Friday, May 21, 2010

Why Partner? Edgeware and MediaMelon

As I've been working through partnerships between various professional transcoding and live encoding manufacturers, so that two companies can provide a joint testing solution for both areas of our comparative testing, I've been struck by the continued uptick in joint solutions.

One such joint solution, which I wrote about today for is a combination of edge caching devices and deterministic middleware, with the two partners being Edgeware AB and MediaMelon, Inc., respectively.

You can read the technical descriptions of the joint solution at, but here's a brief overview of the two companies:

Edgeware was formed about 4 years ago by networking and video professionals, who wanted to solve the challenge of addressing next-wave internet traffic. They felt much of the traffic going forward would be video, and they chose to design an appliance with caching ability. Since this first-generation 1U server used solid-state memory and had an FPGA for programming, IPTV was a natural target market. Edgeware's appliance had a Linux derivative with their own home-grown UDP stack and  file systems, and Nokia, Alcatel, Siemens all sell the appliance as solutions to large telecoms who want to offer walled-garden IPTV services. 

MediaMelon is backed by founder and chairman of Macrovision, with its main office in San Francisco and primary R&D in India. The company's deterministic algorithms, backed by significant viewer experience data, allows MediaMelon to offer its customers - many of which overlap the Edgeware customer base - a set of differentiated service including quality of service for UDP, TCP. MediaMelon, whether through its MediaMelonDirect, for media customers, or its MediaCloud SaaS / hosted solution for telecoms, ISPs and MSOs, leverages real-time viewing quality information and then serves up chunks of streams from a variety of locations across a CDN.

So when Edgeware wanted to move beyond walled-garden IPTV appliances and into the realm of TCP delivery of "web TV" on second-generation appliance, using RTSP and chunks of adaptive bitrate content, the two companies had complementary technologies. 

Yet, why did the Edgeware-MediaMelon joint solution make sense for customers and integrators, especially since both companies had a slightly different approach to addressing the joint solution? 

"From Edgeware's perspective," said Jon Haley, Edgeware's VP of  business development for WebTV and Over the top (OTT)," our VARs and system integrators are seeing huge demand for building out CDNs in local service provider markets and then adding in OTT services. The MediaMelon federated model really is unique, based on the quality metrics from a user's perspective (QoE), and matches nicely with our quality philosophy of pushing content further out into the network via our boxes."

In other words, for markets like Europe, which are highly fragmented due to language and/or incumbent state-run service providers, the joint selling of a federated model couldn't be accomplished just by Edgeware.

"It really is a natural partnership," said Kumar Subramanian, founder and CEO of Media Melon, "making it easier to jointly provide value to service providers who can quickly deploy a full solution of Edgeware boxes along with our SaaS hosted middleware. The value proposition of offering a large footprint due to the federated model is a significant solution to a significant problem."

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Test Criteria - Professional Transcoding and Live Encoding comparison testing

As mentioned yesterday, two additional companies expressed interest in the comparative testing for professional transcoding and live encoding workflow systems: Sorenson and a new player in the space, Octasic (or 8 ASIC).

While neither of the companies has enough of a total solution to compete in this year's testing, both may have solutions in the near- to mid-term that would fill the gaps and allow them to compete during our second annual test, to be held in 2011. That still leaves 13 companies, including Ateme, Envivio, Harmonic, Inlet, Media Excel, Telestream, who are weighing their solutions against the test criteria.

What are the testing criteria?  Here's a generic overview of the way Transitions will test the various hardware-software solutions:

1. Transcoding: these tests come first, as a way to establish a baseline of quality, with speed secondary but almost equally important.

Here we'll look at things such as failover, including job completion and workflow steps; ability to transcode a single file to multiple adaptive bitrates.

On the speed side, we'll look at speed to transcode files from M2T (MPEG-2 TS), H.264 and another format back and forth to each of the other formats; whether the solution is capable of simultaneous transcodes; and we'll judge the speed of transcoding multiple files to multiple adaptive bitrates.

Resolutions to transcode to will be: 1080p, 1080i, 720p, several web and mobile rates.

Finally, we'll see the number of concurrent file-based transcodes that can occur, based on three workflows: Real-time, Faster Than Real Time, Real-Time xN

2. Live Encoding: after transcoding, we'll turn the testing criteria on its head and look at what each solution can do within a set period of time - specifically within the confines of live encoding testing.

Both tests will also assess performance, throughput and ease of use in setting up a variety of workflows, taking a holistic approach to pro transcoding and live encoding workflows. For instance, for clustering, we'll look at initial setup (3 total units, plus mgmnt node and 5 total units, plus mgmnt node), replacement of individual node(s) or the management node.

Part of the testing will take place in our lab environment, to allow for a common set of test criteria in a typical workflow. In another part of the testing, we'll jointly assess management, clustering and fail-over response, in your lab or quality control location – recommended, unless you want to ship a hefty rack of gear.

To keep the tests objective but still cover the testing time, a sponsorship model is being used. We've found with large groups of test candidates that a sponsorship with equal amounts paid by each sponsor - so that no one company dominates the report - works best.

That's the model we'll use for these tests, and more details on the approach, as well as examples of previous multi-party tests and test methodologies have been made available on request to all invited companies.

Monday, May 3, 2010

It continues

Two more companies have expressed interest in being included in the transcoding and live encoding comparison testing: Sorenson and a brand-new company in the space. More on that tomorrow.