Review: Flumotion Streaming Server

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What happens when an open source application goes commercial? In the case of Fluendo, a company that has been instrumental in the open source project surrounding the Flumotion Streaming Server technology, the answer is a significant number of enhancements and a server product that may rival Wowza’s Media Server Pro offering.

Fluendo says that it solves issues regarding multiformat live and on-demand streaming, complete with advertising options, transcoding, and detailed statistical generation. For its software-as-a-service (SaaS) Flumotion online video platform offering, users can access content using a web interface.

Adverts can be shown in different formats using built-in transcoding tools. Precise statistical information for each stream must be provided so that clients can analyse streams’ popularity and, in turn, improve their content distribution.

The company has also created a portal solution it calls WebTV for publishing videos in a very simple way. Besides transcoding of content for consumption on different devices, the WebTV option also generates statistical information that is accessed via a customer portal.

The tools mentioned above are the same as the company’s software product offering, Flumotion Streaming Server, which we will focus on for the rest of this review.

The Basics

Flumotion Streaming Server is Linux-based and grows out of the GStreamer family of applications and technology. GStreamer is a library for constructing graphs of media-handling components. With the GStreamer core framework, all components are geared to work together and multiple applications can transparently access current and updated codec and filter technology. New codecs can also be added via a simple plug-in.

Fluendo, the parent company that helped create Flumotion and then released it under a GPL licensing scheme, has spent several years working with the open source community, advancing both the GStreamer technology base and the Flumotion Streaming Server codebase, which is available in compiled form for the Fedora and Ubuntu operating systems, with a Solaris version in the works.

For the hardy, the open source version can be compiled for other Linux distributions, but the typical Flumotion Streaming Server customer wants to run an application on Linux but doesn’t want to have to compile source code. In addition, the Flumotion Streaming Server product contains features that are not part of the open source version, although open source developers can create plug-ins that work both in the open source and commercial versions of Flumotion Streaming Server.

Figure 1
Figure 1. Flumotion's e-shop configurator tool, which will let users choose which features to upgrade

We tried Flumotion on a Fedora Linux distribution. The server integrated itself nicely with the Fedora distribution and into the service control interface. Launching the server is straightforward, especially as the Red Hat version of Fedora mimics a Windows user interface, complete with a pull-down menu to launch programs. In fact, once you are in the application, it mimics a Windows interface nicely, should that be a concern to those who previously had only set up streaming servers for Windows.

Flumotion uses a series of wizards to set up a variety of parameters within the Flumotion Streaming Server. That’s another key element of the ease of use for Flumotion. As part of the review, I spoke with three people at the company: software manager Fernando Fumagalli, marketing manager Julia Atzesberger, and product director Xavier Laballos. One question I posed was who Fluendo’s target market was.

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