Back in October, Adobe announced that sometime in 2010 they would provide support for HTTP streaming enabling CDNs to leverage their existing HTTP infrastructure and cache technologies for video delivery. The platform, called “project Zeri”, will provide support for all Flash Codecs, support adaptive bit‐rate switching, support live and on-demand delivery, enable the protection of content and will include full support within the Open Source Media Framework, to help provide a standard player. Kevin Towes from Adobe detailed all of this in a post on the Adobe blog six months ago.
In that time, Adobe has been working with some of the CDNs who have already deployed the technology and they have been working with beta customers to test the platform. Sometime next month, Adobe is expected to officially announce that the technology is now available with CDNs and will also announce content owners who are using the new service.
While this is good news for the industry and for content owners, the real question is how much cheaper is it for a CDN to deliver video via HTTP as opposed to RTMP? If HTTP based Flash streaming really does reduce the internal cost to a CDN, will CDNs pass that savings onto the customer in the form of lower pricing? While it is possible, I have yet to see any CDN offer lower pricing for video content being delivered via HTTP using Microsoft’s HTTP technology called SmoothStreaming. But the cost to CDNs to deliver content using Microsoft’s technology was never that expensive because unlike Adobe, Microsoft does not charge a license fee for the streaming software or take any kind of revenue share payment.
Right off the bat, I don’t expect any of the CDNs to lower their price, but over time, it is something to keep a close eye on due to the fact that video delivered via HTTP is cheaper for them to manage and distribute And if the CDNs can reduce their internal cost with delivering video, even if they don’t lower the price to customers, the positive impact could be that it helps the CDNs become profitable, something that almost all of them are still struggling with. While Adobe has discussed the pricing model with CDNs for HTTP streaming, from the folks I have spoken with I get the sense that the exact pricing still has not been worked out. So it does sound like from Adobe’s side, the exact numbers are still up in the air.
Adobe has really been behind Microsoft when it comes to the functionality, capability, scalability and pricing model of their streaming server and has been slow to adopt and support HTTP based streaming. This has led some CDNs like Akamai to not wait for Adobe to support HTTP and forced them to develop and deploy their own HTTP based Flash streaming technology, which they announced in September of last year. And while I’ve heard that this has made Adobe quite un-happy, CDNs can’t always rely on third party companies for services they need today.
There are some other interesting details regarding this subject which I will give more details on when Adobe makes the official announcement.