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First Look: Accordent Multicast In-Stream Technology
New release from Accordent enables organizations to leverage multicast-enabled networks to deliver streaming video with synchronized slides and graphics as a single, compressed stream.

(Editor's note: A version of this article [with screenshots] also appears on Nico McLane's Splice of Life blog.)

Accordent calls its newly released Multicast In-stream Technology a "breakthrough that enables large organizations to leverage multicast-enabled networks to deliver high-quality streaming video with synchronized slides and graphics as a single, compressed stream." I was contacted by the team at Accordent and led through an early demo with my old pal Mike Lorenz, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer (& fellow Streaming Media All-Star). The premise is simple: In the enterprise environment, resources are stretched and pushed to the limits—conservation and optimization are key words on every IT leader's hot list. This latest release appears in the Accordent PresenterPRO (Accordent CaptureStation release expected in the next two weeks or so) and is a huge value-add to the Enterprise conservation effort.

The first thought that crossed my mind when I heard about this release is that we would be doing a tour of new Silverlight functionality; however, this product is totally 100% enterprise friendly and is built from the Microsoft Windows Media SDK. In fact, the encoder Lorenz used for this demo was the Windows Media Encoder 9, and the end user need only have their correctly configured Enterprise Windows Media Player installed on their workstation.

This technology is HOT!

The workflow has not changed—the only addition that is visible is within the Accordent Encoder Controller’s Windows Media tab—so you will be easily able to customize bitrates that are now exposed for optimization which includes, in addition to the standard "script" stream we are familiar with, a field that can be customized for the actual slides to transport.

This feature is obviously ideal if you are in a multicast-enabled environment, but it works just as easily with unicast streams.

The real magic happens when you start up the webcast and push that first slide. Mike graciously exposed the player properties as we went through the demo and this is how it went…

What Mike described as we observed the statistics on the windows media player was quite simple—a slide was pushed from the PresenterPRO, and as we watched the statistics, a very graceful bandwidth peak occurred according to the the bandwidth limits we set in the Encoder Controller (in real time), and then they went back down to the a/v streaming bandwidth.

It sounds so simple but it is brilliant—the ROI in an Enterprise can be measured easily if you do some simple math and, of course, the larger the audience the greater the ROI.

In short, one slide is passed through the same multicast stream to the 15,000 audience members rather than 15,000 calls to a webserver for a jpg to load in the users' browsers.

The slide is sent directly into the local cache of the Windows Media Player from within the single multicast stream.

The call is sent in real time, so if you change a slide or need to make updates, the slide will be pushed at that time; I am assuming here, but it seems to make sense that would be the case.

Of course, there must be one drawback…

Enterprise player deployment & management IT will need to ensure the local cache options on the Windows Media Player are enabled (depending on which version of the player is deployed) and everyone will need to remember to clear their caches once in a while, especially if they have a lot of live webcasts going on!

All in all, this is a fantastic release. I am very excited to see it in action and look forward to the ROI figures as they are calculated in actual use cases.

The full press release is available here.