AWS hoping to pick up stream with Cloud Digital Interface: Low latency cloud network for uncompressed video

Cloud connection with the performance of 12G-SDI - as long as VMs are physically close together

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Amazon Web Services has said its new Cloud Digital Interface (CDI) will enable cloud-based video production across multiple virtual machines for the first time.

Video production is one of those areas which seems inherently ill-suited for cloud. It is graphically intensive, synchronisation is critical, and requires wiring up video hardware with fast, powerful computers.

Now AWS reckons it has solved part of the problem by enabling connections between VMs on its Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) with the speed and low-latency of 12G-SDI (Serial Digital Interface), allowing uncompressed transmission of 4k video (3840x2160 or 2160p) at 60 frames per second and 3 bytes per pixel. Note this only works for VMs that are physically close together.

Although AWS is aiming CDI at professional video producers, CDI can be used for data of any format. There are some conditions. Each EC2 instance must support the Elastic Fabric Adapter (EFA), a network interface also used for high performance clusters.

There are EFA libraries and drivers for both Linux and Windows, though Linux appears to work better: AWS noted that "Windows compilation of the cdi_test application under the Debug configuration does not support 4K bandwidth."

AWS also recommended that the VMs to be connected are in the same cluster placement group, which means the physical hardware is packed closely together. This is great for low-latency connection, not so good for resiliency.

Transmitting 4K video consumes around 80 per cent of a CPU core according to the docs, so suitably capable EC2 instances are recommended.

The SDK is open source on GitHub and suggested use cases include "TV channel playout, live video production switching, motion graphic insertion, multi-viewers, video frame rate and color space conversion, forensic watermarking, and video decoding and encoding."

Despite the advent of CDI, on-premises will remain the best place for most video production work. However, the ability to run this kind of application on AWS does remove another barrier, and in an age of remote working and digital distribution, that seems significant. ®


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