Paving the way for greener streaming:  How LESS aims to be more sustainable!

Paving the way for greener streaming

As founding members of the Greening of Streaming, last year we talked about the political launch of the initiative at the UK Parliament, this year we went to the Brussels to meet at the European Parliament to discuss with European Regulators the topic of sustainability in streaming.

By now you may have heard of the ‘Greening of Streaming’, if you haven’t, here is the quick recap: GoS is an organization where streaming companies collaborate to make the industry more sustainable. Initiated and directed by Dominic Robinson, it was established in September 2021 to address growing concerns about the impact of the streaming sector on the environment. It has a very simple rule: ‘no greenwashing!’, so you won’t find dubious marketing claims here, but a joined-up approach to solving environmental challenges. 

MEMBERS LESS green streaming

Figure 1:  Members of Greening of Streaming as of June 2023.

What we did in Brussels

Talking to the regulator

One of the main objectives was to open a dialogue with the European Regulators, because when it comes to technology and sustainability, they are breaking the path for the national regulators: out of the 27 countries in the European Union, only 5 national regulators are collecting environmental data today. This means that sustainability in streaming is a topic that will clearly benefit from coordination at the EU level.
We were fortunate to see Sandrine Elmi Hersi joining the conversation in Brussels: Sandrine is co-chair of the Sustainability Working Group in the European Regulator (BEREC) and the head of the ‘Open Internet’ unit in the French Telecom Regulator (ARCEP).

What is BEREC?

Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications is an independent organisation formed by the European Union to regulate electronic communications across member states. It ensures a level playing field for telecom providers, promotes competition, and safeguards consumer interests. BEREC’s responsibilities include advising the EU Commission on telecommunications regulations, coordinating national regulatory authorities, and promoting efficient and harmonized regulatory practices.

Why is collaboration so important?

We face a big challenge in this industry: it is very fragmented – and streaming solutions deployed always require technology provided by many different vendors, from Origin/CDN to security, to service platforms, to video players and encoders.

What we have observed is that while individual initiatives may be aiming to reduce carbon emissions on their own, they often struggle to make a real difference in the field, and in some cases, they can result in a negative impact on the overall carbon footprint.

The example we usually take is when introducing a more efficient compression like AV1. While AV1 may save on transmission and CDN usage, it may be very costly during playback if the AV1 compression cannot be decoded in hardware. That’s because more CPU resources will be used across many playback devices, leading to an overall increase in energy consumption. This is precisely why a cross-industry initiative is required to ensure joined-up thinking.

A pivotal key finding is about the “‘system’s approach’”: the problem cannot be solved in isolation, and the community needs to be able to openly challenge every claim, every data point to be able to reach credible conclusions.

BEREC connectivity sustainability aspects

Figure 2: BEREC latest public consultation on future of connectivity (May 2023): here

Another example is how the CO2/GB is not a reliable metric: while it would be a lot easier to be slice the problem and link directly consumption of video with CO2 emissions, CO2/GB cannot be used to accurately account for CO2 emission -that’s what the BEREC also has established above.

This is because networks use roughly the same power whether they are busy or not. In fact, they are designed for peak demand, meaning that the network-related carbon footprint is typically based on network capacity, not the usage – in a nutshell, reducing bitrate of streams will not have substantial (network-related) emission benefits.

 

The road ahead – How LESS aims to be more sustainable.

Introducing the Less Accord

The meeting in Brussels was the opportunity to look at cross-organisations and cross-working groups initiatives that are launched under the Low Energy Sustainable Streaming (LESS) Accord umbrella. The idea is to be able to establish some new optimal practices, through real world collaboration between members and generating real-world data!

Paving the way for greener streaming: How LESS aims to be more sustainable

Figure 3: The Low Energy Sustainable Streaming (LESS) from GoS

Under the LESS accord, four angles are being worked on:

  1. Intelligent Distribution Model Shifting

How do we improve content distribution models? Today unicast, multicast and peer-to-peer are used, but is one of the technologies more efficient than the others? Is there a combination of technologies that can be more energy efficient? How do we then implement decisioning to seamlessly move among models based on energy efficiency, much the way a car shifts gears to optimise performance?

  1. ‘Good Enough’ Codec / Ladder Configuration

How do we save energy through codec choices and optimisation? The idea is to demonstrate real-world energy reduction while maintaining ‘good enough’ quality for audience consumption. Similar to the car having in a standard ‘drive mode’ that is good enough for most of the time on the road and having the possibility to go into ‘sports mode’ if required.

  1. Energy ‘Breadcrumb’ Metadata Stamps: drive energy-aware workflows

How do we obtain useful energy information from streaming systems to intelligently determine workflow strategy based on ‘energy context’? From there, how do we create a container / manifest layer control plane for such decisions?

  1. Hardware and Infrastructure Optimisation

There must be some untapped potential in the infrastructure:  Can we combine technologies such as optimised silicon, immersion cooling, relocation etc. to move existing workloads (encoding / caching) to different hardware environments to realise significant energy efficiencies?

Join us

We are only at the beginning of the journey, and we always welcome new energy  to raise awareness about the issue and highlight how meaningful solutions are achievable. Join us!  

Greening of Streaming is a cross-industry effort, and as explained the solutions will come from a systematic approach and shared best practices, so the broader the participation, the more chances we have to transform the industry to become more sustainable. 

 

 

Xavier Leclercq

Written by Xavier Leclercq

As the Vice President of Business Development, Xavier aims to further the position of Broadpeak as the premier provider of streaming technologies.

In his career spanning nearly 20 years, Xavier gained extensive international experience in the industry, specializing in tech consulting and sales to content owners and network operators worldwide. Before joining Broadpeak, he held leadership roles in IP Video at Nokia, Alcatel-Lucent, and Akamai.

Xavier graduated from Institut Mines Telecom Lille-Douai (formerly Telecom Lille) engineering school and holds a Master’s degree in Business from the University of Lille.

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