Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wowza Media Systems, "Any Screen Done Right" - Dave Stubenvoll, CEO and Co-founder, Wowza Media Systems


When Wowza Media Systems first was conceived, Dave Stubenvoll says he and his co-founder, Charlie Good, saw a market need for a better media delivery solution which incumbent media server providers (Adobe, Microsoft and Apple) could not address. When Wowza Media Server 1.0 first came to market in February 2007 it was originally offered as a low-cost alternative to Adobe's Flash Media Server and had great success. But when Wowza Media Server Pro 1.5 was released in May 2008, it expanded its abilities by introducing H.264 video and AAC audio streaming support.

Today, Wowza Media Systems provides a flexible multi-platform media software for streaming of live and on-demand video, audio, and RIAs (rich Internet applications) over public and private IP networks to desktop, laptop, and tablet computers, mobile devices, IPTV set-top boxes, internet-connected TV sets, and other network-connected device, with some 70,000 licensees all shapes and sizes worldwide.

Wowza Media Systems premiered its "any screen done right" delivery at the 2011 NAB Show, intoducing the third generation of its streaming system, Wowza Media Server 3, which will implement Adaptive bit rate (ABR) streaming, time-shifted playback and integrated rights management. The full release will be presented at IBC 2011 in September. (Read more: New streaming systems from Wowza - Broadcast Engineering)

Wowza Media Systems was founded in 2005 by Stubenvoll and Good, both former Adobe employees, and they knew back then their boot strapped startup could be more than just a competitor to the big guns of online video. At that time, Flash and Windows Media video ruled the web as the dominant players in live and on-demand video. But as the video delivery formats changed over time and as AVC/H.264 video workflows began to extend to extend to the web and beyond, Wowza Media Systems re-engineered its product to offer Microsoft Smooth Streaming support aimed at Microsoft Silverlight clients and Windows Phone 7 devices; Apple QuickTime player and iOS platform (iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch); 3GPP mobile devices (Android, BlackBerry OS, Symbian, etc), and IPTV set-top boxes and game consoles.



I caught up with Stubenvoll earlier this year at OTT Con in San Jose, to talk with him about the company's first product release and how the company has grown since then.
"When we started… we had a great position in the market. We architected it from the ground up to be an industrial strength server. We saw the need to have something that was really rock solid, high performance, high reliability, but also super super extensible." 
After finding great success with the first media server release the company embarked on a H.264 strategy, which Stubenvoll says all the pieces fell right into place when Adobe announced that it would support H.264 playback within Flash Player 9. Wowza began to work with every H.264 encoder so it could ingest all the various flavors of H.264, which he says was a lot of work, because things tat normally wouldn't go to Flash could go to Flash and customers loved it. The next logical step beyond taking in all these flavors or H.264, was to deliver all those flavors of live and on-demand H.264, and did that with the December 2009 release of Wowza Media Server 2.
"As a result, Wowza as a company has grown dramatically. We were actually a boot strapped startup, and while I had an office in a venture capitalist firm, we decided not to go with that. But now, we have over 70,000 licenses worldwide; 40% of content delivery networks base their media delivery on Wowza; we just have a fantastic reputation and a fantastic footprint worldwide."
Wowza Media Server is highly regarded within the online video community and has received numerous awards, including multiple Streaming Media Readers' Choice Awards, Streaming Media Editors' Pick and 2010 and most recently, the best AV Over IP Distribution System by AV Technology Magazine

Another important thing to note, says Stubenvoll, is that Wowza is extraordinarily architected and Wowza Media Server itself with all its features and functionalities is 2.5 MB in size.
"So we can literally fit on your phone. But at the other side, with off the shelf hardware, we can get out 10 Gbps and that's a lot of performance."
Stubenvoll says that Wowza Systems is looking to the future beyond the mere media server at what else is required to deliver content in the very robust fashion. With the new features available in Wowza Media Server 3, the company is focusing on value-added components for "any screen done right".
"What else can we do in terms of content transformation to make sure that it's properly adapting to all the relevant bit rates. Other things we can do around enhancing the consumer experience and giving them better features that they can rely on; and the key thing here is, not just having it for the desktop and not just for certain mobile devices, but have it work across. So what you're seeing is that this 'any screen done right' is really what Wowza is about and we're building a very rich platform for a number of services that will allow you to do any screen done right, and that's Wowza Media Server."
About Wowza Media Systems 
Wowza Media Systems® is the premier media server software company delivering an industrial-strength infrastructure for live video, video-on-demand, live recording, and video chat. Wowza® has a singular focus on delivering high-performance media server software to service providers, media properties, enterprises, and other organizations serious about delivering video to any digital screen — computer, mobile phone, or home TV. More than 70,000 global licensees in entertainment, social media, advertising, enterprise, education, government, and Internet commerce have deployed Wowza’s media server software to date. Wowza Media Systems is privately held with headquarters in Evergreen, Colo. More information is available at http://www.wowzamedia.com, or follow Wowza Media Systems (wowzamedia) on Twitter

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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

BitTorrent at 10, Seeding Its Future in P2P Live Streaming - Bram Cohen, Inventor of BitTorrent


It's been 10 years since Bram Cohen, Chief Scientist and Co-founder of BitTorrent, Inc. first invented the revolutionary peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing protocol for transferring large files over the Internet. Now on its 10 year anniversary, BitTorrent's disruptive technology has an installed base of over 160 million clients worldwide, and has grown to become a viable distribution platform for content producers around the world. The company, which first incorporated in 2004 has shifted its focus back to its roots in content delivery, and looks to seeding its future in live streaming.

While the P2P file-sharing protocol has long been associated with digital piracy, BitTorrent has worked with a variety of filmmakers, musicians and authors over the past year, to help distribute films using the company’s P2P technology.

I caught up with Cohen at last year's NewTeeVee Live where he discussed BiTorrent's future in P2P live streaming. In an interview with TorrentFreak, Cohen said that solving a challenging technical problem while creating value was his motivation to get started on a P2P live streaming solution.



“I am fundamentally a technologist, and am simply not interested in working on something which doesn’t solve the fundamental problem it’s supposed to tackle, especially in a market where there have already been so many bad technologies which failed to succeed based on sales and marketing,” he said. (Source: Bram Cohen To Deliver BitTorrent Live Streaming | TorrentFreak)
Source:  BitTorrent.org » For Users
The BitTorrent protocol works differently than the client-server model by breaking files up into small pieces, rather than downloading a file from a single source, like how http and ftp work. The file is downloaded piece by piece from one or many different sources, known as a "swarm" of hosts. Since the file is broken up into smaller pieces, it requires less bandwidth since more parts are available from multiple sources. Once the file is finished downloading, the BitTorrent client software continues to share the completed file (or "seed") with others looking for it.


Cohen has been working on his P2P live streaming protocol over the past few years and admits it's been challenging. Low latency is the biggest issue, as he points out that data is being handed across several peers along the way.
"BitTorrent is peer-to-peer file distribution. Live streaming is a very difficult and challenging and rewarding problem, because there are a few things you have to get it work all at once." he said. " You have to get offloads to as close as 100% as possible. They should be at least 99% if you've got a million people watching something. You want get it very robust, so it doesn't fail horribly; and, you want to get the latency between when the video is taken to when it is displayed on everyone's machines as low as possible and I'm shooting for around 5 seconds."
Cohen says he has some very unorthodox techniques he's come up with to deal with these issues and plans to roll it out anyway now.  (Ed. note: I spoke with in November 2010 and he estimated the roll out within eight months timeframe.)

BitTorrent's two main software products, the Mainline client and flagship uTorrent, have amassed a huge user base and the company has been shifting it's resources to developing clients to reach that audience. Cohen says right now the company is working on their engagement with our existing user base and trying to get others to reach them. They are also working with device manufacturers to make software run on their devices to help with file distribution.

About BitTorrent
BitTorrent creates advanced, innovative technologies to efficiently move large files across the Internet. The company's two main products today include the original BitTorrent software and the tiny-but-mighty ĀµTorrent, which combined boast over 100+ million users. BitTorrent is based in San Francisco, Calif. For more information, visit www.bittorrent.com, and follow on Twitter, or Facebook.

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