Oracle pitches open video streaming standard

Oracle has published specifications for linking video encoders and video servers, hoping the proposal will develop into a de facto standard that eventually will be ratified by standards bodies. Oracle's CORBA-based Video Encoding Standard (VES) API, has the support of a variety of vendors - including Sun, SGI, Hewlett-Packard and Lucent. But not Microsoft, which has has made its own moves on video streaming in recent weeks.

Oracle has published specifications for linking video encoders and video servers, hoping the proposal will develop into a de facto standard that eventually will be ratified by standards bodies. Oracle's CORBA-based Video Encoding Standard (VES) API, has the support of a variety of vendors - including Sun, SGI, Hewlett-Packard and Lucent. But not Microsoft, which has has made its own moves on video streaming in recent weeks.

Real-time encoding transforms live broadcast video into encoded video, allowing a viewer to access the digital video stream just seconds after the live event took place and pause, rewind, or fast forward the stored video stream.

Distributed for free as part of Oracle's development kit for the company's Video Server, VES allows video encoders to store digital video directly into a video server while users simultaneously view this same content from their client device.

"It simplifies the process of supporting real time video," says Laurie Mann, product manager at Oracle. "When we built support for real time video into version 3.0 of the Oracle Video Server, we realised that there are all these different encoder and server interfaces that we have to support."

Instead of supporting various application programming interfaces, Oracle decided to write a set of open, non-proprietary specifications that, if adopted in products, allows for connectivity and interoperability between various end-user devices, encoders and video servers, Mann says.

Oracle eventually will submit VES to the Internet Engineering Task force (IETF) and the International Standards Organisation (ISO) for official standards adoption.

Vendors producing video encoders supporting VES and promising to integrate the specifications in their products include elemedia, Heuris/NEL, Iterated Systems, Lucent Technologies, NUKO Information Systems , Optibase, Optivision and Zapex Technologies and Starlight Networks.

Hardware vendors endorsing the standard include Compaq, Digital, Hewlett-Packard, NCI, nCUBE, Samsung, Silicon Graphics and Sun Microsystems.

Absent from the list so far is Microsoft, but Oracle's Mann said he is hopeful the company will join the camp eventually.

"Microsoft has to do things in their own proprietary way and we tried to come up with something that isn't biased to anybody," Mann says. VES is based on the Common Object Request Broker Architecture (CORBA), which Mann called a "neutral" programming language that was endorsed VES backers with little discussion.

Microsoft last week bought VXtreme Inc., a California-based Internet streaming video and audio start-up, in an effort to make its own streaming media offerings more scaleable.

The move came just two weeks after Microsoft announced a licensing and standards development deal with and minority investment in VXtreme's chief competitor, Progressive Networks.

The same announcement also coincided with Microsoft's launch of its NetShow 2.0 streaming media server, accompanied by several vendors announcing support for NetShow and Microsoft's Active Streaming Format, which gained the endorsement of 30 vendors.

Microsoft officials could not be immediately reached for comment today.

Version 1.0 of the Video Encoding Standard API is available as part of the Oracle Video Server SDK on Oracle's Web site at http://www.oracle.com/st/collateral/carts/ves.html/.

Oracle, in Redwood Shores, California, can be reached at http://www.oracle.com/.

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