The buzz at the show this year so far has been about two things: format independence (see story: Apple, RealNetworks partner) and performance measurement. Although the latter is often seen as the territory of server techs and advertising salespeople, increasingly producers of streamed content are getting involved – as bandwidth availability is directly linked to the quality of video that can be created.
Keynote Systems and Exodus Communications have announced user services for measuring and gauging the performance of streaming media across the Internet and how well viewers perceive them.
Both offerings use remote sampling stations that mimic the action of an everyday viewer and collect performance information. Data is organized at a central location and a customer of the service can access performance reports via the Web. The two companies already offer similar services for monitoring the performance of Web servers from a region such as Boston, New York or Los Angeles.
Keynote used its service to measure the performance of the May 17 Victoria Secret Webcast and found the average frames per second rate varied from a low of 7.0 in the Houston area to a high of 15.8 in Philadelphia. The event drew 631,000 households according to Nielsen/NetRatings.
"We see a high level of demand from clients to offer stream performance management," says Bob Merlo, vice president of marketing for Exodus in Santa Clara. "It is pretty important for clients to get a handle on this by giving a good feeling for how their streams are being delivered to customers."
With such growth in broadband usage, Web viewers will begin to expect higher quality broadcasts and services, which will be important for those companies that rely on quality audio and video delivery. Analyst firms such as Paul Kagan Associates predict 42.8 million broadband viewers will watch on average 14-minute streams by 2002, up from 9.8 million viewers who watched only seven minutes last year.
Exodus will have 300 data collection agents around the world. Customers of the service can test only certain groups of data collection points to get results that are representative of its audience. Users of the service can track live and on-demand streams with information collected on packet loss, jitter, packets received and bytes received. Service levels can be set and customers alerted by e-mail or pager when certain performance levels are not met. The service will be available in the next 30 days.
Keynote Systems will initially have measuring agents in ten cities in the U.S. with 70 computers placed on all of the major backbone providers. The service will give users over all quality reports based on data measurements such as bandwidth used and packet loss. The service launches this week.
Also at the show:
E-StudioLive is launching a public beta of Version 1.1 of its E-StudioLive Webcasting product. The offering combines television studio controls with a customized RealNetworks G2 server for those that want to offer high-quality live broadcasts.
Eloquent will give a sneak peek of its new collaborative publishing service, which allows customers to review and edit presentation onlines, rather than using the old-world approach of paper and mail.
Kasenna will show a version of its MediaBase 4.0 streaming media software for the Solaris platform. Currently available for Linux, the software allows users to manage and deliver multiple media formats from a single box.
EdgeStreme, a division of Avid Technology, will announce its EdgeStreme Cluster for pushing out media to the edges of a network. The specialized boxes can be tied together to provide five gigabits of streaming bandwidth and 52.5 terabytes of mirrored service. Initially, EdgeStreme will support the Windows Media Format. Plans for support for RealMedia later this year.