RealNetworks Gets Network Delivery Friendly

RealNetworks Inc. Monday announced RealSystem iQ, a new line of products for delivering streaming media with an emphasis on content delivery networks.

The announcement, made in conjunction with Streaming Media West in San Jose, follows Real's upgrade of its audio and video codecs earlier this year to Version 8. RealSystem iQ upgrades the server side of streaming to Version 8 and includes a feature set that comes at the behest of customers. "They requested of us that we do more of the heavy lifting at a lower level between our servers," said Ben Rotholtz, general manager of media systems at Real. "The idea of a [single] origin server does not scale that well."

Most content delivery networks (CDN) use RealNetworks' server for delivering some of their content; but to make the system more scalable they have to write custom code for spreading content to the edges of the network, closer to the end user. The new servers that are part of RealSystem iQ are "intelligent," meaning multiple servers can be made aware of each other so if one goes down, another can take over its load.

With previous generations of RealServer, if the server went down so did a user's connection. With redundancy now built in, a user would only see some slight rebuffering as the signal is redirected from the downed server to one that is still running.

Part of RealSystem iQ is the soon-to-be-released RealProxy 8, a proxy server for caching multimedia content within an enterprise or ISP. Without RealProxy, 100 users in an enterprise would have to use 100 streams going across the Internet to watch a broadcast. With RealProxy, one stream can be fed into a network to serve multiple users, saving bandwidth.

Other improvements in the new release include direct support for satellite multicasting; support for multiple streaming protocols in the same server at the same time; and forward error correcting, which allows for redundant packets to be sent at a regular interval. RealSystem Server 8 also contains support for 45 different media types, including QuickTime on both the server and client.

The overall goal of RealSystem iQ is to reduce the possible points of failure and make it easier to deliver content across the Internet. But Rotholtz says it is not the end-all be-all solution. "CDNs need to work together to scale [streaming media] to a wider audience," he says. "They should sell excess bandwidth to one another so they can keep systems up and running all the time for a better return on investment."

RealNetworks also announced this week that is partnering with Mercury Interactive to provide testing tools for streaming media applications.

RealSystem iQ's parts - RealSystem Server 8, RealProxy 8 and RealProducer 8.5 - are currently in beta, with gold versions expected later this month. Pricing has not yet been finalized.

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