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Zencoder Says Pro Services, Speedy Cloud Encoding Set it Apart
In a competitive market, cloud video encoding company Zencoder is targeting the needs of large studios and enterprises.
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Businesses are discovering the benefits of cloud video encoding, which can scale up to meet their demand spikes without requiring a major hardware investment. Steve Heffernen, the co-founder of Zencoder, sat down for a red carpet interview at the recent Streaming Media East conference in New York City to talk about what sets his company apart. While many companies now offer cloud encoding, Zencoder is distinguishing itself with professional services.

"I think right now a lot of it is getting to the more professional encoding features, so we're talking about professional formats, captions, supporting captions, DRM, and then accelerated transfer to help gets those large files up in the clouds. So supporting those more professional video users," said Heffernen.

The other way that Zencoder is setting itself apart is with the speed of its encodes. Heffernen explains that his company has the numbers to prove it's the fastest.

"From the beginning, we've had a strong focus on performance, so we're trying to be the fastest encoding provider out there," said Heffernen. "We ran some benchmarks about six months ago against us and all our competitors, and it was clear that we had hit the mark. We were by far the fastest encoding platform out there just with our standard service. We're the only platform that can do HD content at faster than real time. And so that's really where we kind of draw the line. That's what we focus on."

To watch the entire red carpet interview, scroll down.

Troy Dreier: Hi. This is Troy Dreier, the senior associate editor for StreamingMedia.com. I'm coming to you from the red carpet at the Streaming Media East conference in New York City. Joining me is Steve Heffernen, the co-founder of Zencoder and the creator of the Video.js player. Thanks for joining me.

Steve Heffernen: Good to be here.

Troy Dreier: So let's just start off on the basics. Zencoder. What is Zencoder, and what does it do?

Steve Heffernen: So Zencoder is high-performance video encoding in the cloud, so we have an API service that we can hook your application into and do large amounts of video or just automate the video encoding process into web and mobile formats.

Troy Dreier: Why would someone choose to go with the cloud for their encoding or transcoding needs?

Steve Heffernen: Well there's a couple of different benefits. One is just the scale. So we can scale by the hour, we can scale up and down depending on the specific spike of load that we have, so we can actually -- instead of making a large investment in hardware upfront, we can actually rent servers as we need them, which has a lot of benefit on the cost side. And then on the speed side, we can actually do large batches of video scaling, as many servers as we might need to do a huge backlog in days, which would normally take months using hardware that you might purchase on your own.

Troy Dreier: It seems like there's suddenly a lot of competition in your area and a lot of interest as more and more people move their workflows to the cloud. But, for the competition, what does a cloud encoding/transcoding company do to stand apart from the competition? What extra features can you offer?

Steve Heffernen: I think right now a lot of it is getting to the more professional encoding features, so we're talking about professional formats, captions, supporting captions, DRM, and then accelerated transfer to help gets those large files up in the clouds. So supporting those more professional video users.

Troy Dreier: I hear a lot about that time it takes to send a file up, and I know some people are kind of scared of going to the cloud for that reason. And then I've heard from other people saying that it's really not an issue, it's not that big a deal. Are you finding that people are sort of put off by it, and how can you help them speed those transfers?

Steve Heffernen: Yes. That's absolutely probably the biggest issue with the cloud is getting those original big files up into a place where they can then be converted and syndicated. And there's a lot of movement to kind of make that more of a possibility. We have a partnership with Aspera. Aspera is well-known for being the leader in accelerated transfer and getting those larger files into other places, and so we're working with them to kind of increase the speed that we can get our customer files to our system and then encode it from there. So that's one big step. And then, otherwise, it's just kind of a waiting game, waiting for bandwidth to kind of increase and get better overall for users who don't want to go the Aspera route.

Troy Dreier: So you've got some big name competition. You've got Sorenson offering cloud services, Encoding.com, of course, that's all they do. Why is Zencoder the best one?

Steve Heffernen: Well, you know, from the beginning, we've had a strong focus on performance, so we're trying to be the fastest encoding provider out there. And we ran some benchmarks about six months ago against us and all our competitors, and it was clear that we had hit the mark. We were by far the fastest encoding platform out there just with our standard service. We're the only platform that can do HD content at faster than real time. And so that's really where we kind of draw the line. That's what we focus on.

Troy Dreier: Where does that speed benefit come from?

Steve Heffernen: It comes from using the biggest and beefiest servers we can get our hands on in the cloud and then also optimizing the scaling process, so it's our own kind of custom technology to make sure that we're getting the videos to our machines as quickly as possible and speeding up the entire workflow.

Troy Dreier: Very good. Well, thank you for joining me, Steve. And coming to you from the red carpet, this is Troy Dreier with Streaming Media East.

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