Amazon Not Providing Content Delivery For Streaming

Amazon Streaming
Last week, there was a lot of speculation about whether or not Amazon has built out a portion of their content delivery network specifically to deliver video via streaming media protocols. Based on a post two weeks ago on the Amazon blog, which spoke to a Justin.TV webcast, many believed Amazon may now be delivering streaming media services to content owners.

While Amazon did work on the Justin.TV webcast, it was Akamai that delivered the streams. Content owners who want to deliver Flash streaming can use Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) and Simple Storage Service (S3) along with a CDN to deliver streaming media based content. Another way technical savvy customers are utilizing Amazon’s EC2 and S3 service is with a product like the Wowza Media Server Pro.

Wowza Server
Combining the Amazon services with Wowza Media Server Pro and you have a cost-effective and elastic hosting environment for Flash streaming applications. For those not familiar with Wowza, every Wowza Pro edition server has four key features that make it especially well suited for deployment on Amazon’s EC2/S3 for live and on-demand streaming:

  • Live Stream Repeater: For live streaming, you can configure one server as the “origin” server to which you will send your live stream. The origin server then sends streams to each edge server in EC2, and the edge servers send the streams to viewers. Adding capacity is easily done by adding more edge servers.
  • Load-Based Load Balancing: For live or video on demand, load balancing is a key factor. You don’t want to have one server overwhelmed while other are mostly idle. Wowza Pro has very effective capability that enables you to ping a server over http to determine its load. This capability enables you to set up the system so that the latest viewer always attaches to the least used server in your cluster of EC2 servers.
  • Efficient Code: Wowza Pro is a very efficient server application that is well suited to the low power CPU of an EC2 instance.
  • Simultaneous Recording: Live events can be streamed and recorded on S3 at the same time.

Combining these features with Wowza Pro’s high reliability and performance makes the combination with Amazon EC2/S3 a potentially very attractive solution for Flash streaming. The ability to dynamically add or reduce capacity on Amazon EC2 matches well with the audience fluctuations and the need to dynamically provision for time-limited live broadcast events and when an on-demand video becomes viral.

Amazon’s EC2 is a reasonable and a cost-effective way to go if you know what you’re doing and have a technical and operational experience. As with any webcast, not just for EC2, the quality of live video is very much dependent upon the quality of the link from the video encoding source to the streaming server. Companies have seen some great results with EC2/S3, but your mileage may vary depending upon your connection.

So far, Amazon shows no signs of getting into the CDN business themselves for streaming media delivery. That’s not to say they couldn’t if they wanted to, but to date, they have been happy to work directly with the CDNs and other solutions on the market like Wowza that tie well into EC2/S3. All in all, it’s great to have a broader range of options, and given the economics of both Amazon EC2 and Wowza, this one warrants a serious consideration for tech-savvy content owners who want to delivery their content themselves.