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Markfl370

An experiment in Cloud Computing for Flight Simulation

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I recently migrated from FSX to P3D V3 and faced the reality that my FSX machine would not handle P3D as well as I would like, so prior to building my new machine I experimented with using a cloud based PC for flight simulation.  I tested the following setups (Please note I do not work for or receive anything from any of these vendors): 

 

1.  Amazon Web Services (AWS) GPU Compute instance (Nvidia GRID GPU) using Windows 2012 Server using Open VPN and USB over IP. (Cost varies with global demand but ranged from 14 cents to 76 cents/hour) - Storage can be scaled for whatever you need but you have to pay (depends on type of storage but roughly 2 cents/GB per month but OS doesn't count)

2.  Liquid Sky's Beta Gaming Product.( Cost: 50 cents/hour - also a monthly option) - Includes 100GB storage.

3.  SIXA Gamer's setup. (Cost: 49 cents/hour - also a monthly option) - Includes 200GB storage.

 

I was able to setup and run P3D V3 with Active Sky 2016, Orbyx Global, Fly Tampa Dubai V2, Air Hauler 2 EA and PMDG NGX P3D with 25-30 FPS using both the AWS GPU compute instance (1) and the SIXA Gamer's setup (3). in 1080P (I did not test 4K or multi-monitor) I attempted three times on Liquid Sky's setup but it was so slow installing that I gave up on testing.  I only tested P3D but I don't see any technical reason why FSX or FSX steam would not work as well.  I have no experience with other flight simulators so I cannot comment.

 

Overall I spent roughly 5 hours flying on the AWS instance and 30 hours on the SIXA Gamer's setup.  While the AWS instance works, the USB over IP was very glitchy (latency) and because P3D will not run over an RDP connection I had to use a third party software that limited the graphics quality so I spent most of the time using the SIXA setup.  SIXA has developed a user interface (Windows/MAC) that is excellent and I had very few issues with latency or graphics quality and all of my USB controls worked well in P3D.  The only bug I found was that you sometimes had to attempt to reconnect a few times when the computer first started.  

 

If you have the money I think building or buying your own computer is optimal but for anyone with a limited budget or anyone that travels often I think cloud computing presents an opportunity to upgrade without a large financial investment with reasonable performance.  I still have my SIXA setup that I use hourly when traveling on my 6 year old XP laptop and cheap USB Joystick with no issues.  The only caveat is that you would need a decent internet connection as it streams between 3-8 Mbps though I had no issues on hotel WIFI on my last trip.  As Nvidia (and others) continue to develop Cloud GPU's I can imagine the experience will only improve in the future.

 

Just sharing my experience as an option when considering your next hardware upgrade.  LLAP.

 

Mark

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Fascinating stuff. Excuse my ignorance here but isn't there significant latency in terms of screen refresh? Also  how is sound synthesis handled and relayed?

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Nice one Mark.  Very informative! Thanks for sharing this!

 

One question... if you used multiple USB devices at the same time... did they have any timeout issues or lag?

 

Thanks again!

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Another question - do you have a link to info about SIXA you could provide. Google turned up nothing related to PaaS.

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Here is the link:

 

https://www.sixa.io

 

Regarding sound and refresh rate I never experienced any issues but again I only tested it at 1080p @60HZ, so I cannot speak to the performance of any higher refresh rates.  I suspect the quality of your internet connection will dictate your experience but I have used it on what I would classify as average speed Hotel WIFI without issue.

 

The only USB issues was if I went back and forth between the Cloud PC and the local machine it would stop working after the third or fourth time and I would have to reboot but using dropbox and sharing any files (Flight Planning, charts, ect) before I started the cloud PC solved most of the issues with having to switch between the two PC's.  But I used my X52 Flight controls and Pro Pedals without issue or any lag and I did several 2+ hour flights in the NGX without issue.

 

LLAP

 

Mark

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Thanks for posting about this, very interesting. Looks like this might be useful for flightsim developers as well. I'd like to have my development files in the cloud and work on them from a macbook.

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