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Netint technologies

World’s first AV1 live streaming CDN powered by NETINT

Jan Ozer

Jan Ozer

is Senior Director of Video Marketing at NETINT.

Jan is also a contributing editor to Streaming Media Magazine , writing about codecs and encoding tools. He has written multiple authoritative books on video encoding, including ‘Video Encoding by the Numbers: Eliminate the Guesswork from your Streaming Video’ and ‘ Learn to Produce Video with FFmpeg: In Thirty Minutes or Less’ and has produced multiple training courses relating to streaming media production.

AV1 live streaming CDN

RealSprint’s vision for Vindral, its live-streaming CDN, is to deliver the quality of HLS and the latency of WebRTC. Early trials revealed that CPU-only transcoding lacked scalability, and GPUs used excessive power and proved challenging to configure.

Implementing NETINT’s ASIC-based Quadra delivered the required quality and latency in a low-power, simple-to-configure package with H.264, HEVC, and AV1 output. As a result, Quadra became a “preferred component” of the Vindral setup.

Implementing NETINT’s ASIC-based Quadra delivered the required quality and latency in a low-power, simple-to-configure package with H.264, HEVC, and AV1 output. As a result, Quadra became a “preferred component” of the Vindral setup.

The RealSprint Story

RealSprint is a tech company founded in 2013 and based in Umeå, Sweden. Since its inception, RealSprint has delivered industry-defining solutions that drive real business value. It’s flagship solution, Vindral live CDN, combines ultra-low latency streaming with 4K support, sync, and absolute stability. The latest addition, Composer, streamlines the setup for live video compositing, effects, and encoding.

In explaining RealSprint’s goals to Streaming Media Magazine, RealSprint CEO Daniel Alinder stated that part of the company’s goal is “to disrupt, spur innovation, and ensure high-end streaming experiences.” This focus, and RealSprint’s painstaking execution, has brought customers like Sotheby’s, Hong Kong Jockey Club, and IcelandAir into RealSprint’s client roster.

RealSprint is a tech company founded in 2013 and based in Umeå, Sweden. Since its inception, RealSprint has delivered industry-defining solutions that drive real business value. It’s flagship solution, Vindral live CDN, combines ultra-low latency streaming with 4K support, sync, and absolute stability.

Figure 1. Check out this Vindral demo at https://demo.vindral.com/?4k
Figure 1. Check out this Vindral demo at https://demo.vindral.com/?4k

Finding the Ideal Transcoder for Vindral

The Vindral live CDN is transforming the landscape for live streaming, offering high-quality streaming at low latency and synchronized playout. As a result, Vindral is highly optimized for verticals such as live sports, iGaming, live auctions, and entertainment markets with a desired latency of around one second and where stability is imperative, even at high video quality.

Alinder explains, “It is, of course, possible to configure for 0.5-second latency as well, but none of our clients has chosen to go that low. More common focus areas are image quality and synchronized playout. A game show with host-crowd interaction does not require real-time latency. Keeping all viewers in sync, around 1 second, while maintaining full-HD quality is a common request that we see.”

Elaborating on Alinder’s comments, Niclas Åström, founder and Chief Product Officer at RealSprint, adds, “we call it the Sweet Spot. Vindral is built to put clients in charge of their own sweet spot in terms of buffer and quality. While we are highly impressed by technologies such as WebRTC, we aim to pave the way for a new mainstream in which latency is only one of the parameters.”

Expanding upon Vindral’s target use cases, Alinder details, “A typical use case is live auctions. The usual setup for live auctions is 1080P, and you want below one second of latency because people are bidding online. There are also people bidding in the actual auction house, so there’s the fairness aspect of it as well.”

“Clients typically configure around a 700-millisecond buffer, and even that small of a buffer makes such a huge difference in quality and reliability. What we see in our metrics is that, basically, 99% of the viewers watch the highest quality stream across all markets. That’s a huge deal.”

Play Video about Hard Questions on Hot Topics with Jan Ozer and Anita Flejter from NETINT - NETINT Technologies about World’s first AV1 live streaming CDN powered by NETINT's Quadra VPU
HARD QUESTIONS ON HOT TOPICS:
World’s first AV1 live streaming CDN powered by NETINT’s Quadra VPU
Watch on YouTube: https://youtu.be/Qhe6wuJoOX0

Exploring Transcoder Options

To provide this flexible latency, Vindral depends upon a transcoder to produce the streams with minimal latency, and a vendor-agnostic hybrid content delivery network (CDN) to deliver the streams. To explain, the transcoder inputs the incoming stream from the live source and produces multiple outputs to deliver to viewers watching on different devices and connections.

Choosing the transcoder is obviously a critical decision for Vindral and RealSprint. When exploring its transcoder options, RealSprint considered multiple criteria, including cost per stream, power, output quality, format support, latency, and density.

According to CTO Per Mafrost, “We started using only CPUs but quickly concluded that we needed better scalability. We moved on to using GPUs, but the hardware setups got a bit more troublesome and more energy-demanding. A year back, we got in touch with NETINT to test their ASICs and were pleased with our findings.”

Netint Codensity, ASIC-based Quadra T2A Video Processing Unit
Figure 2. The NETINT Quadra T2 VPU.

“We’ve found that the quality when using ASICs is fantastic.”

RealSprint CEO Daniel Alinder

Quadra Fills the Gap

Specifically, Vindral implemented NETINT’s Quadra Video Processing Unit (VPU), which is driven by the Codensity G5 ASIC, which stands for Application Specific Integrated Circuit, in terms of transcoding, Quadra inputs H.264, HEVC, and VP9 video and outputs H.264, HEVC, and AV1, all at sub-frame latencies, which translate to under 0.03 seconds for a 30-fps input stream. Quadra is called a VPU rather than a transcoder because, in addition to audio and video transcoding, it also offers onboard scaling, overlay and houses two Deep Neural Network engines capable of 18 Trillion Operations per Second (TOPS).

According to Alinder, Quadra delivers both top quality and the necessary low latency. “We’ve found that the quality when using ASICs is fantastic. It’s all depending on what you want to do. Because we need to understand we’re talking about low latency here. Everything needs to work in real time. Our requirement on encoding is that it takes a frame to encode, and that’s all the time that you get.”

Quadra’s AV1 output was another key consideration. As Alinder explained, “we’re seeing markers that our clients are going to want AV1. And there are several reasons why that is the case. One of which is, of course, it’s license free. If you’re a content owner, especially if you’re a content owner with a large crowd with many subscribers to your content, that’s a game-changer. Because the cost of licensing a codec can grow to become a significant part of your business expenses.”

“That is a huge game changer because ASICs are unmatched in terms of the number of streams per rack unit.”

RealSprint CEO Daniel Alinder

Density and Power Consumption

Density refers to the number of streams a device or server can output. Because ASICs are purpose-built for video transcoding, they’re extremely efficient transcoders that provide maximum density but also very low power consumption. Speaking to Quadra’s density, Alinder commented, “That is a huge game changer because ASICs are unmatched in terms of the number of streams per rack unit.”

Of course, power consumption is also critical, particularly in Europe. As Alinder detailed, “If you look at the energy crisis and how things are evolving, I’d say [power consumption] is very, very important. The typical offer you’ll be getting from the data center is: we’re going to charge you 2x the electrical bill. In Germany, the energy price peaked in August 2022 at 0.7 Euros per kilowatt hour.”

To be clear, in some instances, Vindral can reduce power consumption and other carbon emissions by making travel unnecessary. As Alinder explained, “We have a Norwegian company that we’re working with that is doing remote inspections of ships. They were the first company in the world to do that. Instead of flying in an inspector, the ship owner, and two divers to the location, there’s only one operator of an underwater drone that is on the location. Everybody else is just connected. That’s obviously a good thing for the environment.”

“Another seldom mentioned topic set NETINT ASICs apart from CPUs and many GPUs: linear load. Specifically, it was relatively easy to create a solution where we could feel safe when calculating the load and expected capacity for transcoder nodes. The density, cost/stream, and quality are bonuses.”

RealSprint CTO Per Mafrost

Linear Load

One final characteristic set Quadra apart, was a predictable “linear load” pattern. As described by CTO Mafrost, “in choosing between different alternatives, the usual suspects such as cost, power, quality, and density were our main criteria. But another seldom mentioned topic set NETINT ASICs apart from CPUs and many GPUs: linear load. Specifically, it was relatively easy to create a solution where we could feel safe when calculating the load and expected capacity for transcoder nodes. The density, cost/stream, and quality are bonuses.”

RealSprint began deploying NETINT Quadra VPUs in 2022. As Mafrost concluded, “Since then, ASICs have started to be a preferred component of our setup.”

NETINT Quadra has become a “preferred component” of Vindral
Figure 3. NETINT Quadra has become a “preferred component” of Vindral.

The NETINT View

NETINT Technologies is an innovator of ASIC-based video processing solutions for low-latency video transcoding. Users of NETINT solutions realize a 10X increase in encoding density and a 20X reduction in carbon emissions compared to CPU-based software encoding solutions. NETINT makes it seamless to move from software to hardware-based video encoding so that hyper-scale services and platforms can unlock the full potential in their computing infrastructure.

Regarding Vindral’s use of Quadra, NETINT’s COO Alex Liu commented, “Live streaming video platforms demand more efficient and cost-effective video encoding solutions due to the emergence of new interactive video applications which can only be met with ASIC hardware encoding. Vindral, the industry’s first 4K AV1 streaming platform and powered with NETINT’s Quadra T2 real-time, low-latency 4K AV1 encoder, is a game changer. We are really excited about the amazing video experiences that Vindral users will bring to their customers as a result of this breakthrough in latency and quality,”

RealSprint began deploying NETINT Quadra VPUs in 2022. As Mafrost concluded, “Since then, ASICs have started to be a preferred component of our setup.”

Figure 4. Streaming Media Magazine discussing Vindral with RealSprint CEO Daniel Alinder. https://youtu.be/xJ2Zfo2r7SM

The Industry Takes Notice

The potent combination of Vindral and Quadra has the industry taking notice. For example, in this Streaming Media interview, respected contributing editor Tim Siglin interviewed Alinder about Vindral, summarizing “the fact that [Quadra] is an ASIC that does more transcodes at a lower power consumption means that it gives you a better viability.” 

The Industry Takes Notice

NETINT was the first company to ship AV1-based ASIC transcoders and has shipped tens of thousands of transcoders and VPUs, producing over 200 billion streams in 2022. In fact, NETINT has shipped more ASIC-based transcoders than any other supplier to the cloud gaming, broadcast, and similar live-streaming markets.

Validating NETINT’s approach, in 2021, Google launched their own encoding ASIC-based transcoder, called ARGOS, as did Meta in 2022. Both products are exclusively used internally by the respective companies.

The best way to leverage the benefits of encoding ASICs is to contact NETINT.

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