December 04th 2007 | Jens C Brynildsen
Today, Adobe announced Flash Media Server 3. The new server features double performance, better pricing and several new features. We talked to Kevin Towes, Product Manager in the Dynamic Media Organization of Adobe.
One of the new additions to the player is the Digital Rights Management (DRM) that is now available. When you visit Youtube or other sites that stream short videos progressively, the video is saved to your browsers cache. With video streamed from FMS, it's never a file that is downloaded. The Flash Player just "listens" and displays images that are streamed to you in a continuous manner.
In FMS3, this stream is protected by a 120 bit encryption that is requested on an encrypted channel. 120 bits is not un-hackable, but doing a screen recording of the streamed video and audio would be much easier than trying to actually hack the DRM. Kevin refers to the DRM as high performance encryption and he gave us an idea of how fast it is: "With the new RTMPE protocol, which is an enhancement to our existing RTMP protocol ... you'll be able to deliver more streams with FMS3, that are encrypted, than you are today with FMS2 that are unencrypted. And because you don't need an SSL certificate for it, it makes it a much more compelling reason to switch."
We asked Kevin what the exact "cost" of DRM is in terms of extra CPU load and he said it would be in the area of 20%. Another new feature is a simple access control (swift verification) which allows you to validate the SWF file that you are requesting the stream from. This will prevent unauthorized access to the video streams from users that does not have the proper SWF file.
The performance when it comes to the number of connections and bandwidth delivered has more than doubled from the former version of FMS and the team has worked on several other things that will make the Flash video experience even better. There's also no limits on the number of connections or the bandwidth and according to Kevin, they've been able to saturate a 1Gbit network card with only 20% of the available cpu used. The only real limitation you now have is your own hardware and the number of CPU cores.
We've done a lot work with our Live video, so that when you connect to a live video, you don't have to wait for the next keyframe to come in and you can just stream your video out. We've done a lot of work to include mobile and devices to make sure we can stream to both those platforms. With Flash Lite 3, which is currently being installed on millions of devices right now, you'll be able to connect and consume the video from FMS". FMS 3 will automatically detect if it is a mobile device that connects and it will send an appropriate stream for that device.
"We saw a lot of barriers to entry" Kevin says," and when we talked to customers in both streaming and realtime communication, [this] was the number one barrier to choosing Flash. They were finding all kinds of ways to do something with Flash, but they avoided the Flash Media Server. We hope that with this new pricing that the barrier of entry will be much less".
The new pricing will make Live streaming Flash video much more common. The "light" product called Flash Media Streaming Server 3 is not so "light" any more. There's fewer restrictions and the price is only $995. The "pro" version is now dubbed Flash Media Interactive Server 3. This is the one that can be scaled to handle big loads with clustered servers and distributed content (origin/edge). This is also the product you need if you want to record streams, use the new AMF3 features or extend the server using LDAP / C++. There's still a free developer version as well that has some steep limitations, but allows you to test what you need.
While we talked to Kevin, he talked us through a very cool application where broadcaster could cue up web users with webcams and put them on the air when the time was right. The studio could remote control the users microphone if the audio was too loud and the system had a lot of neat features. It struck us that we'd seen something like this before at MAX 2006 and wouldn't you know - this was indeed Kevin Towes presenting at MAX. He later joined Adobe and he is now their Product Manager for FMS and related products.
Read more on the official FMS3 site