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Better Video Streaming From Wowza?

Adobe's Flash video format continues to enjoy tremendous use around the Internet for everything from animated Web sites to simple but addicting games. Flash is also gaining popularity as a video delivery vehicle. But some former Adobe employees have a startup company that's giving their former employer a run for its money.

Wowza Media Systems is the creation of CEO David Stubenvoll and CTO Charlie Good. Both were working on a marketing collateral automation system at Adobe  when the company bought Macromedia for $3.4 billion in 2005.

This large-scale system was used to create the directions for a product in 37 languages using a single template. But with the expense of the Macromedia purchase, many projects within Adobe were sent to the glue factory, this being one of them.

Stubenvoll wasn't bitter. "It was a cool project, we had a lot of fun but in the end you have to make hard decisions when doing a deal of that magnitude," he told internetnews.com.

The duo went off to start a video blogging company and found Adobe's Flash Communication Server had a limitations (including price and complexity). So they came up with their own, the Wowza Media Server.

The goal was simple: make it easy to stream video over the Internet without having to deal with encoding, playback devices or codecs . Video is displayed with the Flash player in a user's browser rather than using Windows Media Player, DivX or any of the countless video players and formats used online. It was written entirely in Java to run on the server and handle encoding and Flash conversion.

As such, end users don't need to deal with video players or codecs. So long as the Flash player is installed on their computer – and most desktop PCs accessing the Internet has it – they can see video streamed via Wowza. Video can be streamed or sent in segments with fast forward and rewind options.

Paul Palumbo, research director for Accustream iMedia Research, said Wowza is finding an excellent market in the small content delivery network (CDN) market. Wowza recently picked up two more customers, StremGuys in the U.S. and NetMasters in Europe.

"We're not talking the largest CDNs like Akamai but the smaller players, and there are a hell of a lot of them and they [Wowza] are winning accounts there," he said. "Flash is being adopted right and left in the media, it's becoming much more popular. How it all works out in the long-term I don't know, but I think their strategy at least in terms of the visible horizon is one that makes sense."

Wowza uses two codecs, Sorenson Spark and On2 vp6, but Stubenvoll said that's not really the issue. "The most accurate thing to say is choice of codecs is becoming less of an issue. Performance is coming closer, especially when you can do two pass variable bitrate. Often times these things degrade into religious wars," he said.

A single Wowza Media Server can deliver up to 2,000 concurrent live video streams. The company is preparing the 1.2 version of the software for even greater throughput, but Stubenvoll said he is running into the limitations of the hardware and network throughput before running out of headroom with his software.

"The problem we encounter is getting the bits off the hardware. We can't generate enough load any more," he said. Version 1.2, due later this year, will feature metadata support for Shoutcast audio streams, enhanced security and improved performance.



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