Adobe Flash Media Server has been powering the vast majority of video on the web for the past few years, and is in the center of some of the highest-profile and highest-quality content you experience on the web today. Adobe’s traditional streaming protocol, RTMP, has served and protected millions of hours of video and enabled new online experiences for more viewers with some of the largest live events on the web in history. The evolution of that experience continues with Adobe Flash Media Server 4 and Adobe Flash Player 10.1, helping to enable higher-quality experiences on multiple networks with advanced delivery methods, including the much anticipated premiere of peer-assisted networking with the new RTMFP protocol.
Video delivery and consumption is more fragmented and complex today than it was just three years ago. Multiple bitrates ensure an uninterrupted viewing experience, and multiple screen sizes help increase your audience by making your content portable. However, with more screens come more networks, more publishing workflows, and more complexity. That’s where Flash Media Server 4 can help.
Delivering video with Flash Media Server reduces the complexity of media publishing because you know you can depend upon consistent codec support, protection, and a high-quality experience wherever Flash Player is available. Flash Media Server 4 offers the publisher a very simple workflow to publish and protect video with multiple protocols optimized for different networks. This is how Flash Media Server reduces complexity.
Overview of Flash Media Server 4 editions
To make it easy for you to get started delivering higher-quality media experiences and interactive applications, you have four versions from which to choose:
- Flash Media Streaming Server 4: A great, low-cost option to get started delivering HD video with the same real-time content protection used by broadcasters to protect much of the premium video you see today.
- Flash Media Interactive Server 4: A great step up from Flash Media Streaming Server that will increase your capacity and options for media delivery with DVR support, real-time F4F packaging (based on industry standard MP4-fragments optimized for HTTP delivery), and IP multicast support. The interactive server is also the center of multiuser applications like video chat and video archiving with low-latency protocols operating over TCP and now UDP.
- Flash Media Enterprise Server 4: The ultimate product to take control over massive-scale media delivery using peer-assisted networking with the new RTMFP protocol. This server can be used to deliver higher-quality media within your corporate network or to your customers, or to deliver user-generated experiences with greatly reduced bandwidth and infrastructure costs.
- Flash Media Development Server 4: The full version of Flash Media Enterprise server is available for you to start testing and developing your applications. This version includes full support for peer-assisted networking, limited to 50 peer connections and 10 RTMP connections.
Feature overview for Flash Media Server 4
All editions of Flash Media Server 4 have the following new features and functionality when combined with Flash Player 10.1 and AIR 2 (these features are also supported on the mobile versions of the Flash runtimes):
- HTTP dynamic streaming origin services (a preconfigured Apache web server) enable Flash Media Server 4 to act as an origin for F4F file format.
- Absolute timecode lets you synchronize audio and video streams to support multiple camera angles, audio feeds, advertising cues, or other data feeds.
- Faster switching for dynamic streaming improves upon multi-bitrate video experiences with faster switching times with RTMP streaming that reduces the interruptions caused by fluctuating networks.
- RTMP buffer enhancements enable new viewing experiences with fast-forward, rewind, and instant seek-back features that let you deliver an even more engaging experience.
- 64-bit platform leverages large memory spaces, allows larger files, and makes additional resources available.
- New platforms support Microsoft Windows 2008, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5, and CentOS 5.3—a free, enterprise-class operating system to help reduce the total cost of ownership.
- Differentiated services (DiffServ) support best-effort traffic guarantees for quality of service so you can ensure that your communications and media are not interrupted.
On top of these features common to all editions, Flash Media Interactive Server 4 adds these new features:
- IP multicast fully supports IP multicast to enable your business to take complete advantage of great video experiences built in Flash without overwhelming your network, leveraging existing multicast-enabled networks.
- HTTP dynamic streaming live F4F packaging lets you generate F4F files in real time from any live stream or server-side playlist (linear stream) that can be delivered with the embedded Apache server, or to use it as an origin for content delivery networks.
- UDP Unicast transport takes advantage of ultra-low latency communication using UDP server-to-client transport.
Flash Media Enterprise Server 4 includes these new features:
- Application-level multicast delivers video using peer-assisted networking to help reduce bandwidth costs for your product marketing, user generated content, or internal broadcasts.
- Multicast fusion allows employees to receive live video via IP multicast and use those clients to help distribute to employees not connected to a multicast-enabled network.
- Peer-to-peer introductions enable Flash runtime clients to establish a connection with other Flash runtimes to start sharing data and media.
- Peer-to-peer communication using RTMFP enables a new wave of multiuser applications by sharing data and messaging with less server infrastructure.
Enabling high-quality experiences
We have a lot of new functionality in this release that I’m really excited to share with you. Here is a look at what you can do with Flash Media Server 4:
- Deliver HD-quality video with a simple workflow: Flash Media Server 4 enables content publishers to easily stream both live and on-demand video in full high-definition using your choice of industry-standard formats and protocols.
- Reach a broad audience with cross-platform, cross-device, and out-of-browser experiences: Applications that use Flash Media Server 4 can run both within a web browser using Flash Player or as a desktop application using Adobe AIR. These runtimes are also available on mobile devices that let you reach an even larger audience with very little redevelopment.
- Increase video scale with HTTP dynamic streaming delivery: Take advantage of existing HTTP infrastructures to improve reach and improve the experience by bringing content closer to the viewer. Flash Media Server 4 can package live and prerecorded content into cacheable fragments that enable full streaming features such as seeking, live, and adaptive bitrate—rather than whole-file downloads—thus increasing the quality of experience.
- Protect your content with a wide range of protection options: Whether you choose to encrypt your stream with RTMPE, utilize SWF verification, use secure tokens, require user login information, or encrypt media files with flexible business rules using Adobe Flash Access 2, Flash Media Server 4 gives you what you need to protect your content.
- Reduce server and network impact: Support higher quality and higher demand for live events without impacting your network or investing in high-priced infrastructure by leveraging peer clients to help distribute the stream and combine that with IP multicast inside your firewall.
- Leverage full server resources with 64-bit: Flash Media Server 4 now features support for both 64-bit and 32-bit platforms on a wide range of operating systems, including Microsoft Windows Server, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, and the free, enterprise-class operating system, CentOS.
- Deploy rich interactive experiences using peer-to-peer technology: Flash Media Server 4 enables the new RTMFP Groups technology in Flash Player 10.1. This technology will enable a new wave of multiuser applications such as video chat and other real-time media applications by reducing the demand for server bandwidth, which has been a huge barrier for these types of applications before now.
- Deliver executive broadcasts globally in HD: Reach your entire corporation, from Burbank to Bangalore, efficiently and affordably with multicast delivery without investing in network infrastructure.
- Extend your video conference infrastructure worldwide to every employee:Integrate peer-to-peer technology to support unified communication across your entire organization, saving bandwidth and hardware costs as well as telephone and travel expenses. You can even leverage the new preview technology, Flash Media Gateway, on Adobe Labs (expected shortly) for even more integration with your existing video conferencing systems.
Debuting multicast fusion
Flash Media Server 4 significantly reduces complexity with live streaming and multiple protocol support, including multicast. If you are not familiar with it, multicast is a technology used today inside many enterprises to deliver live video experiences without having a major impact on their internal network. Multicast is not used on the open Internet because it requires specialized network infrastructure found only in private networks.
The key challenge solved by multicast is reducing the network load from a unicast alternative. However, reducing network load comes at a cost: investing in hardware to enable multicast. Flash Media Server 4 introduces a new solution to support higher-quality video without deploying special multicast hardware. Multicast fusion uses peer-assisted networking to enable clients consuming a live stream to help distribute it to others on the network. This new technology requires less hardware and software to be deployed on the network to meet increased demands for higher-quality live events with more people watching it. In short, Flash Media Server 4 reduces the complexity to support high-quality delivery within the enterprise.
Flash Media Server 4 ships with a great configurator tool that makes publishing a mulitcast very simple (see Figure 1). The tool lets you create an IP multicast, application-level multicast (using P2P), or multicast fusion using Flash Media Live Encoder (see Figure 2). The key to making it simple to use is that it generates a standard manifest (F4M) file that can be used with the Open Source Media Framework, Flash Media Playback, or Strobe Media Playback, so you can get started streaming high-quality video quickly (see Figure 3).
Figure 1. Flash Media Server 4 Multicast Configurator makes it easy to configure your multicast broadcast and generate a manifest file for your video player
Figure 2. Adobe Flash Media Live Encoder 3.1 can be used to publish a high-quality stream to Flash Media Server 4 where it is delivered over IP, P2P, or multicast fusion
Figure 3. Players based on the Open Source Media Framework can easily consume a manifest file to start rendering the stream and helping to redistribute it using P2P
Onward and upward
I’m excited to see what new experiences developers will create. From video chat applications with reduced bandwidth costs to multiuser games with the ultra-low latency RTMFP protocol,Flash Media Server 4 helps you make it easy to combine the highest-quality video with the most engaging experience on the platform that’s in more places than ever before.
Flash Media Server 4 evolves media delivery to more screens and more networks with a consistent experience. To say we’ve evolved doesn’t mean we’re done yet! There is a lot more work to do as we strive to make real-time communication more accessible, make video delivery more consistent, and make it simple for you to publish and integrate your communication so you can focus on driving and supporting your growing business.