Video Essentials

Looking for Transcoding? Amazon Offers More than Books

“A question I get reasonably frequently is ‘What is a book company, what is a bookshop doing running a cloud computing business?’ said Matt Wood, technical evangelist Europe for Amazon Web Services. Wood was speaking at the recent Streaming Media Europe conference in London, explaining what Amazon can offer companies that need video transcoding.

There are three parts to Amazon’s business nowadays, Wood said: commerce (books and much more), an e-commerce platform, and cloud computing services. How that last part developed was the result of some innovative thinking.

“Really, the story goes back all the way to when Amazon was founded,” said Wood. Amazon was always built out to be a platform and we wanted to make our skills and expertise that we build up over a decade or so running ecommerce services on a global scale and allow some of our customers access, so they didn’t have to go through the same pain points that we did. So we allow programmatic access to our catalog, to our metadata, to merchants that wanted to sell up on our platform. And we saw a surprising amount of innovation happening. We saw people being able to take our data, take our platform, take our services, and build really innovative new products, unexpectedly innovative new products, to be perfectly honest.”

That’s how the ecommerce platform developed. Web services followed the same idea:

“About five years ago, we had a blinding flash of the obvious: in addition to building up all these custom operations and custom procedures, and building up this massive global infrastructure to run our ecommerce site, what would happen if we opened that up to the same developers? What if we extended our API access right back to our data centers?” said Wood.

The result was Amazon Web Services, which allows companies to have their video transcoding done in the cloud so they don’t need to invest in software or hardware to do the job. Most companies have spikey transcoding needs, said Wood, meaning that they need transcoding at certain times but not others.

To hear more about Amazon Web services, as well as in-house options, watch the full video below.

Transcoding: In-House or in the Cloud?
Philip Haggar, Founder,
Matt Wood, Technical Evangelist Europe, Amazon Web Services
Mark Lawson, Managing Director EMEA, Sorenson Media
Malcolm Harland, Director, Garland Partners

Content owners can now choose from a large number of new transcoding solutions including in-house enterprise-class software and hardware appliances; cloud-based solutions; and transcoding services offered by CDNs and other third-party vendors. Given this breadth of choices, choosing the right transcoding mechanism, or combination of mechanisms, has significant impact on the cost, quality, security and reliability of the overall solution. This session focuses on the benefits and trade-offs of each mechanism and helps you select the best solution for your needs. 


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  1. Transcoding in the cloud makes perfect sense in a number of ways. As has already been mentioned, the need for transcoding can be somewhat spikey so having on-demand servers capable of transcoding is very cost effective. Also, while this article/video was primarily focused on transcoding of on-demand content, Cloud servers can also be used very effectively for live transcoding. We use Amazon EC2 instances day in and day out for Haivision’s HyperStream Live Transcoding service. In the live case, the need is again somewhat spikey. Live events are just that, “events”, that occur on a particular day for some amount of time. Live events also have another characteristic making cloud transcoding valuable. Typically the bandwidth available at live event venues is not enough to push the multiple bitrates of streams you need for adaptive streaming in the multiple formats you need – Flash, HLS, etc. With live transcoding, you simply need to push one high quality stream out of the venue and then the cloud transcoder will transcode to the desired bitrates and package for the multiple formats and deliver the streams to the content delivery network. Amazon’s web services allows us to provide this live transcoding service worldwide and only pay for compute resources when we use them.

    Posted by Tim Baldwin | March 19, 2012, 10:39 pm
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