Cloud Native Production: The Next Level of Carbon Reduction
Are broadcasters and major content producers going far enough, fast enough, to reduce their impact on climate change? A new report "Video Shouldn’t Cost The Earth" suggests not.
While many media organizations are starting to use the cloud for editing and post-production workflows—in part because of its merits to sustainability—they can go further by using fully cloud-native solutions.
That’s the conclusion of a new report from browser-based editing system developer Blackbird. In particular, the report highlights the limitations of hybrid solutions which are not designed to work natively in the cloud. Hybrid is the reports terms for technology which remains on-prem even if the applications are accessed remotely.
"While they require less physical infrastructure, most standard cloud-based solutions need extra hardware to connect to the system and output from it," the report states. "They also use hidden virtual infrastructure within the cloud, which consumes significant amounts of energy."
To support this, Blackbird commissioned environmental consultancy Green Element to compare the carbon emissions of on-premise and cloud hybrid workflows versus a cloud native one.
As expected, the on-prem model, which includes travel to a venue and on-site production rigs, produces much higher emissions than either of the cloud workflows—ten times more than a cloud-native solution in one scenario.
The report also suggests a significant gap between the two remote production models. Emissions from the cloud native solution are less than half that of the cloud hybrid model in a one-day live event scenario. This gap increases dramatically over time so that during production of a 14-day live event, the hybrid solution produces six times more carbon than one able to work using low power (or lower bandwidth).
Though the report doesn't name them, the findings of this report seem to condemn Avid and Adobe (combined with PCoIP solutions like Teradici) remote editing systems, while giving a big tick to Blackbird.
The company believes its solution can offer "significant energy and emission savings" when compared to most rival cloud-based video production platforms.
Green credentials are rising up the agenda when it comes to selecting one partner or product solution over another and Blackbird is clearly confident in sticking its colors to the mast.
Heating Up the Agenda
The carbon cost calculations for video production are stark. Albert, the sustainability arm of BAFTA, estimates that every hour of TV produced results in the equivalent of 9.2 tonnes of CO2. And each tonne of carbon dioxide results in the loss of 3m2 of sea ice.
Watching online video alone generates 300m tonnes of CO2 a year, equivalent to 1% of total global emissions, according to the BBC.
The report says the biggest share of carbon emissions come from the energy needed to power streaming and the devices used to view content, as well as the delivery networks and data centres that support streaming.
Awareness of the problem is rising and the industry is beginning to act. Google has committed to go entirely carbon-free by 2030, ensuring that its data centres are powered by renewable energy. Sky aims to achieve net carbon neutrality in all of its TV production activity by 2030. Content providers such as global sports giant IMG have made similar statements of intent.
Among VOD platforms, Amazon has committed to be net carbon zero by 2040 and Netflix is matching its energy consumption with renewable energy certificates and carbon offsets.
The pandemic accelerated trends that were already in motion, and now cloud workflows with distributed workers are here to stay.
Leveraging cloud-based video streaming platforms, service providers can deliver on-demand content at scale. Cloud-native platforms, in particular, help to optimize file storage and reduce video buffering to ensure high-quality streaming experiences.
Among all the other changes that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the industry, it has accelerated broadcasters' move to the cloud. That shift is only going to continue.
The content delivery network used only renewable energy for its east coast U.S. data center in 2020, a year marked by notable traffic spikes for video, online gaming, and software downloads
The time has long since passed to turn our attention to making the streaming delivery ecosystem more environmentally friendly. Here are some of the key challenges, as well as some suggested first steps towards solutions.
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