This post is also available in: Russian
Media server is a dedicated server to deliver audio / video content to users. Explosive growth of online video views has led to a substantial growth of the media server market and sharpening of competitive conditions (Adobe sued Wowza). Adobe Flash Media Server and Wowza Media Server are the main players on this market. Both products are actively developing. Their already impressive feature set is continuously enhanced with new fascinating functionalities. Earlier this year, Wowza announced its new release, Wowza Media Server 3. Wowza and Adobe are moving in the direction of cross-platform video content availability to all user screens. In this post, we’ll share our hands-on experience in testing Wowza 3 and give you an idea of its major functional innovations.
First of all, in the new release, Wowza began to introduce new features as add-ons to the basic server. They plan to implement three add-ons: DRM, Transcoding and nDVR. DRM and Transcoding signify an obvious shift in favor of collateral products, and DVR is quite a long expected functionality.
Most importantly, Wowza has made a very big leap towards becoming a premium video platform. Wowza 3 has ushered in the support for DRM features based on a Verimatrix plugin. Verimatrix is a veteran of IPTV industry and, like many other companies, it wishes to leverage on the ongoing paradigm shift to cross-platform content delivery. In our view, for IPTV vendors it is extremely difficult to enter the web browser PC screens. In this context, they have to introduce some intermediate plugins to receive the content via their native protocols (for instance, HTTP) and transmit it to the Flash Player embedded on a webpage via RTMPE. This often makes video content highly vulnerable to automatic capture. Evidently, the users are suffering as they have to install an unknown plugin or even a separate application. In this regard, the solution based on Adobe Flash Access can leverage the full potential of pre-installed Flash plugin and offer the most easy-to-use implementation of the user interface.
Anyway, the implementation of DRM support in the Wowza media server is a big plus for this product, making it a nice candidate for premium video projects. In addition, Verimatrix DRM is supported by a wide range of platforms (iOS, Android, some connected TVs and a range of STBs). The cost for Wowza 3 add-ons has not yet been announced, so discussing the cost-efficiency of this approach is now premature. My suspicion is that the cost of Verimatrix solutions would cancel out the savings from using Wowza instead of Adobe Flash Media Server …
In most of live video projects, a substantial part of the budget is spent on implementing the hardware to receive video streams. The new Wowza 3 functionality is designed to enable online transcoding of video streams and could allow for substantial savings on this part of the infrastructure. Wowza 2 can repacketize transport streams, such as RTSP/RTP, into RTMP to be delivered to the Flash Player. The new release allows you to replace transcoders with Wowza 3 servers enabling on-the-fly conversion of RTMP, RTSP / RTP, MPEG2-TS streams into a dynamic quality video stream based on the transport technology you need. This is a very handy feature for creating platforms for online broadcasts. However with Adobe Flash Media Server this has long been solved with ffmpeg and librtmp what we covered in a separate post.
The transcoding feature makes Wowza 3 competitive with a wide range of transcoding solutions: Harmonic, Cisco (Inlet), Allegro DVT (the list is almost endless). Of course, the use of a simplified single-vendor architecture makes a plus, but, generally speaking, the advantage is quite dubious (especially in view of competing with ffmpeg).
The new release supports the capability to record H.264 video streams on the server and further deliver them based on the Wowza 3 HTTP streaming options. Frankly speaking, I’ve been surprised that this was not implemented before. Adobe Flash Media Server supports this functionality with version 3.5 (released more than a year before).
In conclusion, I would say that implementation of this functionality will certainly make Wowza 3 an even more attractive product, even though the business benefit from some of the new features is somewhat dubious. Still, the price remains the main competitive driver and it is likely to remain so. In my opinion, healthy competition always makes the industry better and encourages the players to innovate. Adobe is expected to respond soon with its new release of Adobe Flash Media Server 4.5.