api.video Revolutionizes the Industry with Zero-Cost Encoding

api-video-Revolutionizes-the-Industry-w-Zero-Cost-Encoding

The decision behind free video encoding at api.video isn’t just a marketing gimmick. By developing their own infrastructure and utilizing state-of-the-art VPUs, the company has managed to slash encoding expenses by 99.33%. Yet, they’ve ensured that this cost-cutting doesn’t translate to reduced video quality, setting new standards for the video streaming world

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Zapping: Low-Latency Premium Streaming Across Latin America

Zapping Low-Latency CDN Technology

Learn why live-streaming platform Zapping built its own low-latency technology and CDN to stream Latin American content using NETINT Streaming Video Servers, accelerating Zapping’s rapid expansion. “Zapping is the Netflix of the live streaming here in Chile, in Latin America. We developed all our technology; the encoders, low-latency solution, and the apps… We developed our own CDN…” Nacho Opazo, Zapping Co-founder and CTO.

Zapping low latency CDN case study-1
FIGURE 1. Nacho Opazo, Zapping Co-founder and CTO on a rare vacation away from the office,
Source: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nachopazo/overlay/photo/

Background

Zapping is a live-streaming platform in Latin America that started in Chile and has since expanded into Brazil, Peru, and Costa Rica. Ignacio (Nacho) Opazo, the co-founder and CTO, has been the driving force behind the company’s technological innovations.

The verb zapping refers to the ability to switch content streams with minimal delay. Give him a minute and Nacho will gladly demonstrate their superior low latency performance in the hyper-responsive mobile app he designed and developed. He’s also responsible for Zapping’s content delivery network (CDN), custom low-latency technology, and user interfaces on smart TVs.

Zapping streams free channels available via terrestrial broadcast, as well as content from HBO, Paramount, Fox, TNT Sports, Globo, and many others. Though this includes a broad range of content types, from local news to primetime TV to premium movies, what really moves the viewership needle in South America is sports, specifically soccer.

Latin America is a competitive marketplace; in addition to terrestrial TV, other market entrants include DirectTV, Entel, and MovieStar, along with free-to-air content in some markets. This makes soccer coverage a key driver for subscription growth, and it presents multiple operational challenges, including latency, video quality, and bandwidth consumption. With aggressive expansion plans, Zapping needed to achieve these requirements with a focus on capital management and optimizing operating costs.

FIGURE 2. Innovative, feature-rich players and broad compatibility are key to Zapping’s outstanding customer experience.
Source: https://www.zapping.com/compatibilidad

The Challenges of Soccer Broadcasting

Latency is a critical issue for soccer coverage and all live sports. As Nacho described, 

Here in Chile, the soccer matches are premium. So you need to hire a cable operator, and you can hear your neighbor screaming if they have a cable operator with lower latency. Latency is one of the key questions we get asked about in social media. In Brazil, it is more complicated because some soccer matches are free to air. So, our latency has to be lower than free-to-air in Brazil. One potential solution here was to install a server with a low latency transcoder in the CDN of each soccer broadcaster to ensure that Zapping’s streams originate from as close to the original signal as possible."

Zapping competed with these same services regarding quality, which is a key determinant of quality of experience (QoE). Soccer is incredibly fast-moving and presents a many compression challenges, from midfield shots of tiny players advancing and defending to finely detailed shots of undulating crowds and waving flags to close-ups of fouled players rolling in the grass. Zapping needed a transcoder to preserve detail and color accuracy without breaking the bandwidth bank. Like latency, Zapping’s bandwidth problems vary by country. In all countries, soccer’s popularity stresses the internet in general. 

Video files are huge, and when you have a soccer match, thousands of people come to your servers and saturate the region's internet... In the beginning, we saw low bandwidth connections - like 10 Gbps trunks between ISPs, and we saturated that trunk with our service.”

Beyond general capacity, some countries have suboptimal infrastructures for high-bandwidth soccer matches, like low-speed inter-trunk connections. “In the beginning, we saw low bandwidth connections – like 10 Gbps trunks between ISPs, and we saturated that trunk with our service.” Problems like these convinced Zapping to create their own CDN to ensure high-speed delivery.

In Chile, Zapping found a different problem. “Here in Chile, we have a really good internet. We have a connection of one gigabyte to the users, one gigabyte per second, and fiber optic. But 80% of our viewers watch on Smart TVs that they don’t upgrade that often, and these devices don’t have good Wi-Fi connections. So, Wi-Fi is the problem in Chili.” While Zapping’s CDN was a huge help in avoiding bandwidth bottlenecks, the best general-purpose solution was to implement HEVC.

80% of our viewers watch on Smart TVs that they don’t upgrade that often, and these devices don't have good Wi-Fi connections. So, Wi-Fi is the problem in Chile.”

To summarize these requirements, Zapping needed a transcoding system affordable enough to install and operate in data centers around South America that delivered high-quality H.264 and HEVC output with exceptionally low latency.

From CPU to GPU to ASIC

Nacho considered all options to find the right transcoding system. “I started encoding with CPUs using Quick Sync from Intel. but my problem was getting more density for the rack unit. Intel enabled five sockets per a 1RU rack unit, which was really low. Though the video quality was good, the amount of power that you needed, and the amount of heat that you produced was really high.”

Nacho next tried NVIDIA GPUs, starting with the P2000 and moving to T4. Configured with an 80-core Intel CPU and two T4s, the NVIDIA-powered system could produce about 50 complete ladders per 1RU rack unit, an improvement, but still insufficient. Nacho then learned about NETINT’s first-generation T408 technology

I was looking to get more density with my servers and found a NETINT article that claimed that you could output 122 channels per rack unit. (...) I found that the power draw was really low, as was the latency, and the quality of both H.264 and HEVC is really good.”

Looking ahead, Nacho foresees the need for even more density.

Right now we're trying the [second generation] NETINT Quadra processor. I need to get more dense. Brazil is a really big country. We need more power and more density in the rack.”

Nacho was sold on the hardware performance but had to integrate the NETINT transcoders into his encoding stack, which was a non-issue. 

We control the encoders with FFmpeg, and converting over to the NETINT transcoders was really seamless for us. Really, really easy.”

Just as Nacho finalized his testing, NETINT started offering a server package that included ten T408s in a Supermicro server with all software pre-installed. These proved perfectly suited to Zapping’s technology and expansion plans.

The servers are really, really good. For us, buying the server is better because it's ready to use. As we deploy our platform in Latin America, we send a server to each country. It’s as simple as sliding it into a rack, installing our software, and we’re ready to go."

Delivering Better Soccer Matches

Zapping low latency CDN case study-3 - Quadra Server
FIGURE 3.  Nacho will deploy the Quadra Video Server for the greatest density, lowest cost and latency, and highest quality H.264 and HEVC.

Armed with NETINT servers, Nacho proceeded to attack each of the challenges discussed above. 

For the latency, we talk with the channel distributor and put a NETINT server inside the CDN of each broadcaster. And we can skip the satellite uplink and save one or two seconds of latency.”

Nacho originally implemented his own low-latency protocols but now is experimenting with low-latency HLS. “With LL HLS, we can get six seconds ahead from free to air. Let’s talk in about three months and see what that looks like.”

Nacho also implemented a “turbo mode” that toggles the viewer in and out of Zapping’s low-latency mode. Viewers prioritizing low latency can enable turbo mode at the risk of slightly lower quality and a greater likelihood of buffering issues. Viewers who prioritize video quality and minimal buffering over ultra-low latency can disable turbo mode. As Nacho explained, “If you have a bad connection, like bad Wi-Fi, you can turn off the low latency and watch the match in a 30-second buffer like the normal buffer of HLS.”

Nacho also aggressively converted to HEVC output. 

For us, HEVC is really, really important. We get a 40% lower bit rate than H.264 with the same quality image. That’s full HD quality at 6 Mbps per second, which is really good compared to competitors using H.264 at 5 Mbps in full HD. And the user knows we’re delivering HEVC. We have that in our UX. The user can turn HEVC on and off and really see the difference.”

Regarding the HEVC switch, Nacho explained, “If we know that your TV or device is HEVC compatible, we play HEVC by default. But there are so many setup boxes, and some signal their codec compatibilities incorrectly. If we’re not sure, we turn off the HEVC by default, and the user can try it, and if it works, great; if not, they play H.264.”

After much experimentation, Nacho extended HEVC’s low-bitrate quality to other broadcasts as well. ‘For CNN or talk shows, we are trying a 600 kilobyte per second HEVC, and it looks really, really good, even on a big screen.”

Play Video about Voices of Video with Ignacio Opazo from Zapping
FIGURE 4. Voices of Video with Ignacio Opazo from Zapping – Unveiling the Powerhouse Behind Zapping

The Live Streaming Netflix of Latin America

One of Zapping’s unique strengths is that it considers itself a technology company, along with being a content company. This aggressive approach has enabled Zapping to achieve significant success in Chile and to expand into Latin America.

Zapping is the Netflix of the live streaming here in Chile, in Latin America. We developed all our technology; the encoders, our low-latency, and the apps in each platform. We developed our own CDN; I think it's bigger than Akamai and Fastly here in Chile. We are taking the same steps as Netflix. That you make your platform, you make the UI, you make the encoding process and then you must deliver.”

Nacho is clear about how NETINT’s products have contributed to his success. “NETINT servers are an affordable, functional, and high-performant element of our success, providing unparalleled density along with excellent low-latency and H.264 and HEVC quality, all at extremely low power consumption. NETINT has helped accelerate our expansion while increasing our profitability.”

Innovative technologists like Nacho and Zapping choose and rely on equally innovative tools and building blocks to deliver critical functions and components of their services. We’re proud that Nacho has chosen NETINT servers as the technology of choice for expanding operations in Latin America, and look forward to a long and successful collaboration.

ON-DEMAND: Building Your Own Live Streaming Cloud

NETINT Breaks Into the Streaming Media 100 List 2023

NETINT joins the prestigious Streaming Media 100 List for 2023. Recognized for their pioneering ASIC-based transcoders, celebrated for innovation in live streaming, cloud gaming, and surveillance.

NETINT is proud to be included in the Streaming Media list of the Top 100 Companies in the Streaming Media Universe, which “set themselves apart from the crowd with their innovative approach and their contribution to the expansion and maturation of the streaming media universe.”

The list is compiled by members of Streaming Media Magazine’s inner circle and “foregrounds the industry’s most innovative and influential technology suppliers, service providers, platforms, and media and content companies, as acclaimed by our editorial team. Some are large and established industry standard-bearers, while others are comparably small and relatively new arrivals that are just beginning to make a splash.”

Commenting on the Award, Alex Lui, NETINT CEO said, “Over the last twelve months, video engineers have increasingly recognized the unique value that ASIC-based transcoders deliver to the live streaming, cloud gaming, and surveillance markets, including the lowest cost and power consumption per stream, and the highest density. Our entire company appreciates that insiders at Streaming Media share this assessment.”

“Over the last twelve months, video engineers have increasingly recognized the unique value that ASIC-based transcoders deliver to the live streaming, cloud gaming, and surveillance markets, including the lowest cost and power consumption per stream, and the highest density. Our entire company appreciates that insiders at Streaming Media share this assessment.”

NETINT - Streaming Media 100 in 2023

To learn more about NETINT’s Video Processing Units, access our RESOURCES here or SCHEDULE CONSULTATION with NETINT’s Engineers. 

ON-DEMAND: Building Your Own Live Streaming Cloud

Understanding the Economics of Transcoding

Understanding the Economics of Transcoding

Whether your business model is FAST or subscription-based premium content, your success depends upon your ability to deliver a high-quality viewing experience while relentlessly reducing costs. Transcoding is one of the most expensive production-related costs and the ultimate determinant of video quality, so obviously plays a huge role on both sides of this equation. This article identifies the most relevant metrics for ascertaining the true cost of transcoding and then uses these metrics to compare the relative cost of the available methods for live transcoding.

Economics of Transcoding: Cost Metrics

There are two potential cost categories associated with transcoding: capital costs and operating costs. Capital costs arise when you buy your own transcoding gear, while operating costs apply when you operate this equipment or use a cloud provider. Let’s discuss each in turn.

Economics of Transcoding: CAPEX

The simplest way to compare transcoders is to normalize capital and operating costs using the cost per stream or cost per ladder, which simplifies comparing disparate systems with different costs and throughput. The cost per stream applies to services inputting and delivering a single stream, while the cost per ladder applies to services inputting a single stream and outputting an encoding ladder.

We’ll present real-world comparisons once we introduce the available transcoding options, but for the purposes of this discussion, consider the simple example in Table 1. The top line shows that System B costs twice as much as System A, while line 2 shows that it also offers 250% of the capacity of System A. On a cost-per-stream basis, System B is actually cheaper.

Understanding the Economics of Transcoding - table 1
TABLE 1: A simple cost-per-stream analysis.

The next few lines use this data to compute the number of required systems for each approach and the total CAPEX. Assuming that your service needs 640 simultaneous streams, the total CAPEX for System A dwarfs that of System B. Clearly, just because a particular system costs more than another doesn’t make it the more expensive option.

For the record, the throughput of a particular server is also referred to as density, and it obviously impacts OPEX charges. System B delivers over six times the streams from the same 1RU rack as System A, so is much more dense, which will directly impact both power consumption and storage charges.

Details Matter

Several factors complicate the otherwise simple analysis of cost per stream. First, you should analyze using the output codec or codecs, current and future. Many systems output H.264 quite competently but choke considerably with the much more complex HEVC codec. If AV1 may be in your future plans, you should prioritize a transcoder that outputs AV1 and compare cost per stream against all alternatives.

The second requirement is to use consistent output parameters. Some vendors quote throughput at 30 fps, some at 60 fps. Obviously, you need to use the same value for all transcoding options. As a rough rule of thumb, if a vendor quotes 60 fps, you can double the throughput for 30 fps, so a system that can output 8 1080p60 streams and likely output 16 1080p30 streams. Obviously, you should verify this before buying.

If a vendor quotes in streams and you’re outputting encoding ladders, it’s more complicated. Encoding ladders involve scaling to lower resolutions for the lower-quality rungs. If the transcoder performs scaling on-board, throughput should be greater than systems that scale using the host CPU, and you can deploy a less capable (and less expensive) host system.

The last consideration involves the concept of “operating point,” or the encoding parameters that you would likely use for your production, and the throughput and quality at those parameters. To explain, most transcoders include encoding options that trade off quality vs throughput much like presets do for x264 and x265. Choosing the optimal setting for your transcoding hardware is often a balance of throughput and bandwidth costs. That is, if a particular setting saves 10% bandwidth, it might make economic sense to encode using that setting even if it drops throughput by 10% and raises your capital cost accordingly. So, you’d want to compute your throughput numbers and cost per stream at that operating point.

In addition, many transcoders produce lower throughput when operating in low latency mode. If you’re transcoding for low-latency productions, you should ascertain whether the quoted figures in the spec sheets are for normal or low latency.

For these reasons, completing a thorough comparison requires a two-step analysis. Use spec sheet numbers to identify transcoders that you’d like to consider and acquire them for further testing. Once you have them in your labs you can identify the operating point for all candidates, test at these settings, and compare them accordingly.

Economics of Transcoding: OPEX - Power

Now, let’s look at OPEX, which has two components: power and storage costs. Table 2 continues our example, looking at power consumption.

Unfortunately, ascertaining power consumption may be complicated if you’re buying individual transcoders rather than a complete system. That’s because while transcoding manufacturers often list the power consumption utilized by their devices, you can only run these devices in a complete system. Within the system, power consumption will vary by the number of units configured in the system and the specific functions performed by the transcoder.

Note that the most significant contributor to overall system power consumption is the CPU. Referring back to the previous section, a transcoder that scales onboard will require lower CPU contribution than a system that scales using the host CPU, reducing overall CPU consumption. Along the same lines, a system without a hardware transcoder uses the CPU for all functions, maxing out CPU utilization likely consuming about the same energy as a system loaded with transcoders that collectively might consume 200 watts. 

Again, the only way to achieve a full apples-to-apples comparison is to configure the server as you would for production and measure power consumption directly. Fortunately, as you can see in Table 2, stream throughput is a major determinant of overall power consumption. Even if you assume that systems A and B both consume the same power, System B’s throughput makes it much cheaper to operate over a five year expected life, and much kinder to the environment.

Understanding the Economics of Transcoding - table 2
TABLE 2. Computing the watts per stream of the two systems.

Economics of Transcoding: Storage Costs

Once you purchase the systems, you’ll have to house them. While these costs are easiest to compute if you’re paying for a third-party co-location service, you’ll have to estimate costs even for in-house data centers. Table 3 continues the five year cost estimates for our two systems, and the denser system B proves much cheaper to house as well as power.

Understanding the Economics of Transcoding - table 3
TABLE 3: Computing the storage costs for the two systems.

Economics of Transcoding: Transcoding Options

These are the cost fundamentals, now let’s explore them within the context of different encoding architectures.

There are three general transcoding options: CPU-only, GPU, and ASIC-based. There are also FPGA-based solutions, though these will probably be supplanted by cheaper-to-manufacture ASIC-based devices over time. Briefly,

  • CPU-based transcoding, also called software-based transcoding, relies on the host central processing unit, or CPU, for all transcoding functions.
  • GPU-based transcoding refers to Graphic Processing Units, which are developed primarily for graphics-related functions but may also transcode video. These are added to the server in add-in PCIe cards.
  • ASICs are Application-Specific Integrated Circuits designed specifically for transcoding. These are added to the server as add-in PCIe cards or devices that conform to the U.2 form factor.

Economics of Transcoding: Real-World Comparison

NETINT manufactures ASIC-based transcoders and video processing units. Recently, we published a case study where a customer, Mayflower, rigorously and exhaustively compared these three alternatives, and we’ll share the results here.

By way of background, Mayflower’s use case needed to input 10,000 incoming simultaneous streams and distribute over a million outgoing simultaneous streams worldwide at a latency of one to two seconds. Mayflower hosts a worldwide service available 24/7/365.

Mayflower started with 80-core bare metal servers and tested CPU-based transcoding, then GPU-based transcoding, and then two generations of ASIC-based transcoding. Table 4 shows the net/net of their analysis, with NETINT’s Quadra T2 delivering the lowest cost per stream and the greatest density, which contributed to the lowest co-location and power costs.

RESULTS: COST AND POWER

Understanding the Economics of Transcoding - table 4
TABLE 4. A real-world comparison of the cost per stream and OPEX associated with different transcoding techniques.

As you can see, the T2 delivered an 85% reduction in CAPEX with ~90% reductions in OPEX as compared to CPU-based transcoding. CAPEX savings as compared to the NVIDIA T4 GPU was about 57%, with OPEX savings around ~70%.

Table 5 shows the five-year cost of the Mayflower T-2 based solution using the cost per KWH in Cyprus of $0.335. As you can see, the total is $2,225,241, a number we’ll return to in a moment.

Understanding the Economics of Transcoding - table 5
TABLE 5: Five-year cost of the Mayflower transcoding facility.

Just to close a loop, Tables 1, 2, and 3, compare the cost and performance of a Quadra Video Server equipped with ten Quadra T1U VPUs (Video Processing Units) with CPU-based transcoding on the same server platform. You can read more details on that comparison here.

Table 6 shows the total cost of both solutions. In terms of overall outlay, meeting the transcoding requirements with the Quadra-based System B costs 73% less than the CPU-based system. If that sounds like a significant savings, keep reading. 

TABLE 6: Total cost of the CPU-based System A and Quadra T2-based System B.

Economics of Transcoding: Cloud Comparison

If you’re transcoding in the cloud, all of your costs are OPEX. With AWS, you have two alternatives: producing your streams with Elemental MediaLive or renting EC3 instances and running your own transcoding farm. We considered the MediaLive approach here, and it appears economically unviable for 24/7/365 operation.

Using Mayflower’s numbers, the CPU-only approach required 500 80-core Intel servers running 24/7. The closest CPU in the Amazon ECU pricing calculator was the 64-core c6i.16xlarge, which, under the EC2 Instance Savings plan, with a 3-year commitment and no upfront payment, costs 1,125.84/month.

Understanding the Economics of Transcoding - figure 1
FIGURE 1. The annual cost of the Mayflower system if using AWS.

We used Amazon’s pricing calculator to roll these numbers out to 12 months and 500 simultaneous servers, and you see the annual result in Figure 1. Multiply this by five to get to the five-year cost of $33,775,056, which is 15 times the cost of the Quadra T2 solution, as shown in table 5.

We ran the same calculation on the 13 systems required for the Quadra Video Server analysis shown in Tables 1-3 which was powered by a 32-core AMD CPU. Assuming a c6a.8xlarge CPU with a 3-year commitment and no upfront payment,, this produced an annual charge of $79,042.95, or $395,214.6 for the five-year period, which is about 8 times more costly than the Quadra-based solution.

Understanding the Economics of Transcoding - figure 2
FIGURE 2: The annual cost of an AWS system per the example schema presented in tables 1-3.

Cloud services are an effective means for getting services up and running, but are vastly more expensive than building your own encoding infrastructure. Service providers looking to achieve or enhance profitability and competitiveness should strongly consider building their own transcoding systems. As we’ve shown, building a system based on ASICs will be the least expensive option.

In August, NETINT held a symposium on Building Your Own Live Streaming Cloud. The on-demand version is available for any video engineer seeking guidance on which encoder architecture to acquire, the available software options for transcoding, where to install and run your encoding servers, and progress made on minimizing power consumption and your carbon footprint.

ON-DEMAND: Building Your Own Live Streaming Cloud

Demystifying the live-streaming setup

Demystifying the live-streaming setup w Stef van der Ziel from Jet-Stream (NETINT Symposium on Building Your Own Streaming Cloud) - featured image

Stef van der Ziel, our keynote speaker, has been in the streaming industry since 1994, and as founder of Jet-Stream, oversaw the development of Jet-Stream Cloud, a European-based streaming platform. He discussed the challenges associated with creating your own encoding infrastructure, how to choose the best transcoding technology, and the cost savings available when you build your own platform.

Stef started by recounting the evolution and significance of transcoding in the streaming industry. To help set the stage, he described the streaming process, starting with a feed from a source like a camera. This feed is encoded and then transcoded into various qualities. This is followed by origin creation, packaging, and, finally, delivery via a CDN.

Stef emphasized the distinction between encoding and transcoding, noting that the latter is mission-critical too. If errors occur during transcoding, the entire stream can fail, leading to poor quality or buffering issues for viewers.

He then related that quality and viewer experience are paramount for transcoding services, regardless of whether they are cloud-based or on-premises. However, cost management is equally crucial.

Beyond the direct costs of transcoding, incorrect settings can lead to increased bandwidth and storage costs. Stef noted the often-overlooked human operational costs associated with managing a streaming platform, especially in the realm of transcoding. Expertise is essential, necessitating either an in-house team or hiring external experts.

Stef observed that while traffic prices have decreased significantly over the years, transcoding costs have remained relatively high. However, he noted a current trend of decreasing transcoding costs, which he finds exciting.

Lastly, in line with the theme of sustainable streaming, Stef emphasized the importance of green practices at every step of the streaming process. He mentioned that Jet-Stream has practiced green streaming since 2004 and that the intense computational demands of transcoding and analytics make them resistant to green practices.

Demystifying the live-streaming setup w Stef van der Ziel from Jet-Stream (NETINT Symposium on Building Your Own Streaming Cloud) - slide 2

CHOOSING TRANSCODING OPTIONS

In discussing transcoding options, Stef related that CPU-based encoding can deliver very good quality, but that it’s costly in terms of CPU and energy usage. He noted that the quality of GPU-based encoding was lower than CPU and less cost and power efficient than ASICs.

Demystifying the live-streaming setup w Stef van der Ziel from Jet-Stream (NETINT Symposium on Building Your Own Streaming Cloud) - slide 10
FIGURE 1. Stef found CPU and ASIC-based transcoding quality superior to GPU-based transcoding.

The real game-changer, according to Stef, is ASIC-based encoding. ASICs not only offer superior quality but also minimal latency, a crucial factor for specific low-latency use cases.

Compared to software transcoding, ASICs are also much more power efficient. For instance, while CPU-based transcoding could consume anywhere from 2,800 to 9,000 watts for transcoding 80 OTT channels to HD, ASIC-based hardware transcoding required only 308 watts for the same task. This translates to an energy saving of at least 89%.

Beyond energy efficiency, ASICs also shine in terms of scalability. Stef explained that the power constraints of CPU encoding might limit the capacity of a single rack to 200 full HD channels. In contrast, a rack populated with ASIC-based transcoders could handle up to 2,400 channels concurrently. This capability means increased density, optimized use of rack space, and overall heightened efficiency.

Not surprisingly, given these insights, Stef positioned ASIC-based transcoding as a clear frontrunner over CPU- and GPU-based encoding methods.

OTHER FEATURES TO CONSIDER

Once you’ve chosen your transcoding technology, and implemented basic transcoding functions, you need to consider additional features for your encoding facility. Drawing from his experience with Jet-Stream’s own products and services, Stef identified some to consider.

  • Containerize operation in Kubernetes containers so any crash, however infrequent, is self-contained and easily replaceable, often without viewers’ noticing.
  • Stack multiple machines to build a microcloud and implement automatic scaling and pooling.

Combine multiple technologies like decoding, filtering, origin, and edge serving, into a single server. That way, a single server can provide a complete solution in many different scenarios.

Demystifying the live-streaming setup w Stef van der Ziel from Jet-Stream (NETINT Symposium on Building Your Own Streaming Cloud) - slide 20

BEYOND THE BASICS

Beyond these basics, Stef also explained the need to add a flexible and capable interface to your system and to add new features continually, as Jet-Stream does. For example, you may want to burn in a logo or add multi-language audio to your stream, particularly in Europe. You may want or need to support subtitles and offer speech-to-text transcription.

If you’re supporting multiple channels with varying complexity, you may need different encoding profiles tuned for each content type. Another option might be capped CRF encoding to minimize bandwidth costs, which is now standard on all NETINT VPUs and transcoders. On the distribution side, you may need your system to support multiple CDNs for optimized distribution in different geographic regions and auto-failover.

Finally, as your service grows, you’ll need interfaces for health and performance status. Some of the performance indicators that Jet-Stream systems track include bandwidth per stream, viewers per stream, total bandwidth, and many others.

The key point is that you should start with a complete list of necessary features for your system and estimate the development and implementation costs for each. Knowledge of sophisticated products and services like those offered by Jet-Stream will help you understand what’s essential. But you really need a clear-eyed view of the development cost and time before you undertake creating your own encoding infrastructure.

COST AND ENERGY SAVINGS

Fortunately, it’s clear that building your own system can be a huge cost saver. According to Stef, on AWS, a typical full AC channel would cost roughly 2,400 euros per month. By creating his own encoding infrastructure, Jet-Stream reduced this down to 750 euros per month.

Demystifying the live-streaming setup w Stef van der Ziel from Jet-Stream (NETINT Symposium on Building Your Own Streaming Cloud) - slide 14
FIGURE 2. Running your own system can deliver significant savings over AWS.

Obviously, the savings scale as you grow, so “if you do this times 12 months, times five years, times 80 channels, you’re saving almost 8 million euros.” If you run the same math on energy consumption, you’ll save 22,000 euros on energy costs alone.

By running the transcoding setup on-premises, the cost savings can even be doubled. On-premises is a popular choice to bring more control over core streaming processes back in house.

Overall, Stef’s keynote effectively communicated that while creating your own encoding infrastructure will involve significant planning and development time and cost, the financial reward can be very substantial.

Demystifying the live-streaming setup w Stef van der Ziel from Jet-Stream (NETINT Symposium on Building Your Own Streaming Cloud) - slide 46

ON-DEMAND: Stef van der Ziel - Demystifying the live-streaming setup

The LESS Accord and Energy-Efficient Streaming

The goal of our recent Build Your Live Streaming Cloud symposium was to help live video engineers learn how to build and house their own transcoding infrastructure while minimizing power consumption and carbon footprint. Accordingly, we invited Barbara Lange from the Greening of Streaming to speak at the symposium. This article relates the key points of her talk, particularly describing the short-term goals of the Low Energy Sustainable Streaming (LESS) Accord.

By way of background, Barbara is a Volunteer Secretariat for the Greening of Streaming and the principal and CEO of Kibo121, a consultancy dedicated to guiding the media tech sector towards sustainability. Barbara described the Greening of Streaming as a member organization formed roughly two years ago. Its primary focus is on the end-to-end energy efficiency of the technical supply chain that supports streaming services.

The organization has an international membership and is dedicated to addressing the energy implications of the streaming sector. Their mission is to provide the global internet streaming industry with a platform to enhance engineering practices and promote collaboration throughout the supply chain. One core belief is that as streaming increases in scope, understanding the true energy costs, backed by real-world data, is paramount. Barbara mentioned that the organization’s monthly membership meetings are now open to the public, with the next meeting scheduled for October 11 at 11:00 Eastern

Barbara then described the organization’s structure, highlighting its nine current working groups, which focus on diverse pursuits like defining terminology, organizing industry outreach, and identifying best practices. One notable initiative was the measurement of energy consumption during an English Premier soccer match. The organization also explores power consumption in audio streaming, compression/decompression, and the standardization of energy data.

A newly formed group is dedicated to understanding the energy costs associated with end-user devices. Barbara emphasized the importance of collaboration with academic and other industry groups to avoid duplication of effort and to ensure consistent and effective communication across the industry.

Energy-efficient streaming - Barbara-Lange-The-LESS-Accord-and-its-Energy-Savings-Drive-1

LESS ACCORD

With this as background, Barbara focused on the LESS Accord. She began by addressing a common misconception, which is that contrary to some media reports, there’s almost no direct correlation between internet traffic, measured in gigabytes, and energy consumption, measured in kilowatt-hours. This realization emerged from discussions within Working Group Six, which is responsible for examining compression-related issues. This group initiated the LESS Accord.

The LESS Accord’s mission statement is to define best practices for employing compression technologies in streaming video workflows. The goal is to optimize energy efficiency while ensuring a consistently high-quality viewing experience for users. These guidelines target energy reduction throughout the entire streaming process, from the initial encoding for distribution to the decoding and display on consumer devices for all video delivery services.

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As Barbara reported, over the past six months, the group has actively engaged with industry professionals, engineers, and experts. They’ve sought insights and suggestions on how to enhance energy efficiency across all workflow and system stages. The essence of the Accord is to foster a collaborative environment where various, sometimes contrasting, initiatives from recent years can be harmonized.

The ultimate goal is to refine testing objectives and pinpoint organizations that can form project groups. Barbara detailed the first of four projects designated in the LESS Accord’s mission statement.

PROJECT ONE: INTELLIGENT DISTRIBUTION MODEL SHIFTING

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Project one involves is determining the most energy-efficient distribution model at any given time and enabling content delivery networks (CDNs) to seamlessly transition between these models. The three distribution models to be considered are:

  • Unicast: The dominant model in today’s internet streaming.
  • Peer-to-peer: Typically used for video on demand distribution.
  • Net layer multicast: Often deployed for IPTV.

While each model has traditionally served a specific purpose, the group believes that all three could be viable options in various contexts. The hypothesis is that if these models can be provisioned almost spontaneously, there should be an underlying heuristic that facilitates the shift from one model to another. If energy efficiency is the primary concern, this shift could allow the CDN to meet that objective.

The main goal of this project is to design a workflow that incorporates energy measurements for the involved systems. The aim is to discern when an operator should transition from one model to another, with energy consumption of the entire system being the primary driver, without compromising the end user’s experience.

PROJECT TWO: THE "GOOD ENOUGH" CONCEPT

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Barbara then described the second project, which involves potential energy savings through codec choices and optimization. The central question is whether energy can be conserved by allowing consumers to opt for a streaming experience that prioritizes energy efficiency.

The concept suggests introducing a “green button” on streaming media player devices or applications. By pressing this button, users would choose an experience optimized for energy conservation. Drawing a parallel, Barbara mentioned that many televisions come equipped with an “ECO” mode, which many users tend to disable or overlook. Project two will explore whether consumers might be more inclined to select the energy-efficient option if the energy consumption differences between modes were better communicated.

Taking the idea further, this project will explore consumer behavior if the devices defaulted to this ECO or green mode, and users had the choice to upgrade to a “gold mode” for a potentially enhanced quality. Or, if the default setting prioritized energy efficiency, would this lead to a more energy-conserving streaming system?

The project aims to explore these questions, especially considering that many users currently avoid ECO modes, possibly due to perceived concerns about service quality. As you’ve read, this project seeks to understand user behavior and preferences in the context of energy-efficient streaming.

PROJECT THREE: ENERGY MEASUREMENT THROUGHOUT WORKFLOWS

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Barbara then described the third project, which she acknowledged as particularly intricate. The central challenge is to measure energy consumption at every stage of the streaming workflow. This initiative originated from Working Group Four, which has been exploring methods to monitor and probe systems to determine the energy costs associated with each step of the process.

The overarching question is: how much energy is required to deliver a stream to the consumer? While answering this question would be invaluable for economic, marketing, and feedback purposes, it’s a complex endeavor.

The proposed approach involves tracking energy consumption from start to finish in the streaming process. When a video file is created on a computer and encoding begins, an energy reading in kilowatt-hours could be taken. This process would be repeated at each subsequent production, delivery, and playback stage. The idea is to tag the video file with “energy breadcrumbs” or metadata that gets updated as the file progresses through the workflow. By the end, these breadcrumbs would provide a comprehensive view of the energy costs associated with the entire streaming process.

Barbara emphasized the ambitious nature of this project, noting that while it’s uncertain if they can fully realize this vision, they are committed to exploring it. She believes that this project, if successful, could have the most significant impact in terms of understanding energy consumption in the streaming sector.

PROJECT FOUR: TRANSITIONING WORKFLOWS FOR ENERGY EFFICIENCY

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Barbara introduced the fourth project, which will explore how to adapt various technologies to transition existing workflows to hardware environments that are more energy-efficient. Some initial areas of exploration include:

  • Optimization between different silicon environments: Examining how different hardware platforms can be more energy-efficient.
  • Immersion cooling: Comparing traditional air cooling systems with alternative cooling methods in streaming environments. This includes processes like encoding, packaging, caching, and even playback in consumer electronics.
  • Deploying tasks to renewable energy infrastructures: Specifically, relocating non-time-sensitive encoding tasks to infrastructures powered by surplus renewable energy. An exciting development in this area is the interest shown by the Scottish Enterprise which aims to test the relocation of non-critical transcoding workloads to a wind-powered facility in Scotland.

ENERGY-EFFICIENT STREAMING

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Barbara emphasized that all these projects were established during a Greening of Streaming event in June, and are currently in progress. She invited interested parties to join these projects and announced an upcoming member meeting that was held on September 13. Next one – October 11th.

Additionally, at IBC in September, the Greening of Streaming plans to present these projects to a broader audience, kick off the work in the fourth quarter, and continue into the next year. By the NAB event in April 2024, the organization hopes to discuss the projects in-depth and share test results.

ON-DEMAND: Barbara Lange - Empowering a Greener Tomorrow:
The LESS Accord and its Energy Savings Drive

AV1 Capped CRF Encoding with Quadra VPU

We’ve previously reported results for capped CRF encoding for H.264 and HEVC using NETINT Quadra video processing units (VPU). This post will detail AV1 performance, including both 1080p and 4K data.

For those with limited time, here’s what you need to know: Capped CRF delivers higher quality video during hard-to-encode regions than CBR, similar quality during all other scenes, and improved quality of experience at the same cost or lower than CBR. NETINT VPUs are the first hardware video encoders to adopt Capped CRF across the three most popular codecs in use today, AV1, HEVC, and H.264.

You can read a quick description of capped CRF here and get a deep dive with H.264 and HEVC performance results here

CAPPED CRF OVERVIEW

Briefly, capped CRF is a smart bitrate control technique that combines the benefits of CRF encoding with a bitrate cap. Unlike variable bitrate encoding (VBR) and constant bitrate encoding (CBR), which target specific bitrates, capped CRF targets a specific quality level, which is controlled by the CRF value. You also set a bitrate cap, which is applied if the encoder can’t meet the quality level below the bitrate cap.

On easy-to-encode videos, the CRF value sets the quality level, which it can usually achieve below the bitrate cap. In these cases, capped CRF typically delivers bitrate savings over CBR-encoded footage while delivering similar quality. For harder-to-encode footage, the bitrate cap usually controls, and capped CRF delivers close to the same quality and bitrate as CBR.

The value proposition is clear: lower bitrates and good quality during easy scenes, and similar to CBR in bitrate and quality for harder scenes. I’m not addressing VBR because NETINT’s focus is live streaming, where CBR usage dominates. If you’re analyzing capped CRF for VOD, you would compare against 2-pass VBR as well as potentially CBR.

One last detail. CRF values have an inverse relationship to quality and bitrate; the higher the CRF value, the lower the quality and bitrate. In general, video engineers select a CRF value that delivers their target quality level. For premium content, you might target an average VMAF score of 95. For user-generated content or training videos, you might target 93 or even lower. As you’ll see, the lower the quality score, the greater the bandwidth savings.

1080p RESULTS

We show 1080p results in Table 1, which is divided between easy-to-encode and hard-to-encode content. We encoded the CBR clips to 4.5 Mbps and applied the same cap for capped CRF encoding.

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Table 1. 1080p results using Quadra VPU and capped CRF encoding.

You see that in CBR mode, Quadra VPUs do not reach the target rate as accurately as when using capped CRF mode. This won’t degrade viewer quality of experience since the VMAF scores exceed 95, so this missing on the low side saves excess bandwidth with no visual quality detriment.

In this comparison, bitrate savings is minimized, particularly at CRF 19 and 21, as the capped CRF clips in the hard-to-encode content have a higher bitrate than the CBR counterparts (4,419 and 4,092 to 3,889). Not surprisingly, CRF 19 and 21 deliver little bandwidth savings and a slighly higher quality than CBR.

At CRF 23, things get interesting, with an overall bandwidth savings of 16.1% with a negligible quality delta from CBR. With a VMAF score of around 95, CRF 23 might be the target for engineers delivering premium content. Engineers targeting slightly lower quality can choose CRF 27 and achieve a bitrate savings of 43%, and an efficient 2.4 Mbps bit rate for hard-to-encode footage. At CRF 27, Quadra VPUs encoded the hard-to-encode Football clip at 3,999 kbps with an impressive VMAF score of 93.39.

Note that as with H.264 and HEVC, AV1 capped CRF does reduce throughput. Specifically, a single Quadra VPU installed in a 32-core workstation outputs 23 simultaneous CBR streams using CBR encoding. This dropped to eighteen for capped CRF, a reduction of 22%.

4K RESULTS

Many engineers encoding with AV1 are delivering UHD content, so we ran similar tests with the Quadra and 4K30 8-bit content with a CBR target and bitrate cap of 16 Mbps. Using four clips, including a 4K version of the high-motion Football clip to much less dynamic content like Netflix’s Meridian clip and Blender Foundation’s Sintel.

Table 2. 4K results for the Quadra VPU and capped CRF encoding.

In CBR mode, the Quadra VPU hit the bitrate target much more accurately at 4K than 1080p, so even at CRF 19, the VPU delivered a 13% bitrate savings with a VMAF score of 96.23. Again, CRF 23 delivered a VMAF score of very close to 95, with 45% savings over CBR. Impressively, at CRF 23, Quadra delivered an overall VMAF score of 94.87 for these 4K clips at 7.78 Mbps, and that’s with the Football clip weighing in at 14.3 Mbps.

Of course, these savings directly relate to the cap and CBR target. It’s certainly fair to argue that 16 Mbps is excessive for 4K AV1-encoded content, though Apple recommends 16.8 for 8-bit 4K content with HEVC here.

The point is, when you encode with CBR, you’re limiting quality to control bandwidth costs. With capped CRF, you can set the cap higher than your CBR target, knowing that all content contains easy-to-encode regions that will balance out the impact of the higher cap and deliver similar or lower bandwidth costs. With these comparative settings, capped CRF delivers higher quality video during hard-to-encode regions than CBR, similar quality during all other scenes, and improved quality of experience at the same cost or lower than CBR.

DENSER / LEANER / GREENER : Symposium on Building Your Own Streaming Cloud

Choosing a Co-Location Facility

Edgio is the result of the merger between Limelight Networks and EdgeCast in 2022, which produced a company with over 20 years of experience choosing and installing their own equipment into co-location facilities.

With customers like Disney, ESPN, Amazon, and Verizon, Edgio has had to manage both explosive growth and exceptionally high expectations.

So, there’s no better source to help you learn to choose a co-location provider than Kyle Faber, Head of CDN Product Delivery Management at Edgio. He’s got experience, and as you’ll see below, the pictures to prove it.

Kyle starts with a description of the math involved in deciding whether co-location is the right direction for your organization, and then works though must-have and nice-to-have co-location features. He covers the value of certifications, the importance of redundancy and temperature management, explores connectivity, support, and cost considerations, and finishes with a look at sustainability. It’s a deep and comprehensive look at choosing a co-location provider and information that anyone facing this decision will find invaluable.

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NAVIGATE THE COMPLEXITIES OF PRIVATE COLOCATION DECISIONS

Kyle started by addressing the considerations video engineers should prioritize when contemplating the shift to private co-location. In the context of modern public cloud computing platforms, he asserted that the decision to opt for private colocation requires a higher level of scrutiny due to the advanced capabilities of cloud offerings. While some enterprises rely solely on public cloud solutions for their production stack, there are compelling reasons to explore private colocation options.

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He outlined his talk as follows:

  • First, he detailed a methodology for considering your financial break-even.
  • Then, he identified the “must have” features that a co-location provider must offer.
  • Then he related the nice-to-have, but not essential features that are potentially negotiable based on your organization’s goals.
  • He concluded with insight into how to balance the cloud vs. co-location decision, sharing that “it’s not a zero-sum game.”

As you’ll see, throughout the talk, Kyle provided practical insights to help video engineers navigate the complexities of private colocation decisions. He emphasized understanding the factors influencing these choices and making informed decisions based on an organization’s unique circumstances.

UNDERSTANDING THE MATH AND BREAKEVEN PRINCIPLES

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Kyle started the economic discussion with the concept of the economics of minimum load and its relevance to private co-location decisions for video engineers. Using an everyday analogy, Kyle drew parallels between choosing to buy a car for daily use versus opting for ride-sharing services. He noted that the expenses associated with car ownership accumulate rapidly, but they eventually stabilize.

The convenience of controlling usage and trip frequency often leads to a reduced cost per ride compared to ride-sharing services over time. This analogy illustrated the dynamics of yearly co-location contracts, where minimum load drives efficiencies and potential gains.

Kyle then shifted to a scenario involving short-term heavy needs, like vacation car rentals. He noted that car rentals offer flexibility for unpredictable schedules without the commitment of ownership. This aligns with the flexibility provided by bare metal service providers, who offer diverse options within predefined parameters. This approach maintains efficiency while operating within certain boundaries.

Concluding his analogy, Kyle compared on-demand and public cloud offerings to ride-sharing services. He emphasized their ease of access, requiring just a few clicks to summon a driver or server, without concerns regarding operational aspects like insurance, maintenance, and updates.

By illustrating these relatable scenarios, Kyle underscored the importance of understanding the economics of minimum load in the context of private co-location decisions, specifically catering to the considerations of video engineers.

NAVIGATE THE ECONOMICS OF MINIMUM LOAD

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Kyle next elaborated on the strategic approach required to navigate the economics of minimum load in the context of private co-location decisions. He emphasized the significance of aligning different models with specific data center demands.

Drawing from personal experiences, Kyle illustrated the concept using relatable scenarios. He contrasted his friend’s experience of living near a rail line in Seattle, which made car ownership unnecessary, with his own situation in Scottsdale, Arizona, where car ownership was essential due to logistical challenges.

Translating this to the business realm, Kyle pointed out that various companies have unique server requirements. Some prioritize flexible load management over specialized hardware needs and prefer to maintain a lean staff without extensive server administration roles. For Edgio, a content delivery network, private co-location globally was the optimal choice to meet their specific requirements.

Kyle then began a cost analysis, acknowledging that while the upfront cost of private co-location might seem daunting compared to public cloud prices, the cumulative server hour costs can accumulate rapidly. He referenced AWS’s substantial revenue from convenience as an example. He highlighted the necessity of considering hidden costs, including human capital requirements and logistical factors.

Addressing executive leaders, Kyle cautioned against assuming that software developers skilled with code are also adept at running data centers. He emphasized the importance of having dedicated data center and server administration experts to maximize cost savings and avoid potential disasters.

Looking toward the future, Kyle advised mid-sized companies to consider their future needs and focus on maintaining nimbleness. He shared his insights into the challenges of hardware logistics and the value of proper tracking and clarity to identify breakeven points. In this comprehensive overview, Kyle provided practical insights into the economics of minimum load, offering a pragmatic perspective on private co-location decisions for video engineers.

MUST-HAVE CO-LOCATION FEATURES

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With the economics covered, Kyle shifted to identifying the must-have features in any co-location service, suggesting that certifications play a crucial role in evaluating co-location providers. ISO 9,000 and SOC 2, types one and two, were cited as common minimum standards, with additional regional and industry-specific variations. Kyle recommended requesting certifications from potential vendors and conducting thorough research to understand the significance of these certifications.

Kyle explained that by obtaining certifications, you can move beyond basic questions about construction methods, power backup systems, and operational standards. Instead, you can focus on more nuanced inquiries, like power sources, security standards for visitors, and the training and responsiveness of remote hands teams. This transition allows for a more informed assessment of vendors’ capabilities and suitability for specific needs.

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF ON-SITE VISITS

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Kyle underscored the significance of on-site visits in the colocation decision-making process, sharing three images that highlighted the insights gained from physical visits to data center facilities. The first image depicted service cabling that entered a data center. While the front of the building seemed pristine, the back revealed potential issues lurking in the shadows. Kyle stressed that some problems can only be identified through close inspection.

The second image showed a fiber distribution panel, showcasing the low level of professionalism evident in the data center’s installations. This reinforced the idea that visual assessments can reveal the quality of a facility’s infrastructure.

The third image illustrated a unique scenario. During construction, a new fiber channel was being laid, but the basement entry of the fiber trench was left unsealed. An overnight rainstorm resulted in the trench filling with water. Because the basement access hole was uncapped, water flowed downhill into a room with valuable equipment. This real-life example served as a reminder of the importance of thorough inspection and due diligence in the colocation industry.

These visuals underscore the importance of physically visiting data centers to identify potential challenges and make informed decisions.

AND TEMPERATURE MANAGEMENT

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Kyle also shared that  temperature management is particularly important to data centers. For example, Edgio emphasizes cooling speed, temperature regulation, and high-density heat rejection technology. It’s not merely about achieving lower temperatures; it’s about effectively managing and dissipating heat.

Kyle explained that even a slight temperature fluctuation can trigger far-reaching consequences, so maintaining a precise temperature of 76 degrees Fahrenheit is paramount. The utilization of advanced heat rejection technology ensures that any deviations from this optimal point can be promptly corrected, guaranteeing peak performance for their installations.

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Paradoxically, economic success complicates temperature maintenance. Over the past eight years, Kyle reported that Edgio achieved a 30% improvement in server power efficiency, coupled with a 760% surge in server density metrics. However, since the laws of physics remain steadfast, this density surge brings with it an elevated heat generation within a smaller space.

CONNECTIVITY, SUPPORT, AND COST CONSIDERATIONS

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Kyle’s discussion then shifted to connectivity, sustainability, and environmental considerations with a focus on where to place each factor in your decision-making scorecard.

Emphasizing the critical role of connectivity in businesses, Kyle noted that vendors often claim constant uptime and availability, and usually deliver this, so they differentiate themselves through their access to the wider internet. When choosing a co-location provider, all organizations should reflect on their unique requirements. For instance, he suggests that businesses intending to connect with a CDN like Edgio might require a local data center partner that facilitates data transformation and transcoding but might not need the extensive infrastructure for global data distribution.

Kyle then addressed the significance of remote support, especially during initial installations where a swift response to issues is crucial. While tools like iDRAC and remote Out-of-Band server access provide control, Kyle highlighted the importance of real-time assistance during other critical moments, such as identifying server issues.

Addressing costs, Kyle acknowledges its pivotal role in decision-making, a sentiment particularly relevant given the current technology landscape. Kyle urges a balance between cost-effectiveness and quality, drawing parallels between daily personal choices and those made in professional spheres. He references Terry Pratchett’s boot theory of economics, emphasizing the inevitability of change and the need for proactive lifecycle management. “Even the best boots will not last forever,” Kyle paraphrased, “and you need to plan lifecycle management.”

A FEW WORDS ABOUT SUSTAINABILITY

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Kyle urged all participants and readers to consider sustainability, transcending its status as a mere buzzword. “Sustainability is more than a buzzword,” he declared, “It is a commitment.”

He illuminated the staggering energy appetite of data centers, exemplified by Amazon’s permits for generators in Virginia, capable of producing a remarkable 4.6 gigawatts of backup power – enough to illuminate New York City for a day. Kyle underscored the industry’s responsibility to reevaluate energy sources, citing the rising importance of Environmental Social Governance (ESG) movements. He emphasized that organizations are now compelled to report their environmental impact to stakeholders and investors, emphasizing transparency.

When considering colocation facilities, Kyle recommended evaluating their sustainability reports, which reveal critical information from energy-sourcing practices to governance approaches. By aligning operational needs with global responsibilities, businesses can make conscientious choices that resonate with their core values and forge meaningful partnerships with data center providers.

GET INTIMATELY ACQUAINTED WITH THE UNPREDICTABLE

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While you should perform a comprehensive needs analysis and service comparison to choose your provider, Kyle also highlighted that data centers are intimately acquainted with the unpredictable. Construction activities, often beyond the data center provider’s control, persistently surround these facilities.

The photo above, taken a mile away from a facility, exemplifies the unforeseen challenges. A construction crew, possibly misinformed or negligent, drove an auger into the ground at an incorrect location, inadvertently ensnaring cabling, and yanking dozens of meters of fiber from the earth.

The incident’s specifics remain unclear, yet the lesson is evident – despite meticulous planning, unpredictability is an integral facet of this landscape. As Kyle summarized, “It’s a stark reminder that despite our best plans, unpredictability has to be part of this landscape, so always be prepared for the unexpected.”

NO ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL SOLUTION

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In closing, Kyle addressed the intricate decisions surrounding ownership, rental, and on-demand data center services, emphasizing that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. He presents the choice between owning servers, renting them, or opting for on-demand cloud services as a complex tapestry woven with factors such as the unique average minimum load and an organization’s strategic objectives.

Kyle cautioned that navigating this intricate landscape demands a nuanced perspective. The decision requires a well-thought-out plan that not only accommodates an organization’s goals and growth but also anticipates the evolving trends of the industry. This approach ensures that the chosen path resonates seamlessly with an organization’s aspirations, offering stability for the journey ahead.

GO FROM A PURE OPEX MODEL TO A CAPEX MODEL

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Before wrapping up, Kyle answered one question from the audience, “ How does someone begin to approach a transition? Is it even possible to go from a pure OPEX model to a CAPEX model? Any suggestions, ideas, insights?”

Kyle noted that when you assess an OPEX model, you’re essentially looking at linear costs. These costs offer a clear breakdown of your system expenses, which can be projected into the future.

While there might be some pricing fluctuations as public cloud providers compete, you can treat entire segments as a transition unit. It might not be feasible to buy just one server and place it in isolation, but you can transition comprehensive sections in one concerted effort.

So, you might build a small encoding farm, allowing for a gradual shift while maintaining flexibility across various cloud instances like AWS, Azure, or GCP. This phased approach grants greater control, cost benefits, and a smoother transition into the new paradigm.

ON-DEMAND: Kyle Faber - Choosing a Co-Location Facility

Norsk and NETINT: Elevating Live Streaming Efficiency

With the growing demand for high-quality viewing experiences and the heightened attention on cost efficiency and environmental impact,  hardware acceleration plays an ever-more-crucial role in live streaming.

Here at NETINT, we want users to take full advantage of our transcoding hardware, so we’re pleased to announce that id3as NORSK now offers exceptionally efficient support for NETINT’s T408 and Quadra video processing unit (VPU) modules.

Here at NETINT, we want users to take full advantage of our transcoding hardware, so we’re pleased to announce that id3as NORSK now offers exceptionally efficient support for NETINT’s T408 and Quadra video processing unit (VPU) modules.

Using NETINT VPU’s, users can leverage the Norsk low-code live streaming SDK to achieve higher throughput and greater efficiency compared to running software on CPUs in on-prem or cloud configurations. Combined with Norsk’s proven high-availability track record, this makes it easy to deliver exceptional services with maximum reliability and performance at a never-before-available OPEX. 

Norsk and NETINT.

Norsk also takes advantage of Quadra’s hardware acceleration and onboard scaling to achieve complex compositions like picture-in-picture and resizing directly on the card. Even better, Norsk’s built-in ability to “do the right thing” also means that it knows when it can take advantage of hardware acceleration and when it can’t.  

 

For example, if you’re running Norsk on the T408, decoding will take place on the card, but Norsk will automatically utilize the host CPU for functions like picture-in-picture and resizing that the T408 doesn’t natively support, before returning the enriched media to the card for encoding (Scaling and resizing functions are native to Quadra VPUs so are performed onboard without the host CPU). 

 

“As founding members of Greening of Streaming, we’re keenly aware of the pressing need to focus on energy efficiency at every point of the video stack,” says Norsk CEO Adrian Roe. “By utilizing the Quadra and T408 VPU modules, users can reduce energy usage while achieving maximum performance even on compute-intensive tasks. With Norsk seamlessly running on NETINT hardware, live streaming services can consume as little energy as possible while delivering a fantastic experience to their customers.” 

“By utilizing the Quadra and T408 VPU modules, users can reduce energy usage while achieving maximum performance even on compute-intensive tasks. With Norsk seamlessly running on NETINT hardware, live streaming services can consume as little energy as possible while delivering a fantastic experience to their customers.” 

– Norsk CEO Adrian Roe. 

“Id3as has proven expertise in helping its customers produce polished, high-volume, compelling productions, and as a product, Norsk makes that expertise widely accessible,” commented Alex Liu, NETINT founder and COO. “With Norsk’s deep integration with our T408 and Quadra products, this partnership makes NETINT’s proven ASIC-based technology available to any video engineer seeking to create high-quality productions at scale.” 

“With Norsk’s deep integration with our T408 and Quadra products, this partnership makes NETINT’s proven ASIC-based technology available to any video engineer seeking to create high-quality productions at scale.”  

– Alex Liu, NETINT founder and COO.

Both Norsk and NETINT will be at IBC in Amsterdam, September 15-18. Click to request a meeting with Norsk, or NETINT, and/or visit NETINT at booth 5.A86

ON-DEMAND: Adrian Roe - Make Live Easy with NORSK SDK

Save Bandwidth with Capped CRF

Video engineers are constantly seeking ways to deliver high-quality video more efficiently and cost-effectively. Among the innovative techniques gaining traction is capped Constant Rate Factor (CRF) encoding, a form of Content-Adaptive Encoding (CAE), which NETINT recently introduced across our Video Processing Unit (VPU) product lines for x264 and x265. In this blog, we explore why capped CRF is essential for engineers seeking to streamline video delivery and save on bandwidth costs.

Capped CRF - The Efficient Encoding Solution

Capped CRF is a smart bitrate control technique that combines the benefits of CRF encoding with a bit rate cap. Unlike Variable Bitrate Encoding (VBR) and Constant Bitrate Encoding (CBR), which target specific bitrates, capped CRF targets a specific quality level controlled by the CRF value, with a bitrate cap applied if the encoder can’t meet the quality level below the bitrate cap.

A typical capped CRF command string might look like this:

crf 21    -maxrate 6MB

This tells the encoder to encode to CRF 21 quality, but don’t exceed 6 Mbps. Let’s see how this might work with the football video shown in the figure, which compares capped CRF at these parameters with a CBR file encoded to 6 Mbps.

NETINT - Bitrate Comparison - Capped CRF

With the x264 codec, CRF 21 typically delivers a VMAF score of around 95. With easy-to-encode sideline shots, the CRF value would control the encoding, delivering 95 VMAF quality at 2 Mbps, a substantial savings over CBR at 6 Mbps.

During actual plays, the 6 Mbps bitrate cap would control, delivering the same quality as CBR at 6 Mbps. So, capped CRF saves bandwidth with easy-to-encode scenes while delivering equivalent to CBR quality with hard-to-encode scenes.

Ease of Integration

As implemented within the NETINT product line, capped CRF requires no additional technology licensing or complex integration – you simply upgrade your products and change your encoding command string. This means that you can seamlessly implement the feature across NETINT’s VPUs without extensive adjustments or additional investments.

NETINT’s capped CRF is compatible with H.264 and HEVC, and AV1 coming (Quadra only), so you can use the feature across different codec options to suit your specific project requirements. Regardless of the codec used, capped CRF delivers consistent video quality with the potential for bandwidth savings, making it a valuable tool for optimizing video delivery.

A Game Changer

By deploying capped CRF, engineers can efficiently deliver high-quality video streams, enhance viewer experiences, and reduce operational expenses. As the demand for video streaming continues to grow, Capped CRF emerges as a game-changer for engineers striving to stay at the forefront of video delivery optimization.

You can read more about how capped CRF works here. You can read more about Quadra VPUs here, and T408 transcoders here.

Now ON-DEMAND: Symposium on Building Your Live Streaming Cloud