Another Nail in Flash’s Coffin: CDN Support Rapidly Dwindling

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I’ve received a few enquiries lately from content owners asking which content delivery networks (CDNs) still support Adobe’s proprietary Flash streaming format (RTMP). Over the past 12 months, many, though not all, of the major CDNs have announced that they will soon end support for Flash streaming.

Throughout the industry, we have seen declining requirements for RTMP for some time. By no longer investing in Flash delivery, most of the major CDNs have been able to reduce a significant third-party software component on their networks. Flash Media Server (FMS) been a thorn in the CDN service providers’ sides for many years, and killing it off is a good thing for the industry. HLS, DASH, Smooth Streaming, and other HTTP streaming variants are the future.

Since it’s hard to know which CDN may still support Flash streaming, or for how much longer, I reached out to all the major CDNs and received details from them directly. Here’s what I was told:

Akamai: Akamai still supports RTMP streaming. While the company is not actively promoting the product, it has not announced an end-of-life date. Akamai said it is investing in RTMP streaming, but the investment is focused on ensuring continued reliability and efficiency for current customers.

Amazon: Amazon continues to support RTMP delivery via CloudFront streaming distributions, but the company has seen a consistent decrease in RTMP traffic on CloudFront over the past few years. The company doesn’t have a firm date for ending RTMP support, but Amazon is encouraging customers to move to modern, HTTP-based streaming protocols.

Comcast: Comcast does not support RTMP on its CDN and chooses to support all formats of HTTP-based media (HLS, HDS, Smooth Streaming, etc.). The only principal RTMP requirement Comcast sees in the market involves the acquisition of live mezzanine streams that are transcoded into various bit-variants and HTTP-based formats.

Fastly: Fastly has never supported RTMP to the edge or end user—its stack is pure HTTP/S. While Fastly used to support RTMP ingest, the company retired that product in favor of partnering with Anvato, Wowza Media Systems, JW Player, and others.

Highwinds: Highwinds stopped supporting RTMP in 2012 in favor of HTTP and HTTPS streaming protocols and has since helped a number of customers transition from RTMP delivery to an HTTP focus.

Level 3 Communications: Level 3 stopped taking on new Flash streaming customers a year ago and will shut down existing customers by the end of this year.

Limelight Networks: Limelight still supports RTMP streaming globally across its CDN. The company said its current investment focus for video delivery is in its multidevice media delivery (MMD) platform, which can be used to ingest live RTMP feeds and deliver RTMP, RTSP, HLS, HDS, Smooth Streaming, and DASH output formats. Limelight is encouraging customers to move away from RTMP and to HTTP formats for stream delivery.

Verizon Digital Media Services: Verizon announced plans to end support of Flash streaming in June 2017. It is actively working to decommission the RTMP playout infrastructure based on FMS 4.5. Verizon has written its own engine to continue to support RTMP ingest and repackaging for HLS/DASH playout that is more natively integrated with its CDN, but it will no longer support RTMP playout after that time. As of June 2016, Verizon is no longer actively onboarding new RTMP playout customers.

While many of the major CDNs will discontinue support for RTMP, several smaller regional CDNs still support Flash streaming, so options remain for content owners. But the writing is on the wall. Content owners should take note that RTMP will not be a viable option much longer. It’s time to start transitioning from RTMP as a delivery platform.

[This column appears in the Winter 2016 issue of Streaming Media European Edition as "Another Nail in Flash’s Coffin."]

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