The metaverse is a hot topic right now, and with good reason. It promises an immersive and expansive network of persistent, real-time virtual 3D worlds. A fully realized and rich digital universe that runs parallel to our physical world where you can socialize with friends, learn, meet new people, game, shop, and much more.
The metaverse is still in its infancy, but it has massive potential. For example, while the global metaverse market was valued at $63.83 billion in 2021, it's projected to grow to $1,527.55 billion by 2029.
The metaverse is exciting precisely because it's attainable. We're currently progressing towards Web 4.0 - a version of the internet where augmented reality (AR) and big data will play a huge role. And this is where the metaverse comes in. The technologies that lie at Web 4.0's core are the same technologies the metaverse needs to thrive - AR, artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, Internet of Things (IoT), 3D remodeling, cloud computing, and edge computing. Edge computing is a vital building block for the metaverse.
The Metaverse and Cloud Computing
As the metaverse matures and expands, demand for cloud computing services will skyrocket. Why? Because hosting rich and complex 3D environments requires abundant compute and storage resources. And very few businesses will want to meet this demand with their own hardware. So instead, they'll rely on cloud computing providers.
The large cloud providers like Amazon, Microsoft, and Google, will undoubtedly play a significant role here, but they won't be the only ones. Smaller cloud companies that can provide specialized GPUs and VM instances tailored-made for the metaverse will also rise in prominence.
Similarly, the metaverse will also increase demand for hybrid cloud solutions as a way to ensure bandwidth limitations or connectivity disruptions don't impede users' ability to experience a seamless metaverse.
Why Edge Computing Is Vital to the Metaverse's Success
As we touched on above, the need for improved performance and seamless experiences will drive changes in cloud computing as we know it today. However, this won't stop at hybrid cloud expansion or specialized cloud providers. Edge computing - where compute, storage, security, and networking happens physically closer to end-users, will also have a vital role to play.
Edge computing improves response times and saves bandwidth, making it perfect for many metaverse use cases. For example, consider time-critical video games like first-person shooters. These games require instant feedback for actions, and latency over 30ms can result in poor hit registration when you fire at other players. In other words, high latency kills your ability to play the game as intended. But when these games are hosted in data centers across the world, higher latency becomes inevitable. In fact, even on the fastest connections, there is a latency of 5 microseconds (0.005 milliseconds) for every 1km of cable traveled by the data. Edge computing solves this problem.
Beyond video games, latency has a massive impact on our decision-making and overall enjoyment of immersive experiences. For example, a mere two-second delay in load time during a transaction can lead to shopping cart abandonment rates of 87%.
Essentially, edge computing will be fundamental in reducing latency in virtual worlds and empower developers to create better virtual experiences that support potentially millions of concurrent users in an immersive shared 3D space.