In this episode, we're joined by Thomas Edwards, Principal Architect of Media and Entertainment at AWS. Here Thomas presents the current situation with regards to sustainability, and the goals set by major M&E companies. Thomas then talks about how the cloud can help meet sustainability goals through higher efficiency and scalable, event-driven operations. Thomas also focuses on M&E applications that take advantage of cloud sustainability such as virtualized remote cloud production and cloud-based media supply chains.
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[Announcer] Welcome to The VideoVerse.
Zoe: Okay, thanks to everyone to come to our video podcast, The VideoVerse, again. And then for this episode, we are honored to have Thomas Edwards down here, a principal solution architect from AWS Amazon. So this is an interesting topic. Actually, it's a very essential topic, an important topic we are talking about today. But I would like Thomas to have a self-introduction at the beginning. Hi, Thomas. Good to have you down here.
Thomas: Hi. Thank you, Zoe and Doug. Really appreciate the invitation to join.
Zoe: All right, thank you for having here. I forgot to mention I have Doug from our team as a co-host for this episode.
Doug: Hi, everybody.
Zoe: So go ahead, Thomas. We want to listen to some quick stories from your side today.
Thomas: Yeah, sure. So I'm Thomas Edwards. I've been in the broadcast industry for about 20 years, first working at PBS, starting on their satellite interconnection system, and then coming to the Fox Broadcast Network, working on their satellite interconnection system, and then working on a bunch of advanced technology projects. We started off with things like 4K, high dynamic range, stereoscopic 3D, which didn't work out so well, but then moving to SMPTE 2110 and moving video as IP packets over ethernet instead of bespoke SMPTE standards over SDI, over coaxial cables.
Most recently, two years ago, I got the opportunity to move to Amazon Web Services. Amazon Web Services has a full set of solutions for media and entertainment. We've got excellent elemental media services. We also work with lots of partners in the ISV space, creating media software to enable all kinds of things: content creation, media asset management and archive, broadcast, and direct-to-consumer.
So what got me interested in sustainability is about a year ago, we had a meeting of the media and entertainment technical field community within AWS. These are basically all the folks who are interested in media and entertainment. And one of the topics was what Amazon as a whole was doing for sustainability. And if you haven't heard yet, Amazon was one of the founders of the climate pledge to be carbon neutral by 2040. And, you know, I heard this, I'm like, "Hey, you know, this is kind of interesting." I've got two kids who are 11 years old, a twin boy and girl, and, you know, I am a bit concerned about their future.
We know what the IPCC says. If we continue just doing business as usual, by the the end of the century, we will have a global temperature rise by about 4.4 degrees Celsius, which will make parts of the planet uninhabitable and will dramatically change ecosystems and weather patterns globally. And this is something I don't wanna leave to my children. And obviously, I'm within media and entertainment, so I thought to myself, "Well, you know, I should really do a deep dive on this. I should find out exactly what's going on with sustainability in media and entertainment, and then be able to say, you know, how our customers can use the cloud to help make their media and entertainment workloads more sustainable."
Zoe: Yeah. So this is actually, a lot of people nowadays are talking about green energy. And then you have just introduced a long, I think, years of experiences in the field of media and entertainment. So now you actually bring the media and entertainment to the attention of how it got sustainability over the cloud. Then you quickly mentioned that AWS has such kind of initiative. So can you just talk a little bit more about how the sustainability, for example, how to make the media and entertainment. We know that it's all online. We watch videos, the video streaming, especially. And then the pandemic, it's got booming. And all the internet, there's so much traffic that customers and all the users enjoy the videos. And then what kind of sustainability issue actually indeed very essential for the segment of media and entertainment? So what kind of aspects that you see potentially bring your attention to dedicate it to this area?
[00:04:57 Cloud helps to make workloads more sustainable]
Thomas: Well, you know, the cloud is a great opportunity to help make all of your workloads more sustainable. Whenever you have your workloads running on the cloud, instead of running on dedicated hardware on premises, you are sharing the hardware with other customers and even other workloads of your own. We know, for instance, that the cloud is going to be 3.6 times more energy efficient than the median enterprise data center in the US. And that makes sense. When you have a workload you need to run on the cloud, you spin it up, you run the workload, you spin it back down again. And you're not using any idle resources in, you know, in this process.
So this is, you know, a great opportunity to help improve the sustainability of any of the workloads that you're already doing on prem. Just moving them to cloud gives you this advantage.
The other thing that the cloud can bring you is because of the scale of cloud service providers like Amazon, we make lots of research and development investments in making our servers and our data centers more efficient. Obviously, it's what we do, it's what we specialize in. We have huge, massive data centers. We take a look at how we can make things more efficient. So for instance, by changing the universal power supply from being one centralized, giant universal power supply to being distributed, universal power supplies, batteries across all the different rows of the data center, this actually brings an increase in UPS efficiency. We can be more efficient by making investments in even microprocessors. Amazon has the Graviton processor based on the ARM platform. And this is significantly more efficient in terms of watts per amount of computation done than existing microprocessors processors.
So by making these investments and being able to share the actual physical hardware between different customers and different workloads, being on the cloud has a kind of natural benefit of enhanced sustainability. There's more, though, as part of Amazon's pledge to be carbon neutral by 2040. Also, by 2025, Amazon expects to be running its data centers on all renewable energy. And that means, you know, solar energy, wind energy. And already Amazon is the world's largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy. Just last year, within most of the Amazon region, Amazon Web Services regions, in the United States and Europe, most of those were running on 95% renewable energy last year. And again, by 2025 we expect it to be 100% everywhere.
Zoe: Yeah, you actually touched quite a bit already. So we heard that because cloud, and nature about cloud is it can be shared, the resources, and it can be scaled. And in particular, you mentioned that AWS, actually, the Graviton, they use ARM. And ARM, by itself, that has the energy-efficient, computationally efficient nature down there. And also you mentioned that Amazon has made the pledge to try to use renewable energy, right, in order to become carbon neutral in the year of 2040, that you mentioned this number. But particularly, you mentioned that you have been working in the media and entertainment. So we know cloud has a lot of competition down there. So what's so special for all this effort in terms of energy efficiency regarding to the field of media and entertainment?
Thomas: So I'll start by saying if you look at major media companies, you know, which Amazon of course is one with Prime Video, but also you look at others, BBC, BT, Comcast, ITV in the UK, Netflix, Sony, Disney, all of these companies have made goals to go net carbon zero. Some of them are immediate, some of them are gonna be over a longer term, but all these media companies have an interest in moving in this direction. Now, of course, once a corporation sets a sustainability goal, the challenge then is how are you actually gonna implement it? So one mechanism of potentially implementing it is by moving some of your workloads from on prem to the cloud.
[00:09:41 Cloud-based live remote production]
And we can take a look at some of the specific media and entertainment workloads that are probably most interesting in the sustainability area. The first is cloud-based live remote production. So this is where instead of taking all the elements required for production, the vision mixer, the graphics system, replay system, and all of the routing that's required for that, instead of putting it into a big diesel truck and moving it out to every stadium and moving from venue to venue every night with all of your staff, you only send out the cameras and the microphones that you need to produce that production, along with some encoders to bring all of the live video back into the cloud.
Once it's on the cloud, that's where you have your, you know, vision mixers, your replay systems, your graphics systems, your fast turnaround edit systems all running on the cloud. Again, you spin it up, you have the game, the game's over, you spin it back down again. So you're only really using the resources that you need for that particular game, and nothing's being left idle. Plus, also, all that staff that's sitting there running your video switchers, you know, your technical directors, your replay operators, your graphics operators, your non-linear editors, they could be at home. And in fact, we actually have done this as a proof of concept with Fox Sports, where they had a complete Major League Baseball game produced with their key staff in their houses. You know, they'll have the same video switcher panel they would inside the truck, except it's on their desk in their bedroom and they're cutting the game.
So this brings a lot of advantages. The first one is, of course, sustainability. Reduction of personnel travel, reduction of equipment travel. Also the resources you're using to produce the game are only spun up during the game and not left idle at any other time. And then there's also just a quality of life advantage, right? You don't have to be in a different city every couple of days in order to be a part of this production. And so it really hits on a whole bunch of different cylinders.
Zoe: Okay, so you basically, this is saying that we can do a lot of things, move things to the cloud, and then consume it whenever it's necessary, right? So we don't have to waste... I just wonder, because you have actually gave quite some talk and published papers and blogs and some panels. We actually see that you are really an advocate in this area. Particularly, we just wonder, people are wondering how much energy or neutral carbon that they have consumed. So we see that you particularly mentioned that AWS or cloud provide the tools that people can actually monitor, right? They should be energy aware. That you can have tools to monitor. Once you monitor, you get the feedback. Then, actually, you can predict how much energy will be consumed. So can you just tell a little bit more about this? I believe that for any app, that they really want to chase after these pursuits, should be aware of that kind of tools and leverage these tools, right, in their applications.
[00:13:13 Calculate the precise amounts of carbon savings]
Thomas: Yeah, exactly. And, you know, I have to admit, we are still in early days about trying to calculate the precise amounts of carbon savings from some of these M&E workloads. But, you know, one tool that we have now is the AWS customer carbon footprint tool. So that will give you a monthly data about how much your carbon footprint is for your workload on Amazon Web Services. And you can look at a graph over time and determine, you know, am I creating a greater carbon footprint? Am I making less of a carbon footprint? And so that you can change how you're architecting your solutions to try to be more efficient.
We tend to think of a separation of responsibilities for sustainability on the cloud, and this is actually something we do for security as well, where AWS is responsible for the sustainability of the cloud. So making sure that we have the most efficient servers, data centers, that we're providing them with renewable energy. And then the customer is responsible for sustainability on the cloud so that they're ensuring that their workloads are well architected in order to be sustainable.
Zoe: Right. Particularly 'cause we just wonder, because the media and entertainment, I think the major format will be in video. So you also has been this area long. And then when we talk about the video, then we have the encoding, processing, streaming, and then playback. So can you talk a little bit more how, for example, in this area that we can try to be more efficient in terms of this, particularly energy efficient on the video side? And then you also, actually, we see that the blogs and the papers you mentioned, that the evolving of this area. I just have one particular, for example, like video codec actually getting standard-wise more and more complicated because the new tools are added.
And on the other side, video in the format that, previously, I think back to more than 10 years ago, or 15 years ago, people talk about HD videos. That's mainly 720p. But right now, back before, HDs are 1080p. And then there's a lot of also HDR and the 4K videos are being consumed. So actually all these require, indeed, needs more computational resources, which a little contradict against that energy we're trying to save down here. So in terms of this kind of aspect, the request, and then the energy efficiency we try to achieve, how do you think that, in terms of your cloud sustainability perspective, to guide this pursuit at least to be achieved, particularly to drive those growing aspects on the video side?
Thomas: Well, you know, I think there's no such thing as a free lunch. If you need to encode things, you're gonna be spending some computational energy compressing them. I think in real-world, direct-to-consumer streaming operations, a lot of the total end-to-end carbon footprint is taken up by end devices. You know, wifi, wifi networks, routers, televisions, and things along those lines. But, you know, we do try to provide the capabilities to have as efficient compression as possible on AWS. The Graviton3 CPU, for instance, uses up to 60% less energy than comparable other processors. And we were just actually, we just published a blog post about how you can take FFmpeg PEG and compile it for ARM and run it on Graviton3. So that's one way that you can try to have a more efficient compression technology.
Zoe: 60%. That's actually quite a bit. So you actually compared, again, like a Graviton3 against, for example, what's the benchmark to achieve this?
Thomas: Comparable. You know, we'd say Intel or AMD instances, but comparable EC2 instances.
Zoe: Got it. So that means that with this, people can actually potentially enjoy, right, high-quality videos, high-definition videos, but use a lot less energies.
Thomas: Yeah, and of course, if you're compressing on AWS, you will be running on renewable energy by 2025, and you may already be running on as much as 95% renewable energy if you're running on Amazon Web Services regions within the United States and Western Europe.
Zoe: So you actually mentioned this second time that by 2025. So all the Amazon services will actually leverage the renewable energies?
Thomas: Yes. Well, yes, all the energy, yes, would be renewable energy. Mm-hmm.
Zoe: Well, that's actually quite something to achieve. And that has actually set a good example to actually I think spread the message that renewable energy actually can be leveraged in such a great extent, that all the energies will be renewable at the, of course, that definitely make the cloud more sustainable. And I just wonder, because you said this is still at the early stage, and then what is really right now the challenges in terms of technologies? And it has to touch every aspect, right?
We talk about energy itself should be renewable. And then the hardwares, the services running on top of that. And also, I mentioned the whole framework, because you mentioned that we can move some of the technologies, or most of the technologies, from the end or edge to the cloud. So there's a lot of aspects. So what do you see to achieve the carbon neutral goal in 2040? What are the top barrier or the most challenging part that we need to tackle in terms of technology-wise to achieve that?
[00:20:06 Getting hard numbers on carbon footprint for media and entertainment workflows]
Thomas: Well, I think to be carbon neutral by 2040 requires a great number of things. It's more than just media and entertainment, right? And it's more than just cloud. There's a lot going on out there, which I'm not qualified to talk about. But, you know, what I can say is that, you know, when I say it's early, I mean, it's early in terms of us getting hard numbers on carbon footprint for media and entertainment workflows. You know, we suspect that many of them are going to be more sustainable in the cloud, but it's good to prove that with actual numbers.
So, you know, one example I can think of is SDVI, which is a company which orchestrates cloud-based media supply chain on Amazon Web Services. They were able to do some really good measurements and determined that their media supply chains use 39% less compute resources per content hour by moving that from on-prem to in the cloud. And they actually have a net-zero supply chain initiative going on this year where any greenhouse gas footprint which they have will be offset with emissions credits this year on their Rally platform. I think they're showing the way that by moving more workloads from on prem to the cloud, you can do it in a more sustainable way. And also, for the little bit of greenhouse gas footprint that you'll still have, they'll be using offsets to basically offset that.
Zoe: That's quite some effort that's being ongoing. Doug, do you have any on your side?
Doug: I had taken some notes out of the paper you'd shared, and you talked about a lot of them already, Thomas. So the shared responsibility model, I'm familiar with that from my time at AWS. I was not familiar with the climate pledge. That's very interesting. You talked a little bit about cloud-based live remote production. Can you talk a little bit about editing in the cloud, and how that's helping reduce energy consumption?
[00:21:53 How editing in the cloud helps reducing energy consumption]
Thomas: Yeah, I think that's another great opportunity. You know, again, trying to look at real, hard metrics, Blackbird, which is a cloud editing company, worked together with Green Element, and they put together a scenario where they would have 4,000 hours of TV to edit, with 50 different video editors and trying to compare three different possibilities. One is on premises, which also involves some travel for the editors. The other one is kind of a lift and shift, where you take non-linear editing systems running on prem and just drop them onto EC2 instances in the cloud. And the third was using the Blackbird cloud data proxy-based workflow. And that's a workflow where instead of necessarily having the full resolution available to editors, that they're editing on proxy-based versions and keeping the full resolution only on the cloud.
And they found a 44% savings in carbon footprint with the lift and shift workflow, moving on prem to the cloud with the same NLE software. And they actually found a 91% reduction in their carbon footprint by using a cloud-native workflow with the Blackbird proxy mechanism. So I think this shows a combination of two things, right? The lift and shift, that 44% reduction in carbon footprint, shows that the cloud, you know, has sustainability that's provided by AWS, but then the 91% reduction in carbon footprint shows that not only do you need sustainability of the cloud, if you architect well, you can have sustainability on the cloud as well and get the double benefit and get that 91% type of greenhouse gas footprint reduction.
Doug: That's great. Sorry, what were you gonna say?
Zoe: No, I just want, like, Thomas mentioned a lot of high numbers down there. So a lot of information is actually brought to this interview. And we actually covered a lot of, I think that topic was mentioned. Actually, we're already close to the end, like, towards the end of the interview. But I'm just really curious. Thomas, I got quite a bit info from you and about your pursuit, and particularly I think back to the video 'cause, for example, I mentioned that a lot of videos are being consumed. And then when people talk about, for example, video, people think that video should have better quality, should have less bandwidth.
Now we're talking about it should consume less computational resources down there. And then beyond the video, and there also people talk about 3D's emerging environment. So there's gonna be a lot of videos that are not only in two-dimensional or three-dimensional anymore. There's gonna be a lot of different format medias that's going to be consumed because people like to be entertained. And you already actually addressed this area, and you addressed the like, bigger picture of energy efficient on the cloud. So I still want to get one perspective from you, Thomas. And because you are in this area, you try to advocate the cloud sustainability, this idea for the media and entertainment.
So you are leaving this about leaving this interview. What really, I mean, one or two point, in summary, what are the top things you really want to bring the audience that people should be aware if they are in the media and entertainment? What they should be aware so that we all try hard to achieve the goal? Because you mentioned that you want to have your kids, right now 11, and down the road... Actually, particularly you mentioned that, you mentioned if we don't do anything, the global warmings is coming and that the temperature will increase by 4.4. But if we do all of this effort, we will think that, maybe still on the long term, there's still some warming would happen, but that's going to be largely reduced of such risk. And then we leave our next generation a very nice environment.
I think this is a point because we are here just for our next generation. So what others, especially for the media and entertainment people in our audience that you want them to be aware? What kind of the benefit that actually not just for media and entertainment, it's actually touch the daily life for the things that you are currently dedicated to?
Thomas: Well, you know, here are some of my thoughts on that. You know, the first question is ask, does your organization have a written sustainability policy? You know, many large corporations do, and I think sometimes their employees aren't always aware of it, you know? But many do. Are you measuring data to meet your sustainability goals, right? In order to ever meet a goal, you have to measure that goal. Otherwise, you're never gonna know whether you're heading towards it or away from it. Try to identify and migrate workloads to the cloud in order to reduce your carbon footprint. And then once you're on the cloud, try to optimize your cloud workloads to improve their efficiency. And this will enable you to deliver measurable improvements to your organization's sustainability in order to try to meet their overall organizational sustainability goals.
Zoe: You have highlighted quite a few. I'm trying to summarize a few things. So basically you mentioned that first we need to have a policy. One, we're aware that we need to have a policy. By the way, I hear a little bit of echo from my side. It should be okay. So I really, I'm impressed by what you just mentioned, Thomas. Even though you just mentioned a very short amount, you actually conveyed a great amount of information down there. So you mentioned that we need to be aware, and we need to have a policy in place.
And then we also need to get the according management tools in place so that we can be aware, and we can make things better with this metrics feedback. And now we take actions, because you mentioned that this cloud has a lot more advantages. If we can leverage that, we should. And then so all this effort work together just to move towards that goal, even though it's long term. But any long terms, you need kind of step-by-step endeavor to lead to that, if I summarize what you just mentioned.
Thomas: Yes, yes. I think that's a good summary.
Doug: Can I ask one? Sorry, sorry, go ahead. I had one last question, though.
Zoe: Yeah, go ahead.
Doug: Thomas, what gets you excited about video looking towards the future? What are something like, you know, doesn't have to be sustainability, can be anything. What in the video landscape, since you're exposed to so much in the video landscape, what gets you excited? What are you looking forward to?
[00:29:35 Exciting thing about video looking towards the future]
Thomas: I think 2023 is really gonna be the year of virtualized live cloud productions. We already saw just at the beginning of this year ESPN taking a College Hoops game to air, you know, to their channel, which was completely produced in the cloud. And, you know, we've been doing lots of POCs with other sports broadcasters over 2022. And I think this is the year it's gonna become real. It's gonna move from POCs to being real. So that's what excites me.
I happen to be a big live video person, right? A recorded video is easy. It's recorded. Live video is hard. You can never drop a frame. So that's the thing that I really like the most. So I think we're gonna be seeing a lot of that. But I think we're gonna be seeing also, because this might be a time of some economic challenges, I think that many large media companies that have been built up from acquisitions all around the world are now going to be thinking, "How can I combine these workflows? How can I simplify? How can I have more centralized monitoring of all these disparate workflows?"
And I think by moving the workflows onto the cloud, it'll give them the opportunity to be able to combine/unify workflows, to have more centralized monitoring, to have better sharing of content between different parts of the organization so that, you know, a part of the organization in Europe may ingest a video program, and then one in Japan ingests the same video program. And why are they both ingesting it separately when you could have one ingest it to the cloud, and then the other one use it directly from the cloud?
So I think workflow unification and saving money for our customers is really gonna be a major issue this year as well. The good news about virtualized live cloud production is that now you don't have to pay for people's airplane tickets. So hopefully we'll save some money there as well.
Doug: That's great.
Zoe: Yeah, so great. Thank you for sharing this vision. And we hope that know this is still just beginning of 2023, even though it's already almost 1/12 has already passed and this is the last day for this month. And then there's a lot of challenges right now, but also there's a lot of opportunities. We all want to enjoy the better life. Like, Thomas mentioned that. Live a better life. And environment, especially our home here on the earth. A great environment to our next generation, the generations afterwards. And it seems like we have something to looking forward, and we also have some missions on our shoulders. And so thanks again, Thomas, to come to our episode, and especially this one we're talking about the cloud sustainability for media and entertainment. Overall, we talk about green energy and for energy efficiency. A lot of things we can think about and we can take action about.
Doug: Thanks Thomas.
Thomas: Thanks, Zoe and Doug. Really appreciate the opportunity to speak.
Zoe: Yeah. We are actually looking forward to hearing more about this. And we believe that I get to know more about the long.