AWS MediaPackage gets new on-demand powers

When AWS Elemental first unveiled its Media Services product series, we described the new MediaPackage service as looking like a special instance of the old Elemental Delta origin server, due to its emphasis on just in time packaging for adaptive bit rate (ABR) delivery. Of course, the long-term AWS strategy was infinitely more complex, and now some 18 months later the next evolution of MediaPackage sees it support on-demand content – in doing so becoming an even more formidable weapon.

It means AWS MediaPackage customers can now package and encrypt live and file-based video to multiple distribution formats, so that ABR content can be ingested into MediaPackage VoD packaging groups – for viewing a single ABR on smartphones, tablets, PCs, connected TVs and games consoles. MediaPackage also handles the security element, integrating DRMs over the CloudFront CDN. We have heard in the past of MediaPackage being used to process live-to-VoD apps such as catch-up TV, so AWS has clearly learned the value of packaging and encrypting on-demand content in the same suite as live.

The rapid move by video service providers to cloud-based and virtualized environments is clearly driving the demand for such alignments in technology, and API integrations from digital security vendors like Verimatrix have been keeping pace.

MediaPackage is also about being a smart origin server which can cope with a story evolving and developing and different versions being created by over-writing ABR manifests. And now a variety of external Media Asset Management (MAM) products can communicate directly into this. MediaPackage also ensures that a viewer is getting the latest version of the manifest and also the same version of the video.

But AWS Elemental has kind of split its Origin server strategy in two and has a faster read write store called MediaStore which acts as an HTTP origin, optimized for fast, low-latency writes, decreasing the risk of buffering video. It may not be the final solution for “simultaneous” viewing with broadcast, as some technologies have promised, but this must be the closest that AWS Elemental can currently get, because it boasts delays of just a few seconds, rather than minutes.

Our curiosity naturally drew our attention to the Harmonic website, scouring for evidence of a product offering anything close to MediaPackage. But eventually we left with a distinct sense that Harmonic is done competing with AWS Elemental and perhaps the consistent comparisons are unfair considering Harmonic is increasingly emphasizing its cable access portfolio. Compression wise, Harmonic is certainly still a force to be reckoned with.

Elsewhere in the Media Services portfolio, we have AWS Elemental MediaConvert which transcodes file-based inputs for distribution through the Amazon CloudFront CDN, while AWS Elemental MediaLive processes real-time inputs, and then enter MediaPackage which prepares streams for delivery to connected devices via CloudFront. So, with MediaLive now supporting on-demand content, the whole process is made more efficient with AWS Elemental Media Services picking up and managing more of the infrastructure and heavy lifting. So, the upgraded on-demand capabilities of MediaPackage could in a sense be seen as merging with MediaConvert, although MediaConvert is more in the game of creating VoD content for broadcast and multiscreen delivery at scale.

In short, MediaPackage’s new powers allow video service providers to focus on the core business of delivering high quality content. AWS Elemental also says the benefits stretch to start-ups, government agencies, schools and multinational agencies, who previously had limited access to premium-quality video technology.

“For the better part of six decades, professional-grade video workflows were limited to a few major industry players who could afford to build and maintain customized infrastructure that would be updated only once or twice each decade,” said Alex Dunlap, COO at AWS Elemental, in a statement. “These companies spent a great deal of time, money, and focus operating infrastructure with resources that could have been better spent creating great content and viewer experiences.”