Flash Media Server Spawns a Family
In addition to load balancing, Flash Media Interactive Server 3 also has additional functionality that is improved from the FMS2 days. FMS3 Interactive can communicate with LDAP servers for authentication, can take plug-ins in C++ that administrators can use to extend server functionality, and it integrates the Adobe Flash Media Encoder for live streaming.
The new version of Flash Media Encoder 2, expected to be available when Flash Media Server 3 is released in January 2008, will also support live streams in H.264 as well as an enhanced version of VP6 / Flash Video 8, known as VP6-S. In addition to streaming to the web-based Flash Player, FMS3 will also support both prerecorded and live streaming to mobile devices via Flash Lite 3.
So what about performance improvements? When Adobe had announced the upcoming Flash Media Server 3, it mentioned that performance would double that of previous versions of Flash Media Server. The hope had been that Adobe would pull an Apple-style move, doubling performance but cutting the price in half. Performance on the low-end server has increased somewhat, but the performance doubling claims are based on Flash Media Interactive Server 3, which debuts at a $4,500 price point.
According to internal Adobe tests, performed on beta versions of both Flash Player 9 and Flash Media Interactive Server 3, performance does indeed come close to doubling. Using an unencrypted RTMP in a single origin configuration and a 20% CPU utilization load, FMS 2.0.4 was capable of handling 465 streams, while FMS 3.0.0 delivered 992 streams. Adobe extrapolated this information out to 95% CPU utilizations, but only theoretically, due to what the testing report called "hardware limitations."
For those who only need a single box configuration, the Flash Media Streaming Server 3 makes sense since its $995 price point is much lower than the Interactive Server. According to Adobe, the Streaming Server is capable of supporting up to 4 cores, while the Interactive Server supports up to 8 cores.
On the free server front, Adobe also announced a version called Flash Media Development Server. This version is geared toward developers, and allows 10 simultaneous incoming connections, but could also be useful for those who are just testing the waters of Flash Video streaming.
In that way, Adobe has created an obvious growth path: from free for a very limited number of streams and no functionality limitations to a sub-$1000 single processor solution to a multiple-processor, multiple origin scaleable solution, Adobe’s release of Flash Media Server 3 indicates just how crucial streaming is to its core Dynamic Media focus.