts with the users’ real surroundings and adds elements, such as information overlays and nearby services, that enrich and expand their real-world interactions. Emerging metaverse applications focus on leveraging both VR and AR technologies to monetize deeper immersion experiences within a variety of products and services.

Technically, the gaming industry has been offering metaverse experiences through online multi-player games for some time now, such as Fortnite, Minecraft, Roblox, and others. However, the new wave of metaverse offerings will include a broadening range of non-gaming applications.

For example, business conferences will evolve from today’s patchwork of faces on a screen to participants using lifelike avatars for meetings and interacting in a shared virtual conference room. Similarly, remote learning classrooms, telemedicine appointments, gym workouts, shopping, customer visits, creative collaborations, family interactions, and much more can benefit from enriching shared metaverse experiences.

In addition to Meta (Facebook), other major companies such as Microsoft, Alphabet (Google), Nvidia, Apple, Walmart, Adobe, and Amazon are making major investments in metaverse applications and/or the tools and infrastructure to support metaverse delivery. These huge initiatives, along with hundreds of other smaller companies and startups are poised to bring metaverse experiences to billions of users over the next few years.

Metaverse’s Impacts on Infrastructure and Data Centers

While most of the buzz regarding the metaverse is spotlighting the sweeping changes to how users will interact with virtual environments, there is a deepening awareness on the part of engineers and network architects about the magnitude of efforts behind the scenes that are needed to improve the internet’s infrastructure and data centers’ robustness for delivering real-time metaverse experiences.

While today’s global internet infrastructure is an amazing achievement and it has recently survived major stress tests from pandemic related spikes in demand, current technologies fall far short of what will be needed to support the metaverse.

The key goal is to make metaverse applications seamlessly available in real-time to millions of users in interconnected communities that span the world. Instead of accessing, viewing, and downloading data as in today’s internet, metaverse users will be totally immersed in digital environments and will be continuously interacting with other users who may be on the other side of the world. Any noticeable lack of immediacy or degradation of the immersive experience will be a major detriment to adoption.

Some of the key challenges include:
  • Enabling hyper-scaling
  • Optimizing proximity to users
  • Minimizing latency
  • Expanding storage capacities
  • Integrating artificial intelligence (AI)
  • Enhancing security
  • Managing carbon footprint issues
Most experts predict that “edge” data centers will proliferate closer to end users and will require higher levels of both processing power and storage
Optimizing high-capacity streaming and AI software processing will be critical, as will low-latency connectivity and local content storage for caching of avatars, scenes, assets, etc. In addition, data centers will have higher densities of more compact servers and will need smaller, faster, and more robust interconnections within and between servers, as well as to the external networks.

Summary

Interplex has long been an innovation leader in design, development and production of technologies that help computer and networking equipment makers and data center architects deliver on ever-increasing demands for speed, compactness, scalability, low-power usage and configuration flexibility. We excel at providing interconnects, enclosures, storage solutions, power systems, busbars, and modular interfaces to optimize data center equipment and operations.

By building on this deep and wide experience, Interplex’s engineers are now helping the industry design and deploy new-generation servers that will enable the metaverse to become a reality.
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