id3as' Dom Robinson and Help Me Stream's Tim Siglin Talk Greening of Streaming
Tim Siglin: Welcome to our final interview for Streaming Media East 2022 here in Boston. I've got with me Dom Robinson, who has a shirt on that says id3as [http://id3as.com]. That is his company, but we're actually gonna talk about something else today. Dom and I wrote an article called The Greening of Streaming [https://www.streamingmedia.com/Articles/Editorial/Featured-Articles/The-Greening-of-Streaming-140965.aspx]. In that article, Eric asked us to take a look at the efficiencies as we talked about pricing performance before. And out of that has led to sort of a movement with Greening of Streaming. So, so just let's recap briefly the Greening of Streaming journey.
Dom Robinson: So we wrote the article Greening of Streaming. I thought the name was a catchy catchy phrase, registered the domain, stuck an email catch-all at the back of the domain name, and then at the last four virtual Content Delivery Summits before this week--which I was helping run for Streaming Media--we started the conversation with the industry asking where people's mindsets were at with issues around sustainability, in terms of the energy we are using within all the technologies that we're streaming with.
Tim Siglin: And as a matter of fact, just to interject real quick, I went back and watched part of that Fireside Chat at CDS. And at the end of it, you said to people tell us what you know about greening and power efficiency, because we're a bit naive to the language on it. And obviously, one of the things that we've had to do is figure out what the language is around around that.
Dom Robinson: Certainly, when we were doing the research, the estimation of the reports, they were wildly all over the place, the terminology, what's per frame, kilograms of carbon per hour--all really, really different to come to any consensus about what anyone in the industry was talking about. And in fact, I think until we started asking the questions, everyone was saying, "I don't know, it's the finance director's decision. He buys the green electrons." And it was left there. So once we started the conversation, these bigger companies--Akamai and Intel stand out--went out and really started to drill into their sustainability story. And so by the second and third Content Delivery Summit, we were starting to get panels. We were starting to get the discussion going. One of the premises you mentioned a second ago that we put forward was this idea that, the CDN industry in particular spent the first 10, 15 years of its life focused on price. We forget that--we think it's all about performance because in the more recent decade it's all been about performance. But the first decade was all about making it affordable to you to get high-capacity content or high-data rate content.
Tim Siglin: And as a matter of fact, if you'd have large audiences like we have today, your company who was using the CDN services would be out of business, because it couldn't afford to pay the bill.
Dom Robinson: Exactly. So we spent more than a decade actually focused on getting it to work affordably so that you could then launch models where people could say, "Oh, I haven't got the quality I want." So then we spent another decade getting the quality to the point where it was good enough that the consumer opted in. But nobody had ever thought about the power efficiency. So in the last two years with CDS that conversation's firmly begun, and Greeting of Streaming as a catch-all email group grew. And so we decided to proposition that community to come together to have a full-day online event talking about this, which we did last September. But as momentum for that was coming together, we realized that there was going to be critical mass to create a trade association. So that was essentially our launch event.
Tim Siglin: So besides the language portion, which is working group one, and the lexicon, we have several other working groups. Working group two, which you're working with now around sort of getting the messaging out, but what are working groups three and four?
Dom Robinson: So just to actually explain what the working groups are, basically, as the membership formed and came together, the first and most important rule of the club, if you like--Fight Club--is no greenwashing. So while there's no really formal written constitution at this stage--that may happen certainly within context of working groups, maybe broadly across greening of streaming this gentleman's agreement, if you like--of no greenwashing has been powerful. We're now peer reviewing each other to make sure that our marketing doesn't make claims that are unsubstantiated just to try to win competitive sustainability points, which aren't really--when you look at the big picture--sustainable. So anyway, we got together and formed these working groups one and two, which were kind of mechanical and baseline things. And then the best practices working group, we couldn't really kick that off at first--the long-term aim is to share best practices amongst the community. But we couldn't kick off the best practices group, without knowing, if you like, where the needle is. That led to working group four, which is really the one that's got the legs on the whole thing.
Most people at the moment think that there's a linear relationship between the amount of bandwidth you use and how much energy you use. And therefore there's this idea that if you save bandwidth, you are greener. And actually when you start to look at the whole thing with a system-wide view, you discover that actually you are provisioning everything for peak capacity most of the time, if not all the time. So it doesn't matter if you're sending any data or not. If you go from naught to 30 million users and back again, the system energy stays pretty level. That's the null hypothesis. And nobody's got any real data. So we've got some pretty interesting organizations that have joined up: AMD, Intel on one side on the sort of chip and fabric level; Akamai Ateme, Quortex, Broadpeak, and Varnish in the operator networks varnish as well. Also Axello, Mainstreaming, Radiant, TNO, WhiteRabbit, and EBU. These guys are deployed widely across these infrastructures, and we've said to them, "Let's get some instrumentation going into the network where we're all agreed on the measure that they're taking. and let's start to measure. Let's aggregate that. And then let's not mark our own homework with the industry. We're gonna have a transparency problem if we do that.
So we've engaged Bristol University in the UK in the first place--we may well engage others--to mark our homework for us. Their climate scientists, they have models which are extrapolated from lab tests and haven't until now had a lot of real-world data. So, working as a team with them, we can give them real-world data to increase the resolution of that information. And very early indications are that the null hypothesis has got some legs. It's changing the discussion. We can no longer say, "Oh, my codec's a little bit more efficient." You might be pushing the problem off to another part of the network. We need to take a system-wide view and make sure that we understand that before we make these marketing claims, which inadvertently, I think, but could be very misleading.
Tim Siglin: Exactly. And June 8, we're also gonna be presenting it Parliament on this topic as well. We're all focused on the engineering piece, but we have to remember that from an outreach standpoint, we've had some interest in the UK Parliament as well.
Tim Siglin reflects on his 25-year-long career as a writer, instructor, and consultant in the streaming industry along with his professional partnership with Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen.
Reducing the carbon impact and energy intensity of streaming media requires an industry-wide focus on both educating consumers and managing their service expectations
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