DEVOPS & CLOUD
Enabling Remote Access to Workflows on Verizon 5G Edge
By Praveen Nair and Jay Cee Straley, Verizon
Verizon deployed Teradici’s Cloud Access Software (CAS) Remote Desktop on Verizon 5G Edge with AWS Wavelength (Verizon 5G Edge). The application powerfully demonstrates the difference that Verizon 5G Edge makes to the quality of service (QoS) for distributed media applications like video editing, cloud gaming and video streaming. Verizon 5G Edge can also be accessed using 4G LTE.
QoS for distributed media applications includes two parts: QoS provisioning from the network and QoS provisioning from the media application computations (application hosted on 5G Edge with AWS Wavelength). Verizon 5G Edge with AWS Wavelength markedly improved both by bringing significant gains to the responsiveness and usability of gaming, streaming and editing workflows in a remote setting. Here are the reasons why:
- Proximity. Most of the time, an end user using a Verizon 5G Edge with AWS Wavelength location will be within 100 miles of the application, significantly bringing down roundtrip latency to 20 to 30 milliseconds on 5G Ultra Wideband (UW)
- No network hops outside the network and low network hops within the network. This results in lower network overhead and no congestion, which helps improve both latency and throughput
- The downstream effects of close proximity, low latency and improved throughput is that packet loss is almost eliminated, leading to better user experiences
This article presents the results of testing Teradici CAS on Verizon 5G Edge with AWS Wavelength. Teradici’s software provides remote desktop access to cloud-based workflows using its proprietary PC-over-IP (PCoIP) technology. The testing sought to characterize user experience in accessing computationally intensive workloads remotely using 5G Edge with AWS Wavelength and utilizing 5G UW and 4G LTE networks. We tested three use cases — 4K video streaming, cloud gaming and video editing — and we benchmarked them for comparison with traditional cloud-based workflows using AWS. These workflows were deployed to the cloud servers and accessed using 4G LTE and 5G UW. Performance of the cloud workflows were compared to the Verizon 5G Edge with AWS Wavelength-based workflows.
Our results showed that 5G Edge with AWS Wavelength helped improve responsiveness and usability in each use case relative to traditional cloud workflows, with significant gains observed for game streaming and video editing. The improvements were also observed over 4G LTE. The performance on Verizon 5G Edge with AWS Wavelength compared well to on-premises desktop use.
Understanding 5G Edge
Verizon 5G Edge with AWS Wavelength allows customers to experience the benefits and utilize the capabilities of multi-access edge (MEC) services. In partnership with AWS, Verizon 5G Edge with AWS Wavelength enables applications and services to run closer to where mobile device users are located. This helps lower service latency and can offload compute-intensive operations from mobile devices. AWS makes it easy to extend existing infrastructure services from regional cloud locations to the edge servers, which reside on Verizon’s wireless sites. Organizations should be aware of certain considerations when deploying applications and services to a MEC environment:
- A Wavelength Zone is a single-fault domain within a Parent Region. You can use the Parent Region as fallback for your 5G Edge app
- The edge servers support a limited number of Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) instance types
- To expose 5G Edge applications to the carrier network, additional resources are needed. Fortunately, AWS Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) constructs make this easy to do — and do securely. Security groups, network access control lists (NACLs) and route tables work the same way in both Wavelength Zones and Regions
Teradici CAS is built on industry-leading PCoIP technology to securely deliver a rich and lossless user experience across all network conditions on a variety of desktop and mobile endpoint devices, including ultra-secure PCoIP Zero Clients. Teradici PCoIP technology compresses and encrypts the entire computing experience securely in the cloud and transmits only pixels to the endpoints, ensuring intellectual property and sensitive data never leave the cloud. It supports multimonitor 4K and advanced design applications for the best in lossless text, color accuracy and interactivity.
With Teradici CAS, creative professionals in the media and entertainment, broadcasting, and gaming industries worldwide can depend on remote workstations for an uncompromised user experience. CAS enables ultra-secure access to graphics-intensive 3D applications while media assets remain protected. Now, professionals can work from anywhere and use their preferred device with the same user experience while files are secured in the data center or public cloud.
The challenge of running distributed multimedia systems in the cloud
The capability of monitoring and ensuring QoS for distributed multimedia systems like streaming and gaming is critical and includes two parts: QoS provisioning from the network and QoS provisioning from the cloud-hosted media application. On the one hand, the challenges facing network QoS provisioning include unreliable channels, bandwidth constraints and heterogeneous access technologies. On the other, QoS provisioning from the media application includes advanced encoding schemes, error concealment and adaptive streaming protocols.
Consider remote video editing for example. Video editing is notoriously compute-intensive and sensitive to latency. Usually, an editor furiously works on his or her keyboard to observe, maneuver and edit the video and its timeline. At any given time, the virtual (or real) machine loads the data, transcodes it and renders it onto a high-resolution screen to make sure the audio and video tracks are in sync. This render is then streamed to the client device where edit tasks are performed.
Considering that the editor is using visual feedback to make edits, it’s very important for visuals and audio to closely reflect the fast keystrokes made by him or her. Editing software typically updates at 24 frames per second (FPS). At 24 FPS, we have a budget of about 42 milliseconds to transcode, render and stream a live edit session. Although this process is not particularly bandwidth intensive, we cannot achieve the latency budget on a cloud workload even with 5G. The user experience becomes painfully slow and jittery with plenty of skipped frames and an extreme mismatch in audio and video sync.
Streaming a 4K video down from a cloud host at 60 FPS is extremely challenging as well. Rendering or putting out frames at 60 FPS depends largely on server instance capabilities. Streaming the render is a tradeoff between image smoothness and bandwidth. The encoder and the decoder work in concert to support the best experience and frame rate on the wireless channel, with the decoder applying back pressure to control the rate. This tradeoff mechanism often lowers the optimum frame rate and resolution to ensure decent playback.
Cloud gaming faces similar challenges. Like video editing, keystrokes on the controller need to seamlessly translate to screen renders at 60 FPS and be targeted without any noticeable latency. Even the smallest noticeable latency can turn off discerning gamers. While new services get launched frequently, cloud-gaming adoption remains low.
5G Edge deployment with Teradici
In the above deployment scenario, G4 EC2 instances are instantiated on AWS regional cloud as well as Verizon 5G Edge with AWS Wavelength. Teradici CAS is installed on the EC2 instances. This software allows thin clients to connect to the cloud or edge workflows through the cloud access manager. Here are the specifics:
Access network: Verizon 4G/5G, Wi-Fi
Network: AWS VPC configured within the us-west-2 region
- Included us-west-2a and us-west-2b availability zones and us-west-2-wl1-sfo-wlz-1 Wavelength zone
- Carrier IPs allocated using Elastic IPs menu
Compute: g4dn.2xlarge Ec2 instance
- Teradici CAS
- Steam game engine
- Davinci Resolve editing software
- Chrome® browser (for video playback)
- Windows® 2019 Base AMI
Storage: AWS Elastic Block Storage
For the client, we used both Apple® Macbook® computers and Microsoft® Windows PCs, with the Teradici PCoIP clients installed. Clients will be on Verizon Wireless 4G LTE or 5G UW networks.
Scaling the existing deployment
This basic configuration served the purposes of our testing. In later editing deployments, we look forward to scaling the solution to accommodate larger files and more concurrent users.
Access network: 5G UW coverage will be expanded with C-Band deployments
- Automated infrastructure deployment using CloudFormation or Terraform
- Load balancing
- Adobe Premiere Pro and AVID editing software
- Federated login using AWS Managed Microsoft Active Directory® and Teradici
- FSx for Windows for persistent large-file storage
- NVMe for ephemeral scratch-disk storage
Over time, Verizon will incorporate C-Band spectrum into its 5G Ultra Wideband service.
The cloud-based portion of the network will be scaled with infrastructure automation and load balancers. CloudFormation and Terraform templates will enable the necessary cloud and edge resources to be provisioned rapidly in a standardized manner. The load balancers will be added to the environment to direct incoming traffic from clients and route requests to the appropriate targeted resources in Availability and AWS Wavelength Zones. The load balancer will base its decisions on attributes such as resource usage, path characteristics and the relative health of components.
For our initial editing test, we used Davinci Resolve NLE software, due to the availability of a free version. In the subsequent phase, we installed Adobe Premiere Pro. Although Premiere Pro is not officially supported on Windows Server 2019 Base, Adobe does provide guidance on its installation in its Best Practices Guide for Using Adobe Creative Cloud Video Applications in AWS Virtual Machines.
The use of Windows Server® allows the use of Active Directory Services within a Windows domain. Active Directory provides a framework to manage users, control access, implement security policies and provide logging. Teradici Cloud Access Manager can use Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) to leverage Active Directory Services as part of a single sign-on solution.
Finally, storage needs to be scaled to accommodate large volumes of camera files, as well as audio and metadata files. For persistent storage, FSx for Windows uses the SMB protocol and allows large-scale, concurrent read/write file access, while maintaining high throughput and speedy input/output operations per second (IOPS) at sub-millisecond latencies. Since it is built on Windows Server, it provides access to all of its services, including Active Directory integration. If a scratch disk is needed for performance reasons, AWS allows a virtual NVMe volume to be attached to the given EC2 instance once NVMe drivers are installed.
Deploying workflow on 5G Edge: Lessons learned
I. Streaming experience
It is illuminating to look at the figures below for cloud and 5G Edge instances streaming over 4G and 5G UW.
Streaming on 4G LTE with an AWS cloud server instance provided a subpar user experience with missed frames and noticeable artifacts during streams. Periodically, a white frame appeared momentarily before clearing out. The video stuttered or stopped several times. Using 5G UW with the cloud instance was slightly better but suffered similar issues. Looking at the FPS graphs on the cloud instances, one can see why. AWS cloud instances over 4G LTE are barely able to support 20 FPS, while the same instances over 5G UW briefly manage 60 FPS but fall back to 30 FPS. Even with the expanded bandwidth, the AWS cloud instances are not able to maintain a smooth frame rate.
The performance improved noticeably with the use of Verizon Edge servers with AWS Wavelength. With 4G LTE, the video played smoothly, with no noticeable quality impacts. The audio remained in sync with the video. No blockiness or blurriness were detected and no buffering or stuttering occurred. Over 5G UW, the video also played smoothly, with no noticeable quality impacts.
Testing indicated that trip latency was lower with 5G UW and Verizon 5G Edge with AWS Wavelength, which may have resulted in an incremental improvement in time to first frame. The packet-loss percentage was close to zero for the instances running on Verizon 5G Edge with AWS Wavelength for both 5G UW and 4G LTE. The FPS charts above show an extremely smooth frame rate supported on the wireless channels. The Verizon 5G Edge instance is easily able to support 60 FPS on 5G UW, while it can support a smooth 30 FPS even with 4G LTE.
II. Video editing experience
Verizon 5G Edge with AWS Wavelength also provided a totally different video-editing experience — smooth with no skipped frames or lost packets. Note that this is a truly mobile environment with the vagaries of an outdoor lossy channel. Proximity to the EC2 instances resulted in lower latencies and a smaller number of hops on the network. The subjective experience of the editor pretty much matched the experience of an on-premises edit session.
To quantify the difference between the cloud- and edge-edit sessions, we ran the countdown leader test and tried cutting at a frame boundary. Each time we measured the number of frames, we were away from the desired frame boundary. The AWS cloud instance was off the mark by about an average of +/- 20 frames. By comparison, the AWS Wavelength instance was off the intended frame boundary by about plus or minus three frames, which is similar to what we experienced with a local instance.
This quantitative difference matched our subjective assessment. For a given compute capability, the software deployed on Verizon 5G Edge with AWS over 5G UW largely outperforms the cloud instance. The marked difference can be attributed to the difference in latency between the AWS cloud instance (top) and the Wavelength instance (bottom) as shown below.
With Microsoft, Google and Nvidia releasing their cloud-gaming platforms on 4G LTE later this year, the feasibility of gaming on 4G or 5G is no longer in question. That said, we simulated a cloud-gaming scenario using Teradici CAS as remote access to the gaming cloud to test out how the edge compared to the cloud instances. Some of the latency and FPS benefits that we observed with streaming and editing apply to gaming as well. The edge-gaming scenarios outperformed the cloud-gaming scenarios over 4G and 5G. While we already captured the metrics on latency and FPS earlier, we look at receive (RX) packet loss here for comparison.
RX packets carry keystrokes and other game interactions back to the gaming server. Any loss of information on this path results in loss of command information that directly impacts game responsiveness. It’s incredible how applications deployed to Verizon 5G Edge with AWS Wavelength over 4G LTE and 5G UW saw no RX packet errors for the entire duration of the gaming test. We had a similar observation on the transmit (TX) side (game stream), where TX packet errors were drastically reduced on the Wavelength instances. This resulted in a much smoother and more responsive gaming experience. The gaming experience on Verizon 5G Edge with AWS Wavelength rivalled a console gaming experience that’s granted to casual nonprofessional gamers.
Remote work using Teradici CAS on Verizon 5G Edge
Here are some example use cases for remote work in 5G:
- Remote production: Checking dailies remotely all while using native apps without needing to view proxies
- Social media and on-the-spot recording: Editing and uploading clips for social media for concerts, sports and other live events in real time to control content and be the first and best quality
- Augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR) streaming: Working in concert with AR/VR streaming solutions, where the Teradici PCoIP will set up and stage assets on the device
- Edit and design: Developing games, editing videos and designing using Wacom tablets — all enabled anywhere and everywhere with Teradici and Verizon 5G
In this blog article, we assessed the performance of Teradici’s CAS Remote Desktop using Verizon’s 5G and 5G Edge with AWS Wavelength services. The gaming, streaming and editorial workflows worked very well. 5G speeds, together with proximity to EC2 edge instances and reduced number of network hops, enabled the support of these applications at their native rates, providing the user with an experience on par with a local desktop application. It should be noted that this improvement was observed despite the use of a comparatively underpowered resource on the edge.
Given the observed benefits, it would be prudent to review the range and availability of EC2 instances on Verizon 5G Edge with AWS Wavelength. For example, the G4 instances we used for the tests were not available in 4xlarge, which is absolutely important to support distributed media workflows on the edge. Expanding the edge network footprint to media and entertainment strongholds like Los Angeles and Atlanta should surely come. And finally, the AWS capabilities that we’ve become used to — like load balancing, CloudFormation, etc. — should be extended to AWS Wavelength Zones in the near future.