How to Set Up a Streaming Server, from A to Z
In the past 2 years, the world of streaming has changed dramatically. We’ve gone from a world dominated by specialized servers to one that is equal parts specialty and generic.
At the same time, the emergence of adaptive bitrate (ABR) protocols has made delivering a single piece of content to a variety of devices quite easy.
The convergence of these two trends—ABR encoding and HTTP delivery—is most evident in the latest crop of streaming media delivery services offered by a few key players: Adobe Systems, Inc.; Apple, Inc.; Microsoft; and Wowza Media Systems.
This article is a brief “how-to” for setting up streaming solutions from each of these companies.
Numerous articles have been written on this topic, including several that I’ve written. It makes sense to do a quick synopsis of each solution in the Sourcebook, however, since it’s the one published issue that attracts readers all year long.
Having said that, this article comes with a warning: The techniques were current when the article was written, but they may be less so at the time of reading. When in doubt, go for the online resources available from each company, which range from forums to tech notes to tutorials.
With that, let’s jump in and address each solution in alphabetical order.
Adobe has several protocols that have been in use for many years, including the Real-Time Media Protocol (RTMP) and an encrypted version called RTMPE.
In the past year, though, it’s also entered the ABR and HTTP delivery space, with a product code-named Zeri. This product, renamed HTTP Dynamic Streaming, initially only supported on-demand content, but the advent of Flash Media Server 4 opened the door for HTTP Dynamic Streaming to support live encoding.
The standard in media servers over the past few years, Adobe recently released its Flash Media Server 4 in three different flavors: Streaming, Interactive, and Enterprise. The first, known as FMSS, bowed at $995, FMIS debuted at $4,995, and FMES costs—well, we’re not allowed to provide the Enterprise server pricing.
In addition, the FMES server also uses the Real-Time Media Flow Protocol (RTMFP) to enable direct peer-to-peer communication between multiple locations. Coupled with traditional multicasting, RTMFP can generate a unicast that is then replicated into a multicast once it passes through a firewall. Together, Adobe refers to RTMFP and multicasting as Fusion.
Adobe’s HTTP Dynamic Streaming is just a step in the innovation process for Adobe, a company that prides itself on pushing the envelope of what’s possible in streaming. From standard HTTP delivery to fast switching to peer-assisted networking for RTMFP to Fusion, the company has an offering to fit almost any need.
As the company behind the iOS devices—iPad, iPhone, iPod touch—Apple is driving adoption of ABR and HTTP streaming in a big way. Yet the company also has the least engagement in the content preparation and encapsulation process.
Apple’s own OS X server, currently at Snow Leopard 10.6.5, has an Apache HTTP server built in, but the media segmentation can be done on any machine equipped with OS X 10.6, even if the machine doesn’t have the server version installed.