The Microsoft Xbox team recently introduced the Xbox One, an all-in-one entertainment system that you can use to play games, watch TV, listen to music, and more. To give users enhanced access to their Xbox One DVR video game clips, the Xbox team
uses Windows Azure—a cloud platform that supports multiple console formats, scales up or down instantaneously, enhances security, and is available 99.99 percent of the time.
Headquartered in Redmond, Washington, and with locations all over the world, Microsoft is a global software, services, and solutions company. One of the company’s products is its gaming system, Xbox, which was originally launched in 2001.
Recently, the Microsoft Xbox team introduced Xbox One, the company’s first all-in-one gaming and entertainment system, which you can use to play games; watch TV, sports, and movies; listen to music; and Skype with friends and family.
The entertainment and gaming system has multiple features, including Xbox One Game DVR, a capability that captures and saves video clips of users’ game play and uploads it to their Xbox Live profile and numerous social networks.
Giving users access to all of their content all the time, from wherever they are, presented a challenge for the Xbox team.
“Users need to be able to sign in on a console at home or sign in to a friend’s console to see their content quickly and easily,” says Michael Siebert, Program Manager, Xbox Team, Microsoft.
Historically, Xbox users would then store their content locally to a hard drive or to a memory unit they could take with them. Waiting for content to download could be slow, and streaming was easily disrupted.
Because the Xbox team had previously used Windows Azure Cloud Services with Xbox 360 (its previous gaming system), the team knew it needed a cloud solution for Xbox One Game DVR, too.
||Xbox One Game DVR Uses the Cloud to Scale, Store, and Distribute User Video Game Clips.
| Michael Siebert
Xbox One Team
In November 2013, Xbox implemented Windows Azure for its Xbox One Game DVR, a feature that captures and stores video clips of users’ game play and uploads them to their Xbox Live profile and numerous social networks for easy streaming.
The Xbox team used a platform-as-a-service solution from Windows Azure Media Services to build Xbox One Game DVR, a feature that can stream recorded user clips of in-game highlights to Adobe Flash, Android, iOS, or Windows platforms and store them in the
cloud so they are accessible to users on any device and from any location. Users can then upload them to their social media to showcase their game clips.
Windows Azure Media Services offers ready-to-use services for fast encoding, format conversion, storage, content protection, and video streaming. “The Xbox team uses the Windows Azure Media Services platform to transcode once and then deliver the content
to multiple devices in multiple formats,” says Siebert. “You can look at your clips on any console and through multiple devices.” The Xbox team uses progressive downloads to deliver the correct format for its users.
In addition to using Windows Azure Media Services, the team is using Windows Azure Cloud Storage to store more than 800 terabytes of data in multiple global locations. “The Xbox team can also store more information than just the clip, including the context
of the clip—something that could foster future capabilities for Xbox,” says Siebert.
The extensive storage solution took about six months to implement, and now changes can be made quickly. “With Windows Azure, we have our own cloud storage solution—it allows us to scale either up or down, and if we see we are outpacing our projected growth,
then we have the ability to get additional storage,” adds Siebert.
As with all Windows Azure Cloud Storage solutions, the Xbox team pays only for the storage it uses.
By implementing Xbox One Game DVR on Windows Azure, the team can scale, store, and code media assets with ease; stream clips to any device; engage users on new levels; and provide them with a high level of security and availability.
Scales Up or Down Instantly
Windows Azure scales easily—depending on the Xbox team’s needs. And the cost scales proportionally with the usage. “Windows Azure gave us a solution to manage user storage without having to do our own hardware deployments and rollouts,” says Siebert. “With
the Windows Azure cloud solution, we could bump up our capacity to manage the holiday load instantaneously.” The Xbox team was able to process hundreds of encoding jobs concurrently and has stored several million clips to date. Since the launch of Xbox One,
Windows Azure has processed more than 1 million encoding jobs.
Additionally, because the cloud solution can scale with ease, the Xbox One team envisions exciting future capabilities. “With Windows Azure, a future benefit is room for growth,” says Siebert. “One of the long-term visions of the Xbox One game DVR feature
is to give the user the opportunity to create a clip and put that clip back into the ecosystem by the title it was created from, so the user gets a ‘fame moment’ in the game—and that’s something that no other platform can do.”
Windows Azure provides a secure solution for the Xbox One team and the users. “The Windows Azure team has been extremely helpful meeting our security requirements for the needs of Xbox One Game DVR,” says Siebert. “We’ve been able to come up with solutions
to ensure our content isn’t widely available or accessible to people it shouldn’t be available to. Some of this video data can be sensitive because it contains video footage of the actual users so you don’t want that being distributed widely on the Internet.
Windows Azure has the security to be able to prevent that.”
Engages Users, Streams to Any Device
With Xbox One Game DVR, users can capture and share their gaming successes with their friends and their gaming community, engaging one another in new ways. “Xbox One Game DVR users can now view their clips in their Xbox Live clip library without waiting
for content to be downloaded or buffered,” states Siebert.
Because the cloud supports multiple streaming formats, users can access their clips on any console and through multiple devices. “You only grab the section you are playing back at whatever network speed or bandwidth your network can support,” adds Siebert.
“It’s a smoother experience with no interruptions to your service.”
Achieves 99.99 Percent Availability
With such a high availability rate for its users, the Xbox One team feels confident about the cloud solution. “We want to ensure that the playback experience from the cloud is as close to playing a local file as possible,” says Sievert. “And if one of the
Windows Azure data centers was to go down, we still have resiliency against outages,” adds Siebert.
This case study is for informational purposes only.