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NAB Report: DASH Picks up Steam with Additional Support
Microsoft and Wowza voice their support for MPEG DASH, which is gaining ground faster than many would have predicted.
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At last November's Streaming Media West, the standing-room only crowd listened as the MPEG DASH Promoter's Group (DASH PG) espoused the yet-to-be-ratified International Standards Organization (ISO) standard for DASH (dynamic adaptive streaming over HTTP). Fast forward to April 2012, and the ratified ISO/IEC 23009 DASH train seems to be picking up steam, as companies from Microsoft to Wowza, Broadcast International to Fraunhofer Laboratories have pledged support.

From a media server perspective, Microsoft's announcement of Windows Azure Media Services, which we covered yesterday, didn't first strike us as a DASH play, but a blog post on the Microsoft Media Platform team blog brings DASH front and center as part of the Azure strategy.

"Taking advantage of similarities between Smooth Streaming and DASH," the blog post noted, "Windows Azure Media Services will add support for DASH Live Profile later this year so that both Smooth Streaming and DASH devices can access the same live and on-demand video presentations using either manifest format."

In an even more straightforward signal of DASH adoption on the Microsoft roadmap, the blog noted that the addition of DASH in Windows Azure Media Services  "will enable a smooth (pun intended) transition to DASH for millions of devices and services currently using Smooth Streaming".

Wowza Media Systems, whose Wowza Media Server 3.1 we covered two days ago, also announced MPEG DASH support alongside an announcement that the company is now part of the promoter's group. 

"Wowza joined DASH-PG in an effort to help avoid fragmentation of the multimedia HTTP streaming market," a Wowza press release noted, calling protocol fragmentation "one of the major challenges facing content and service providers today."  This is not to be confused with media fragmentation, as one of the primary benefits of DASH is the Base ISO media container format in combination with MP4 fragments (fMP4).

With Microsoft and Wowza joining Adobe, which had announced in mid February that it would showcase an end-to-end DASH delivery solution at the 2012 Mobile World Congress (MWC), the big three server solutions now all have roadmaps to support DASH.

Adobe's showcase at MWC was interesting for its use of various ecosystem companies: shown in the Qualcomm booth, the demo was developed and implemented by Harmonic (which supplied the encoder), Akamai as the CDN partner, and Qualcomm (supplying the client player).

On the codec side, Broadcast International announced a few weeks ago that it, too, was joining the MPEG PG.

"Joining the DASH Promoters Group allows us to highlight the strength and flexibility of CodecSys as the industry is coalescing around MPEG DASH creating a singular standard for streaming protocols," said Steve Jones, general manager at Broadcast International. "Founded by Microsoft, Netflix and Qualcomm, DASH-PG is comprised of a cross section of industry leaders across the multimedia and video delivery ecosystem."

Broadcast International's CodecSys is a multi-codec video compression technology geared toward intermittent networks such as cable, IP, satellite and wireless networks. 

Another major codec manufacturer, Fraunhofer Laboratories, also threw its weight behind DASH at both MWC and this week's NAB conferences. Best known for its MP3 and Advanced Audio Codec (AAC) audio compression schemes, Fraunhofer sees DASH as a vehicle for its surround-sound and high efficiency codecs such as the HE-AAC multichannel codec.

According to Harald Popp, head of the Multimedia Realtime Systems department at Fraunhofer IIS, the laboratory "has been actively involved in the development and standardization of MPEG DASH from the beginning [and the] AAC family of audio codecs natively complements the MPEG ecosystem of H.264 video, MP4 file format and MPEG DASH transport". 

NAB continues until Thursday, April 19, 2012, at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

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