Join Lisa Larson-Kelley for an in-depth discussion in this video What is Flash Media Server and why use it?, part of Learning Flash Media Server 4.5.
Flash Media Server is no longer just a simple streaming server. It now packages video files in various formats on the fly, integrates peer to peer and real time communication and enables media delivery to desktops or devices, even iOS, all of this and more is possible with this powerful server software. There are a lot of inherent benefits to streaming video with FMS, rather than simply serving it using Progressive Delivery. You use less bandwidth, unlike progressive delivery, streaming only transfers the bits that are being watched.
Progressive requires you to buffer or preload the video data to achieve smooth playback. So you are sending a lot of information that may never actually be watched. Streaming is more secure, none of the video data is cached on the client computer when it's streamed over RTMP, it is cached when using Progressive Delivery. This means the viewer has your video on their hard drive, viewers can seek freely unlike Progressive Delivery when the video can only jump to a keyframe. FMS creates keyframes on-the-fly, so viewers can accurately seek to any point in a video. Dynamic Streaming allows you to detect the viewers' available bandwidth and their processing power, and deliver them the most optimized version of the stream.
I will show you how this is done in upcoming lessons. You can set up custom logging and analytics with FMS, to track data such as viewer interaction and quality of service metrics, that's very difficult to do with simple progressive delivery. There are various stream protection options available with FMS, from encrypted RTMP to SWF verification, to Flash Access File Encryption and even New Protective Streaming. Now we won't get into too much detail about these features, but just know that they are available to you in FMS, if you really need to lock down your streams.
And finally, the big benefit to upgrading to FMS 4.5 is new support for iOS streaming. So now, for example, you can ingest one live stream into FMS and deliver that stream to Flash Player in the Browser, AIR on the Desktop, Flash Player on Android, and HLS streams to iOS devices, such as the iPad and iPhone. Now for the specifics, FMS runs on Windows and Linux, and is now 64-bit only. Versions prior to 4.5 will also run on 32-bit systems.
There are four editions, Flash Media Streaming Server, which is an optimized build that lets you sufficiently stream media files and live broadcasts, to both Flash and iOS, and this has a lower price point of $995. Flash Media Interactive Server is the full-featured build of FMS. It not only gives you the features of the streaming server, but also supports enhanced content protection, multi-way communication applications, server side recording and other enhanced features such as DVR.
Now in 4.5, you also get Multicast and Peer-to-Peer features and this allows applications such as video chat, voice over IP, text chat, and multiplayer games. Flash Media Enterprise Server is the premium edition. As its name implies, it's targeted to larger companies, as you can see by the price, and this has all the bells and whistles, including Multicast and Peer-to-Peer with higher limits. Then there is the Flash Media Development Server and this one has all the functionality of the Enterprise Server, but, limits you to 10 simultaneous RTMP connections and 10 Peer-to-Peer connections.
It's notable however that the user agreement does allow you to use the development server for production, and this will let you use it for applications, such as kiosks, things like that, or you would not generally need a lot of connections, or you could use it as an origin server, or you could broadcast a single stream out to a CDN or a Content Delivery Network for delivery to a larger audience, and this is the server we will be installing in this course and it's a free download from adobe.com. Now in this course we will be installing and testing streams locally, but when you're ready to start streaming publicly over the Internet, you'll need to run FMS on a publicly accessible web server, rather than set this up yourself, another option is to choose a hosting service that supports FMS.
Now Adobe has partnered with Amazon to release Flash Media Server for Amazon EC2, and this is a hosted version of the Enterprise Server that lets you pay as you go for the full enterprise features. Does require a number of complex configuration steps to get it set up, so while it's a good solution for full-featured scalable streaming, it does require a bit of a commitment. And as of right now, FMS 4 .5 is not yet available. There are also other hosted options if you just want to get up and streaming quickly, and one that I highly recommend for their service and pricing is Influxis.com.
They offer Flash Media Interactive Server and Flash Media Enterprise Server hosting for an affordable monthly fee, and there's no complicated configuration. You just signup for an account, and you can start streaming right away. Now the main selling points of FMS include, multiple video delivery methods, live and on-demand streaming via RTMP, HTTP dynamic streaming, which is referred to as HDS. HTTP live streaming, which is also referred to as HLS, and if that's all just acronym salad to you right now, don't worry, we'll cover all the details.
Just in time packaging of streams, this means you don't need to convert your video files into the right format for each delivery method, FMS will do this for you. Integrated real time interactivity, you can not only stream video and audio, but also data with FMS. This lets you create multiplayer games, shared whiteboards, text chat and more, right alongside your video. Content protection, as I mentioned earlier, there are many ways to protect your content with FMS, and tracking and logging, FMS gives you finite control over audience measurement.
And that gives you a good overview of the benefits of FMS and what editions are available. Now let's look a bit closer at the new features in FMS 4.5.
- Why use Flash Media Server?
- Choosing a delivery protocol
- Understanding codecs
- Installing and testing Flash Media Server
- Streaming on-demand and live video with RTMP and HDS
- Writing and testing custom server-side applications
- Publishing multi-bitrate streams
- Streaming live video to devices with HLS