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First Look: Wowza Streaming Engine 4
Expect big changes from the renamed Wowza Media Server, which now offers a GUI. Both first-timers and power users will be happy about it.
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Just how much faster does the new graphical user interface (GUI) make setting up Wowza Streaming Engine, the fourth generation of Wowza Media Server?

Very fast, if one wants to do a standard configuration.

We started a test exactly at 9:01 AM Eastern Time on February 10, the day before Wowza’s media embargo lifted, having downloaded the pre-release bits the night before for the Apple Macintosh operating system (OS X 10.9, or Mavericks). Here’s our play by play:

9:01 AM: Double-click to launch package. Since our version didn’t come from the App Store, we hit the same issue that every OS X Mavericks application hits: the Gatekeeper. You’ll know if you run into the same if you get a message that the application can't be opened.

Right click (or control-click) on the image and you’ll be presented with a menu. Choose open and you’ll be asked a classic Windows Vista question: are you sure? Choose OK and then you’re off and running.

9:03 AM: At the end of the installation process, a notification pops up announcing that it has successfully been installed with an additional note that the Wowza Streaming Engine configuration needs to run.

At this point, the installer will prompt for a serial number and request a username and password. We will come back to this point in a bit, because several things can happen on any Wowza Config setup if the wrong serial number is used, but it’s especially bad on the Macintosh installation version.

We opted to turn off the auto-start feature, whereby the Wowza Streaming Engine automatically starts when the operating system starts, but most installations would leave this checked so that the server is immediately ready. We left the box checked with the option to launch the Wowza Streaming Engine Manager once installation completed

9:04 AM: After finishing the Wowza Config setup, the default browser automatically launches the Wowza Streaming Engine Manager, which shows a welcome screen and offers an intro for first-time users.

If you choose the option to Skip Intro, you’ll be taken to a page where you’ll need to enter a username and password, this time for streaming purposes, which doesn’t necessarily need to match the one you entered during the Wowza Config setup. More on this later. Once you’ve added these details, you’ll land on the home screen, and be greeted by a dashboard of sorts.

The dashboard, better known as the Wowza Streaming Engine Manager, or just Manager for short, is visually separated into a few key areas.

First is the upper menu bar, which has three main drop-down menus: Server, Applications, and Help. Applications automatically launched via the Wowza Config setup are Live and video-on-demand (VOD) but additional applications can be added.

Second is the Help area, which occupies the far right of the screen. At the top of the Help section, which is contextual to the Manager page you are currently on, there’s a Performance Warning offset in a light yellow. Read and heed the information here. A link prompts the user to visit a page called “Java Settings” and provides a URL link to go directly to the page.

After clicking the “Performance Tuning>Java Settings” link, Wowza has some helpful notes in the GUI for those who might have questions about why there’s a need to change from Development to Production level Java heap sizes:

“By default, the server uses the Development level Java heap size option which is suitable for application development environments but should be changed if you deploy the server in production environments where it may use memory extensively when heavily loaded," the Help section on the Java Tuning page states. "An inadequate Java heap size setting may cause the server to fail with an ‘OutOfMemory’ Java exception.”

Wowza’s contextual help notes also mention that a custom heap size can be set, ranging anywhere from 512 MB to 10240 MB, or about 10.2 GB. For devices with less than 10.2 GB of memory, that would mean invoking page swaps, or read-write sequences to the hard drive that act like a virtual RAM cache but significantly slow down the machine.

On our HP Z1 test machine, running Windows 8.1, the recommended bump was from 4000MB of Java heap size for Development level to 10000MB for Production level. The machine had 12GB of RAM in it, so the 10000MB fit within the machine’s overall RAM budget.

On our Macintosh test machine, though, it recommended a lower amount, proportional to the 4GB RAM on our 2013 MacBook Air (MBA). The MBA uses integrated graphics -- meaning that the RAM is also shared with the video display, in the form of VRAM -- so there’s not quite as much of a difference between Development and Production levels. From a 1683MB Java heap size for Development level, the change to Production level was less than double, at a 2867MB heap size. For a 4GB RAM machine, this maxes out the capability of the device to do anything but serve streaming content.

And that’s the way it should be: when it comes to streaming, dedicate the device to doing just that one task if you want it to do it well.

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