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YouTube for the Enterprise? Adobe Unleashes Flash Media Server 4

YouTube’s daily tally of roughly two billion downloads proves that viewing video is among the most popular activities among Internet users. Now Adobe, creator of the ubiquitous Flash Player, has introduced several solutions that could make video standard fare on corporate networks as well.

These new tools are embedded in Flash Media Server 4, the latest version of Adobe’s video-delivery platform. The company formally unveiled this new platform on Thursday at IBC 2010, a global conference for professionals involved in creating and managing multimedia content, which is taking place this week in Amsterdam.

Key features in Media Server 4 should alleviate concerns that have kept video from spreading through the corporate world as quickly as it has in the consumer space, said Ashley Still, group product manager, Flash Media distribution.

Addresses Concerns of IT Pros

Typically, IT professionals have voiced the loudest objections to video-based applications, arguing that in addition to being complicated and expensive to deploy, their large bandwidth requirements overtax corporate networks, slowing down other services such as email delivery.

Those are the issues Adobe set out to address with Flash Media Server 4, Still told TechNewsWorld.

“If creating video applications means your development becomes extremely complex or expensive, it’s not realistic to think people will use these capabilities,” she said.

Adobe is addressing a real corporate need with this new release, said IDC’s Melissa Webster, vice president, content and digital media technologies.

“We are already seeing video in the enterprise becoming an expected, mission-critical part of enterprise communications capabilities,” she told TechNewsWorld. “The challenge is making it easy to create, manage and deliver that video with a predictable level of quality.”

Still pointed to three specific features in Flash Media Server 4 that can simplify the deployment of video-based applications:

  • HTTP Dynamic Streaming
  • IP Multicast
  • Peer-Assisted Delivery

With HTTP Dynamic Streaming, a company can store video files in any available Web cache locations — either on its corporate network or the public Internet. Placing files in cache means it requires less bandwidth to deliver them to individual users, which allows for scaling applications to serve larger numbers of users, Still explained.

Reach More Users With Less Bandwidth

The IP Multicast feature uses routers that can broadcast a video stream to multiple clients across a corporate network. This technology will be especially useful for global companies that want to broadcast messages, such as a speech by the CEO, to all of its employees across the world at the same time, Still suggested.

“Many routers already support IP Multicast technology,” she said. “It greatly reduces the number of video streams that need to be sent to reach a large audience on a corporate network — and for those companies that already have routers equipped with IP Multicast Technology, there is no additional hardware to buy.”

Peer-Assisted Delivery is a software-only approach to creating the same large-scale video delivery system that can be achieved with IP Multicast Technology, Still said. In essence, it’s peer-to-peer networking. When a user requests a video, the server seeks out a nearby client that has the bandwidth available to receive the transmission. That client will then pass it to other clients until it reaches the user’s machine.

Support for Social Applications

“This feature is significant for two reasons,” Still told TechNewsWorld. “First, it’s a software-only means of offering video on a large scale. Second, it supports social applications. For instance, video chat is incredibly expensive because you’re sending data in two directions, at a minimum. Using the peer-assisted model, all that data can be passed among the clients on the network rather than going through a server. We are really excited to see what innovative uses customers find for this feature.”

The use of video in corporate settings already is growing, but the release of Flash Media Server 4 just might cause that growth to accelerate, according to Steve Vonder Haar, research director with Interactive Media Strategies.

“This new release of Flash Media Server shows that Adobe is finally getting serious about the enterprise video space,” Vonder Haar told TechNewsWorld.

“They have shown leadership in enabling the use of consumer video online, but they’ve never really done much to help businesses use video in any productive fashion,” he noted. “This release, and particularly the peer-to-peer networking feature, is a significant step in creating a platform that addresses the top-level concerns of IT professionals when it comes to the use of video.”


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