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The 10x Advantage: VPUs vs. Software Encoders

The 10x Advantage: VPUs vs. Software Encoders

The demand for high-quality video content continues, and video streaming engineers are under constant pressure to deliver exceptional performance while reducing their OPEX budget. Even the public cloud is becoming less economically viable. 

The case study of api.video’s strategic pivot to VPUs demonstrates the significant advantages of this transition. Using video processing units (VPUs), a compelling case can be made for moving to specialized hardware that is ten times (10x) more efficient from an energy, density, and cost perspective.

Superior Performance

VPUs are explicitly designed for video processing tasks, offering unparalleled performance compared to general-purpose CPUs. Unlike CPUs, which handle many functions, VPUs are optimized for video encoding and decoding, resulting in significantly higher throughput and lower latency. This specialized focus allows VPUs to process more streams simultaneously and at higher resolutions, providing a seamless viewing experience for end-users.

For instance, api.video’s adoption of NETINT’s Codensity™ G4 and G5 ASIC-based VPUs demonstrated the potential for significant performance improvements. The G5-powered Quadra T1U VPU, with its support for AV1, showcased how dedicated hardware could effortlessly handle multiple 4K streams. In contrast, traditional CPU-based solutions struggled to maintain the same level of performance, requiring many more servers to be deployed.

Cost-Advantage

Cost management is crucial for any video streaming operation. VPUs offer a more cost-effective solution in the long run compared to CPU-based software encoders. While the initial investment in VPU hardware might be higher, the total cost of ownership is significantly lower due to reduced power consumption and cooling requirements. VPUs operate at a fraction of the power required by CPUs, translating into substantial energy savings and lower operational costs.

According to the case study, api.video experienced up to a 70% reduction in total cost of ownership after switching to NETINT’s Quadra T1U VPUs. By deploying these VPUs, they could offer free transcoding services to customers, a strategic move made possible by the significant cost savings from reduced power consumption and server requirements.

NETINT’s economic study further emphasizes these savings, highlighting that ASIC-based VPUs can reduce CAPEX by up to 85% and OPEX by up to 90% compared to CPU-based transcoding. Mayflower’s use case showed an 85% reduction in CAPEX and around 90% in OPEX with ASIC-based VPUs, underscoring the long-term financial benefits of adopting VPUs.

Scaleable and Flexible

As streaming platforms grow, the ability to scale efficiently becomes paramount. VPUs offer superior scalability compared to CPU-based encoders. With VPUs, adding more processing power is as simple as integrating additional units without significant architectural changes. This modular approach to scaling ensures that streaming services can grow organically, adapting to increasing demand without disruption.

The api.video case study highlights the scalability benefits of VPUs. By deploying NETINT’s Quadra T1U cards, they enhanced their infrastructure’s capacity and encoding capabilities, enabling them to handle a higher volume of transcoding tasks without compromising performance.

Upgraded Quality and User Experience

Quality is a critical factor in user retention and satisfaction. VPUs deliver superior video quality through advanced encoding techniques and higher processing capabilities. With dedicated hardware for video tasks, VPUs can achieve better compression rates without sacrificing quality, ensuring smooth playback even at lower bitrates.

In api.video’s tests, the quality of videos encoded using NETINT’s Quadra T1U VPUs was comparable to those encoded with FFmpeg and the x264 codec. The quality metrics (VMAF, PSNR, and SSIM) showed negligible differences, proving that VPUs can deliver high-quality video comparable to traditional CPU-based solutions.

Future-Proofing Your Infrastructure

With new standards and technologies emerging regularly, VPUs are designed with future-proofing in mind, offering support for the latest codecs and video standards. This forward-looking approach ensures that your infrastructure remains relevant and can handle new formats.

NETINT’s VPUs, for example, support a wide range of encoding and decoding standards, including HEVC, AV1, and VP9, ensuring compatibility with current and future playback devices. This adaptability positions streaming providers to stay ahead of the curve, delivering cutting-edge content without requiring frequent hardware upgrades.

Meeting the ever-growing demands of the audiences

The transition to VPUs from traditional CPU-based software encoders presents numerous benefits for video streaming engineers. From superior performance and cost savings to enhanced scalability and future-proofing, VPUs offer a compelling solution to the challenges faced by modern streaming services. By adopting VPUs, streaming engineers can ensure that their platforms deliver high-quality, reliable, and efficient video content, meeting the ever-growing demands of their audiences.

Ready to discuss? Book a meeting with NETINT Experts to learn what’s possible.

Picture of Mark Donnigan

Mark Donnigan

is a veteran of the video ecosystem, working with disruptive innovation companies like NETINT to increase video codec standards and streaming video technology adoption. In addition to working at the forefront of building one of the world's first T-VOD services and driving early HEVC and AV1 adoption, Mark contributed actively to the development and growth of the digital locker initiative, Ultraviolet, breaking device-based content walled gardens, allowing consumers to enjoy video on any device, any time, and in any location. As a technologist and ecosystem developer, Mark's work building cloud-deployed and hyper-scale WebRTC, live, metaverse, and cloud gaming applications gives him a unique view of the OTT and video streaming landscape.

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