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Adobe Media Server: What's Behind the Name Change?

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At the Cable Show in Boston earlier this week, Adobe announced it will soon release the new Adobe Media Server (AMS 5) as a replacement for the Adobe Flash Media Server. A few details were lacking, though, so we caught up with Kevin Towes, a senior product manager at Adobe Systems, to find out about the name change, general availability, and support for MPEG-DASH.

One of the first questions we asked was about the change from Flash Media Server (FMS) to AMS. Adobe telegraphed its intent to move away from sole focus on Flash during last year's Adobe MAX conference, and the last release of Flash Media Server (version 4.5) had begun the transition from solely Flash-based playback towards Apple iOS devices such as the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch. But still why drop Flash from the name?

"We changed the product name," says Towes, "to reflect that streaming and protection technologies are not solely for Flash. Our customers want to deliver and protect video on an increasing number of devices, including some popular ones that support Objective C for native app development."

Given the fact that Adobe's interactivity and web video tools still center on the Flash name, it's a bold move. The name change alone may invite stronger comparison to other media servers, such as Wowza Media Server.

Will there be other versions of AMS, given the fact that FMS had three distinct versions (streaming, interactive, and enterprise) at varying price points?

"We have not announced the versions of Adobe Media Server yet," Towes tells us, adding, "You can expect that announcement when we start shipping the products in June, 2012."

With the ship date just around the corner, what features will make AMS 5 different from FMS 4.5 for Adobe's target customer base? Towes provided a list that highlights Adobe's continued support for Apple's HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) for iOS devices:

  • Protected HLS support via a content license technology embedded in AMS
  • Additional digital rights management support for HLS using Adobe Access 4 licensing server (a separate purchase)
  • The ability to segment HLS content for on-demand playback, using an offline HLS segmenting tool, which also supports encryption via Adobe Access 4
  • Improvements for HTTP streaming failover and fault tolerance
  • EIA-608 (line 21) closed caption support that will meet FCC requirements

Once AMS ships, or if a beta version is available prior to the shipping, we will explore the HTTP streaming failover and compare it to "plain vanilla" HTTP servers.

Finally, what about MPEG-DASH support? Adobe showcased a DASH (Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP) playback prototype in Flash Player at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show in April, so we were surprised not to hear any mention of DASH in either the official Adobe press release for AMS 5 or in Towes's blog post

"Adobe is committed to supporting DASH in AMS in the future," says Towes. "Adobe has committed that our video streaming products will support MPEG-DASH, and we were one of the first companies to publicly demo DASH support at NAB this year, but we have not announced a timeline.

"Our most recent public demonstrations at Streaming Media East demonstrate progress on the initiative. We continue to participate and contribute with the MPEG-DASH promoters group, but Adobe Media Server 5 does not yet have support for MPEG-DASH."

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