Wowza Media Server 3.0 (preview)

So. I’ve spent a few hours installing a Wowza Media Server 3.0 Preview Release. Wowza themselves calls it “Any Screen Done Right™” which sound very promising for me with the type of work I’ve done for the past few years – Haven’t tested it much yet but on the “paper” it’s look pretty darn good. The current project, I’m involved in, is to port (livetranscode) TV-channels to mobile devices (phones and pda’s and such). This is where one of the new features of the coming Wowza Media Server 3 is coming in.

I’m talking about the Wowza Transcoder Addon.

According to the release notes this supports adaptive bitrate (ABR) for Flash, Silverlight, and Apple HLS. It should be able to ingest from live encoders, IP cams, TV headends, and more…

It can handle the following inputs – MPEG-2, MPEG-4 Part 2 and H.264 the output will then become H.264 over any protocol supported by Wowza Media Server. They will also be providing pre-built profiles for web, mobile and IPTV-streaming. The second part is what’s interesting me at this point.

Currently the system support GPU-acceleration hardware using Intel’s QuickSync or Nvidias CUDA, on windows only, but they’re aiming to offer at least Nvidia CUDA support in Linux as well.  My current configuration is being run on a Linux server – so at this point I will not have any GPU-acceleration and have to rely on the normal processors in the server to handle that. But then again the server is running with 12 cores and 24 gig ram… so we will be stress-testing the transcoder quite harshly – to see how many transcoders we can run on one hardware and still get good results.

As you can see I’m using “we will” – and that’s because we’re still waiting for the input (source’s) to tell us how they will be providing us with the material (hopefully something that doesn’t need to much configuring on our end).

Apart from the Wowza Transcoder Addon the other “MAIN” news are:

Wowza Network DVR (nDVR) AddOn

A thing that will be interesting to try, although I can’t see the use for it on my end (yet). A Single nDVR cache — with support for pausing, resuming and rewinding a live stream. It also integrates with the Transcoder for time-shifted streaming and comes with API for customization. For the final release they’re also planning multiple bitrate support and multiple server support. Could be interesting to try – but I’d have to wait a while, at least until my transcoding tests are done.

When you’re working with IP-holders they do have a tendency to obsess over security in general and DRM especially. I have a mantra, that I always tell clients when they bring up the question “what about people copying the content – they can’t do that can they?”, and that mantra is ‘if you can view/listen to the content on a computer you can record it’ – even if it comes down to placing a camera in front of the screen and pluggin a recording device into the soundcard – it’s always possible if you really, really want to do it. But that being said, you don’t have to make it easier for them. Thus we end up with the third and for some, most important, addon in the new Wowza Media Server 3.

Wowza DRM AddOn

This addon is offering integration 3rd party DRM Key Management Systems, including:

  • Verimatrix VCAS™ for playback on HLS devices with ViewRight™ clients
  • Microsoft® PlayReady® for Silverlight smooth streaming client playback (not current but for planned for final release)

According to Wowza they will be announcing other platforms in the future. Suffice to say the above mentioned are good enough but the more the merrier. As I’ve said, I’m no big fan of DRM since it only adds more load to servers but if clients demand it – the more support, the better. This addon supports on-the-fly encryption for live and VOD. Specifically for live its encryption per stream with the ability to rotate keys and for VoD it’s instead per asset or per session with the same abilities.

The only “issue” I’ve found, yet, is that neither GPU-support, nor Transcoder-addon will work on Mac OS X – and being a iPerson – I don’t really like that, hopefully it will come something to those platforms as well…. Another thing, not an issue, is that the Wowza Media Server 3 will have free upgrade for those on the Wowza Media Server 2 platform, which of course is good. However, the addons mentioned above – will be separately priced and the price will be made public at a later date.

Now, Wowza Media Server, in my opinion is one of the most friendly in terms of cost for a software of its caliber but these addons could turn that around. I hope it doesn’t but we will have to wait and see.

I tried to get the Wowza-people to give me a few hints on what’s coming post-3.0 but only got a “no, we don’t discuss that” – which I have to say isn’t that surprising. But I had to ask!

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