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Growth in Server Need for Video Processing Is 'Unsustainable,' Former Netflix Encoding Chief Says

Facebook engineer David Ronca
(Image credit: LinkedIn)

The growth in computational resources needed to keep up with global demand for IP video processing is "unsustainable," according to David Ronca, Netflix's former top video processing engineer, who is now with Facebook 

In a message to the broader video business sent via LinkedIn this morning, Ronca called on the industry to "solve the pollution problem" by developing better codecs. 

Also read: Former Netflix Encoding Chief Ronca Moves to Facebook

As it just so happens, Ronca and Facebook have been part of a FAANG-led consortium that has developed AV1, a codec that significantly cuts down on the data processing requirements needed to send 4K video over the internet. (In this '80s-music-scored YouTube video presentation from January, Ronca explains how AV1 is used for Facebook Live video.)

The challenge with getting AV1 adopted: Makers of devices ranging from smart TVs to smartphones have to build AV1 support into their hardware. 

In case they need incentive, Ronca delivered the call to action Wednesday morning. 

By 2025, he said, data centers around the world will consume more than 20% of electrical power, up from around 3% today. And video processing and processes tied to things like inserting ads into video (broadly grouped into something called "video understanding) will be the key driver in this relentless increase in servers. 

"In video encoding, we care about bitrate and distortion," Ronca said. "Those of us who have large-scale services also care about computational complexity. Within a given video processing system, we can only reduce two of these three metrics, while the third will move inversely. This means that if we want to reduce bits and distortion, compute must increase."

If only there was a codec that could solve this conundrum ...

Bitrate and distortion vs. computational resources

(Image credit: David Ronca)