May 20, 2010, 4:45 PM

Now in video land: A move to better and faster HTTP streaming

As demand grows for online video, there is growing support for delivering it over the open Internet without proprietary data transmission protocols. Adobe and Akamai are offering new tools to do just that.

As video content providers design for bigger and faster video delivery over the web and to a growing number of devices, there is growing support for delivering video over the open Internet without the use of proprietary data transmission protocols. Adobe Systems Inc. and Akamai Technologies Inc. are offering new tools to do just that.

Adobe’s new HTTP Dynamic Streaming service supports the delivery of Flash video content over the open Internet’s hypertext transfer protocol, instead of the more traditional means of transmitting video through proprietary protocols. One such protocol is Adobe’s own RTMP, or real time messaging protocol, which the company developed for sending Flash over the Internet.

The advantages of moving to the open HTTP network are several, including enabling video content to be transmitted more freely by Internet routers, through firewalls and to consumer’s Internet access devices, says Stuart Cleary, director of product marketing and media delivery at Akamai.

Moreover, HTTP video transmission better supports the transmission of larger video files designed to stream from web servers at high bitrates, such as 3 megabits per second, he adds.

The proprietary protocols have been the common means of transmitting video over the Internet because Adobe and other companies involved in rich media content developed them to better control the transmission and protection of content, experts say. But the exponential growth of online video content in recent years, plus the surge in the number of devices that can view online video, including mobile smartphones and tablets like Apple’s iPad, has led to investment in a better way to transmit video through HTTP, Cleary and others say.

“HTTP streaming is the future,” says Melissa Webster, program vice president, content and digital media technologies, for research and advisory firm IDC.  “It leverages the web infrastructure, but provides the benefits of true streaming—it`s bandwidth-friendly, and provides a basic level of content protection.”

Adobe recently introduced its HTTP Dynamic Streaming technology for streaming video through the Internet using the HTTP protocol connections. It also has introduced Adobe Flash Access 2.0, which provides content protection for both live and on-demand online video content.

To take advantage of the new Adobe technology, however, many video content providers will have to re-format their content into the F4V format suitable for HTTP connections, Cleary says. “Even a moderately sized video library can be costly to re-package. You have to re-code each video.”

In addition, many existing videos were developed to operate at multiple bitrates, or streaming speeds, to accommodate fluctuations in Internet bandwidth. Owners of such content would need to recode the video content for each bitrate level to accommodate the new Adobe HTTP Dynamic Streaming, Cleary says.

To assist such efforts, Akamai has introduced video content packaging technology to automate that recoding in the Akamai HD Network, which supports HTTP Internet connections. Akamai has worked with Adobe to develop software specifically for re-packaging video content into the F4V format, Cleary says.

“This will allow us to deliver Flash content over our HTTP network, which has more 60,000 web servers—far more than what has been available for the earlier proprietary protocols,” Cleary says.

Akamai offers the software for re-coding at no extra fee to existing customers, Cleary adds. If clients need additional assistance, it will offer professional services for a fee.

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