Meta’s stated mission is to seamlessly connect disparate environments such as work, social media and gaming to enable people to live and work effectively in the virtual space.
This will clearly have a significant and sustained impact on our networks. We’re not just talking about the need to be constantly connected, flawlessly; We’re talking stutter-free, fully immersive content streaming in 4K and 8K with low latency and minimal lag.
We’ll need to be able to move from one experience to another without being distracted by reboots, OS or application load times, network congestion, or anything else that suggests we’re not in a seamless virtual environment.
Achieving all this makes virtual life seem as challenging as moving to Mars.
However, it is possible to make the journey to our new virtual world frictionless. We just need to make sure we’re putting in place the basic building blocks needed for virtual life.
Starting today, we have the opportunity to make the metaverse livable and hospitable, a place where our virtual selves can thrive, not just survive.
Bandwidth is key
We will need a lot of bandwidth to make this work at scale. Just as water is a building block of life, there is no way to function in a metaverse without bandwidth. We need high-performance connectivity capable of supporting the different demands of bandwidth-intensive applications in the metaverse.
That bandwidth must also be ample and affordable, to better support our underserved and underconnected communities. Visions of a virtual world often focus on equal opportunity for everyone to create and explore. For this to happen within the metaverse, we must first ensure a level playing field of real-world connectivity.
Low latency is as critical as air
Bandwidth is one thing, but if the avatar we’re engaging with takes several seconds to respond – or worse – then the meta-life is suddenly irritating and inhospitable. We’ve already found it frustrating to experience lag when streaming live sports or online games, and this will only be exacerbated when we’re trying to fully immerse ourselves in a virtual world.
Technology such as edge computing – which can reduce network latency and improve reliability – will become increasingly important in networks that demand real-time responsiveness.
Virtual hardware: the infrastructure of the metaverse
We’ve all been there: hardware breakdown and we need to fix it. In that time, we need to be able to survive without whatever function that piece of hardware operates on. But that can’t happen in a metaverse – or at least it shouldn’t, because we should have used virtualized functions for much of what the metaverse requires.
Deploying infrastructure functions using virtual machine and container concepts where they, as applications, can be deployed across the network at scale and in real time will be critical. Classic network functions such as routing and switching will need to be fully virtualized. They need to be easily updated, updated, patched and deployed.
Software Intelligence: The Prefect of the Metaverse
We need the metaverse to be software-defined to allow it to act quickly and transparently. It’s the equivalent of a local government or council being able to repair our roads, remove rubbish and control the flow of traffic in real time. This often happens today in real life without us knowing, until it stops working and we wonder what happened.
Automation and AI, powered by programmable software capabilities, are key to helping accelerate the delivery of network deployments, making them more accessible and adaptable.
An adaptive virtual programmable network will be able to identify a fault and self-heal, without the need for a physical truck-roll. It can extract resources – compute, storage, bandwidth – from underutilized areas to augment other parts of the metaverse with higher activity and automatically roll back when needed.
We’ll hear a lot about the metaverse over the next few years, but any use case innovation won’t happen without the necessary networking innovations. An adaptive network that provides software-controlled, high-capacity, low-latency connectivity will be an even more important foundation for the future metaverse than today’s cloud applications.
The building blocks are already there for the artist formerly known as Facebook to build a hospitable metaverse, and as these technologies continue to evolve – driven by an expected increase in innovation among tech developers looking to capitalize on the emergence of the metaverse – the Meta will have more world -building tools to work with.
Simply put, it is not easy to build a virtual universe, but it is certainly something that we can bring closer to reality through proper investments in network infrastructure and innovation.