Simplay.io, a cloud gaming startup from Tel Aviv, Israel, started its operations in stealth mode early 2017. The company managed to create their market-ready cloud gaming technology, called Shift, for zero visible latency results. For its hosting infrastructure and European network reach, Simplay turned to Netherlands-based IaaS hosting provider NovoServe who helped them with their hosting engineering R&D efforts. HostingJournalist.com sat down with Simplay.io CEO Gil Tov-ly to talk about their hosting-related challenges as a cloud gaming startup.
Founded in 2017 by Gil Tov-ly (CEO) and Roman Noze (CTO), Simplay.io is a startup that first took their time to develop proprietary cloud gaming technology able to operate at the GPU level for both capture (server side) and render (client side), to create a flawless, low latency cloud gaming experience.
They started their operations by joining a startup accelerator program in February 2017.
In the second half of 2018, based on their in-house developed ‘Shift’ technology, Simplay.io initially launched their device- and game-agnostic cloud gaming platform focused on end-users.
At the moment, they’ve switched from an end-user based approach to a B2B business model aimed at gaming studios with up to around 100 or 250 developers.
First of all Mr. Tov-ly, as a startup CEO, can you describe to us the development process behind creating your ‘Shift’ cloud gaming technology?
“As passionate gamers ourselves, Roman and I were focused on delivering ultimate available content to any gamer worldwide without the need for them to constantly having to upgrade their hardware. For this purpose we developed our own real-time streaming protocol that supports real-time, low-latency game streaming. It means that the gamer gets a local-like gaming experience from us.”
“Latency and the network in general is normally quite a big issue with cloud gaming. In any real-time streaming actually, weather it is about games or about other streaming-focused applications. Even the smallest issues and network drops can be disastrous for a good cloud gaming experience. In our R&D process, at first, we tried to rely on some existing libraries and technologies for the development of a streaming technology that takes this instability into account. Later on we understood that those ready-made libraries can’t give us the best performance, at least not the performance that we strive to give to gamers.”
“That’s when we as a technology startup started the in-house development of our core cloud gaming technology. With great success I must say, as we managed to achieve pretty high results within a short period of time, with a small team and limited resources. Our protocol for cloud gaming can mitigate most network issues, resulting in a very stable cloud gaming experience.”
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What do you expect from cloud-based gaming?
“2018 was a very big year for cloud gaming in general. Most of the large gaming companies announced that they either have planned to develop a cloud gaming services platform, or they are actually launching one, like for example Microsoft, IE and Google, as well as Ubisoft. The market for cloud gaming technology and solutions is exploding, the initiatives globally are piling up at a fast pace currently.”
Simplay.io managed to develop a protocol that can mitigate most network issues to create a flawless cloud gaming experience. Taking this into account, how important is the quality of the underlying network still?
“Hosting provider NovoServe from the Netherlands provided our startup with access to their European network backbone, a cross-border network in the Netherlands and Germany with a smart routing design that allowed us to reach gamers in Germany, the Netherlands, UK and France. I can tell, the more stable the underlying network is, the more stable the streaming game videos that viewers will see. The underlying network provides for primary network stability, while our cloud gaming technology further optimizes the gaming experience. We actually had a great network stability in NovoServe’s data center in Doetinchem, the Netherlands, which had a great quality effect on our cloud gaming service.”
What challenges did you meet with regards to the hosting setup for your cloud gaming platform?
“We knew we needed CPU power and several other infrastructural specifications, but we didn’t know exactly what to implement or what could be an optimal configuration to get the highest results out of our hosting infrastructure. NovoServe helped us out with that. NovoServe engineers based in the Netherlands joined our startup R&D efforts and helped us to deploy different environments for testing, until we found the right hosting infrastructure setup that was a perfect fit for our cloud gaming needs.”
“We also suffered some startup issues, on the storage side for example, storage definitely was a bottleneck in our hosting infrastructure design. We started with a simple SATA-based storage setup for the caching layer, a server with a bunch of disks in it so to say. Later on we tried multiple setups like Free NAS, Free BSD, Full SSD storage, as well as different types of connectivity to our virtual environment, to the hypervisor. We ended up though [starts laughing, ed.] with the same SATA with SSD caching layer, but then a totally different setup within the operating system.”
“As a cloud gaming startup we needed to experiment with the hardware, with the hosting infrastructure. NovoServe basically custom built our hosting environment, which was really necessary for us to find the ultimate cloud gaming configuration with hosting infrastructure being aligned. To give an example, we were able to have a custom upgrade from an older CPU model to the latest architecture of NVIDIA, the Tesla P40, which our previous hosting provider wasn’t able or willing to deliver.”
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As a technology startup, what did you expect from your hosting provider?
“We initially started our operations with quite an expensive hosting provider, one of the world’s largest hosting companies actually. Soon we found out that with a limited startup investment budget we had to find a more cost-efficient hosting solution, delivered by a company that was willing to communicate with us and willing to show some commitment with regards to joint R&D efforts if needed. We had to deal with quite some uncertainties on the hosting side. A proper interaction with our proprietary cloud gaming technology was crucial for an optimal cloud gaming experience. It helps when a hosting provider is willing to support you in your optimization journey.”
Why did Simplay.io select a hosting provider from the Netherlands for its cloud gaming R&D lab and operational platform?
“We were initially focused on reaching cloud gamers in Europe, in for example the Netherlands, Germany, UK and France, although we didn’t aim for specific countries. The US wasn’t in our priorities at first. As Amsterdam is one of the most important Internet hubs in the world and NovoServe has its network presence there, we selected one of their Netherlands-based data centers, the one in Doetinchem. Our own location in Israel with only a small time zone difference compared to Europe also played a role when choosing this hosting provider from the Netherlands. It allowed us to do the cloud gaming support for gamers ourselves.”
On some forums we’ve read that the gamer experiences on the Simplay platform were actually quite good. What in the end made you decide to switch from an end-user based go-to-market approach to a B2B business model?
“At some point it started to be clear that a consumer-driven business model for a startup like us is super-difficult to scale. We would have to invest a tremendous amount of resources that we don’t have to make it profitable and truly scalable on a global level. So a few months ago we decided to switch to a business-to-business cloud gaming model instead and provide a SaaS-like platform to gaming studios, not the largest gaming studios but the ones with about 150 to 250 employees. We’re now aiming our services at cloud gaming as well as browser based gaming. For our go-to-market strategy this switch to browser-based gaming has proved to be a good step in terms of audience reach. For many gamers it still is just a bit more convenient to open Chrome, to enter some URL and play your game with a controller or mobile device, instead of first having to go through installation.”
Simplay.io is a technology startup from Tel Aviv, Israel, founded by Gil Tov-ly (CEO) and Roman Noze (CTO). As a startup, the company developed a proprietary real-time streaming technology from the ground up. Designed for game streaming, this innovative technology had to overcome common network instabilities to provide for a flawless cloud gaming experience. In joint effort with hosting provider NovoServe from the Netherlands, Simplay.io managed to deliver 1080p at 60 FPS streaming, at merely ~4ms of overhead latency.
For more information on Simplay.io, visit: https://www.simplay.io
For more information on NovoServe, visit: https://www.novoserve.com