RealNetworks pumps up streaming

RealNetworks has announced RealSystem iQ, a foundation architecture for delivering streaming media that uses a network of distributed, self-aware servers that can talk to one another.

          Media delivery software vendor RealNetworks on Monday announced RealSystem iQ, a foundation architecture for delivering streaming media to a variety of devices.

          RealSystem iQ -- deployed by many content delivery network providers such as Akamai Technologies, Mirror Image Internet, and Digital Island -- consists of a network of distributed, self-aware servers that can talk to one another to find the best path for sending media and to convey network capacity information or server outages. Previously, servers were just individual network nodes, incapable of two-way interaction, according to Marty Roberts, RealServer product manager at Seattle-based RealNetworks.

          "Now servers can share information and collaborate on decisions, like how much network capacity is needed," Roberts said.

          Dynamic communication among servers helps improve streaming media performance, according to Peter Christy, Los Altos, Calif.-based senior analyst and research fellow at Jupiter Research.

          "Because the servers all talk, if one of the servers has a problem it can reallocate the load across the remaining servers without a lot of manual intervention. This adds a lot in terms of robustness when links go down or servers go down," Christy said.

          RealSystem iQ's NeuralCast technology allows content to be injected into any point in the network, which improves reliability and scalability of media streams, officials at RealNetworks said. Another benefit of NeuralCast technology is that it can deliver media in both directions.

          "With NeuralCast you can drop in content to a local server if that is where the end-user is. You can inject content anywhere on the network -- there is no edge, no middle. We no longer have a one-way street mentality in media delivery. We have an organic set of servers routing media intelligently," Roberts said.

          RealSystem iQ also includes support for satellite delivery of media. Multicasting a media stream from a satellite lets providers efficiently distribute content to thousands of servers simultaneously without bandwidth constraints. The RealSystem iQ architecture currently supports more than 45 media types, including RealAudio, RealVideo, MP3, Apple Computer Inc.'s QuickTime, and Flash 4, officials said.

          According to Christy, continued innovation in the underlying architecture supporting streaming media is helping to position it as a useful tool for businesses, pending development of applications.

          "In the enterprise world, the challenge has to do with what are the applications going to be. The value of video communication in business is huge. Now that the technology is in place and getting easier to use, the applications need to be pioneered," Christy said.

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