What Is Streaming Video - And What Does It Mean For The Enterprise?
Streaming video is a delivery method in which a sequence of moving images with voice are sent in compressed form over a network connection and are displayed by the viewer’s player as they arrive. With streaming video, a Web user does not have to wait to download a large file before seeing the video. Instead, the media is sent in a continuous stream and is played as it arrives. The player is a special program that uncompresses and sends video data to the display. Streaming video can be sent from prerecorded video files (video on demand), or can be distributed as part of a live broadcast. In a live broadcast, the video signal is converted into a compressed digital signal and transmitted from a special web server that is able to do multicast, sending the same file to multiple users at the same time.
What Does This Mean For The Enterprise?
Enterprise Video is defined by the deployment of software and hardware that enables one-to-one, one-to-many, and many-to-many communication using video in a reliable, scalable, and secure way. A fully realized Enterprise Video solution deploys the power of streaming video to combine the video technologies found in collaboration tools, video teleconferencing, and webcasting into an environment where the video assets and related rich media are managed through their life cycle – live, re-broadcast, on-demand, archived.
Over the past ten years, organizations have been trying hard to create effective video communication infrastructure at a reasonable cost, but have encountered serious difficulties due to incompatibilities between technologies (video teleconferencing versus streaming for example) and the “point” nature of video hardware and software which fail to provide a complete solution.
Starting in 2008, however, due to the adoption of standards like the H.264 format and technology providers such as Microsoft, AT&T, Riverbed, and Qumu releasing interoperable products, the Enterprise Video promise is being realized.
Buyers of Enterprise Video technology need to look for the following attributes in solutions they are evaluating:
- Employee Experience - Preparing a functional, reliable, and pleasing experience is critical to any Enterprise Video solution. The player environment should reflect company branding and identity and be easy to use. With live video, the employee experience should also include live feedback such as “Q&A” and polling. And, as organizations seek to increase the use of video, many are including “employee generated content” features that let employees upload and manage content for the benefit of their peers.
- Completeness - The solution must cover the “Capture - Manage - Distribute” major pillars, and the three supporting pillars of Publishing, Reporting, and Employee Experience.
No “Rip and Replace” - The solution must integrate with existing IT infrastructure.
This means integration with enterprise LDAP/Active Directory, Single Sign-On, DRM, and portal technologies and existing network (Intranet and Internet) content distribution capabilities.
- Future Proof - The solution must grow with future investments in LAN and WAN hardware, video teleconferencing systems, collaboration tools, and video use cases.
- Extensible - The solution must allow the creation of new applications and integration through a well documented, versioned web services based application programming interface (API) to allow the system to be extended in useful ways.
- Deployable - The solution must be fully “productized” and deployable in a manner that is compatible with current and future enterprise standards and preferences including SaaS, hardware appliances, virtual appliances, and software on enterprise hardware.
Additional considerations in the creation, management and delivery of streaming video include:
- Format – what method will be used to encode a video, enabling it for transport over the network efficiently, and played at the user’s desktop or mobile device? Adobe Flash and Microsoft Windows Media are two of the most commonly used formats.
Network Transport – Efficiently using the network to send large video files (average can be 130 MB in size for a one hour video) to hundreds if not thousands of users is important to avoid ‘crushing’ the network and having impact on other applications. Unicast and Multicast networks are two common streaming protocols:
- Unicast protocols send a separate copy of the media stream from the streaming server to each recipient. Does not scale well when many users want to view the same program concurrently.
- Multicast protocols send a single stream from the streaming server to a group of recipients. Efficient use of the network but requires network configuration.
- Content Distribution Network – network appliance that resides in the network, usually close to user communities, where streaming video content is easily accessed and efficiently made available to user communities to help lessen the load on corporate networks, and ensure that both Live and video on demand assets are delivered successfully. Blue Coat, Cisco or Qumu MediaNet are examples.
- Player – Provide the type of experience expected at the user’s client – whether it’s compatible with their desktop system or browser and capable of delivering the experience expected. A wide variety of player choices is available, usually tied to one or more formats. Real, Windows Media Player, Silverlight or Adobe Media Player are examples.
- Streaming Server – Able to deal with various network transports and handle both Live and Video On Demand capabilities in the format(s) of choice. Windows Media Server or Adobe Flash Media Server are examples.
- Content Manager – Handle the coordination of these devices to ensure that video assets are properly formatted and encoded based on users browser/player choice, efficiently managed, stored and made searchable on storage devices, and efficiently manage the preparation and delivery over the network to each respective user, in a controlled and secure fashion. No small task. Qumu Video Control Center is an example.
Additional learning sites include:
For a detailed explanation of streaming media, please see the “Streaming Media Explained” page on the StreamingMedia.com website:
For the Wikipedia discussion on Streaming multimedia: