Announcing Release of Windows Azure Media Services

I’m excited to announce the general availability (GA) release of Windows Azure Media Services.  This release is now live in production, supported by a new media services dev center, backed by an enterprise SLA, and is ready to be used for all media projects.

With today’s release, you now have everything you need to quickly build great, extremely scalable, end-to-end media solutions for streaming on-demand video to consumers on any device.  For example, you can easily build a media service for delivering training videos to employees in your company, stream video content for your web-site, or build a premium video-on-demand service like Hulu or Netflix.  Last year several broadcasters used Windows Azure Media Services to stream the London 2012 Olympics.

Media Platform as a Service

With Windows Azure Media Services, you can stream video to HTML5, Flash, Silverlight, Windows 8, iPad, iPhone, Android, Xbox, Windows Phone and other clients using a wide variety of streaming formats:

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Building a media solution that encodes and streams video to various devices and clients is a complex task.  It requires hardware and software that has to be connected, configured, and maintained.  Windows Azure Media Services makes this problem much easier by eliminating the need to provision and manage your own custom infrastructure.  Windows Azure Media Services accomplishes this by providing you with a Media Platform as a Service (PaaS) that enables you to easily scale your business as it grows, and pay only for what you use.

As a developer, you can control Windows Azure Media Services by using REST APIs or .NET and Java SDKs to build a media workflow that can automatically upload, encode and deliver video.  We’ve also developed a broad set of client SDKs and player frameworks which let you build completely custom video clients that integrate in your applications.  This allows you to configure and control every aspect of the video playback experience, including inserting pre-roll, mid-roll, post-roll, and overlay advertisement into your content.

Upload, Encode, Deliver, Consume

A typical video workflow involves uploading raw video to storage, encoding & protecting the content, and then streaming that content to users who can consume it on any number of devices.  For each of these major steps, we’ve built a number of features that you’ll find useful:

Upload

Windows Azure Media Services supports multiple different options to upload assets into Media Services:

  1. Using REST APIs, or .NET or Java SDKs you can upload files to the server over HTTP/S with AES 256 encryption.  This works well for smaller sets of files and is for great uploading content on a day to day basis.
  2. Bulk upload an entire media library with thousands of large files.  Uploading large asset files can be a bottleneck for asset creation and by using a bulk ingesting approach, you can save a lot of time.  For bulk upload, you can use the Bulk Ingest .NET Library or a partner upload solution such as Aspera which uses UDP for transporting files at very rapid speeds. 
  3. If you already have content in Windows Azure blob storage, we also support blob to blob transfers and storage account to storage account transfers. 
  4. We also enable to you to upload content through the Windows Azure Portal – which is useful for small jobs or when first getting started.

Encode and then Deliver

Windows Azure Media Services provides built-in support for encoding media into a variety of different file-formats.  With Windows Azure Media Services, you don’t need to buy or configure custom media encoding software or infrastructure – instead you can simply send REST calls (or use the .NET or Java SDK) to automate kicking off encoding jobs that Windows Azure Media Services will process and scale for you.

Last month, I announced we added reserved capacity encoding support to Media Service which gives you the ability to scale up the number of encoding tasks you can process in parallel. Using the SCALE page within the Windows Azure Portal, you can add reserved encoding units that let you encode multiple tasks concurrently (giving you faster encode jobs and predictable performance). 

Today, we have also added new reserved capacity support for on-demand streaming (giving you more origin server capacity) - which can also now be provisioned on the same SCALE page in the management portal:

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In addition to giving your video service more origin streaming capacity to handle a greater number of concurrent users consuming different video content, our on-demand streaming support also now gives you a cool new feature we call dynamic packaging.

Traditionally, once content has been encoded, it needs to be packaged and stored for multiple targeted clients (iOS, XBox, PC, etc.).  This traditional packaging process converts multi-bitrate MP4 files into multi-bitrate HLS file-sets or multi-bitrate Smooth Streaming files.  This triples the storage requirements and adds significant processing cost and delay.

With dynamic packaging, we now allow users to store a single file format and stream to many adaptive protocol formats automatically.  The packaging and conversion happens in real-time on the origin server which results in significant storage cost and time savings:

image

Today the source formats can be multi-bitrate MP4 or Smooth based, and these can be converted dynamically to either HLS or Smooth.  The pluggable nature of this architecture will allow us, over the next few months, to also add DASH Live Profile streaming of fragmented MP-4 segments using time-based indexing as well.  The support of HLS and the addition of DASH enables an ecosystem-friendly model based on common and standards-based streaming protocols, and ensures that you can target any type of device.

Consume

Windows Azure Media Services provides a large set of client player SDKs for all major devices and platforms, and they let you not only reach any device with a format that’s best suited for that device - but also build a custom player experience that uniquely integrates into your product or service.

Your users can consume media assets by building rich media applications rapidly on many platforms, such as Windows, iOS, XBox, etc.  At this time, we ship SDKs and player frameworks for:

  • Windows 8
  • iOS
  • Xbox
  • Flash Player (built using Adobe OSMF)
  • Silverlight
  • Windows Phone
  • Android
  • Embedded devices (Connected TV, IPTV)

To get started with developing players, visit the Developer tools for Windows Azure Media Services. The SDKs and player frameworks contain player samples that you can use as-is or customize with very little effort.

image

Start Today

I’m really excited about today’s the general availability (GA) release of Windows Azure Media Services.  This release is now live in production, backed by an enterprise SLA, and is ready to be used for all projects.  It makes building great media solutions really easy and very cost effective.

Visit the Windows Azure Media Services page to learn more about the capabilities, and visit the Windows Azure Media Service Dev Center for tutorials, how-to articles, blogs, and more information and get started building applications with it today!

Hope this helps,

Scott

P.S. In addition to blogging, I am also now using Twitter for quick updates and to share links. Follow me at: twitter.com/scottgu

Published Tuesday, January 22, 2013 1:03 PM by ScottGu
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Comments

# re: Announcing Release of Windows Azure Media Services

Tuesday, January 22, 2013 5:11 PM by jackbond

Great stuff as usual Scott. Quick question for you... why aren't you CEO?

# re: Announcing Release of Windows Azure Media Services

Tuesday, January 22, 2013 5:55 PM by Daniel Marston

Any news on when live streaming will be supported on Azure?

# re: Announcing Release of Windows Azure Media Services

Tuesday, January 22, 2013 7:38 PM by Eduardo Cobuci

This is incredible, congrats! Do you support content protection? If so, what technologies?

# re: Announcing Release of Windows Azure Media Services

Tuesday, January 22, 2013 8:09 PM by Jerrie Pelser

Scott, I am not sure that I understand the pricing for media services correctly.  Am I correct that you basically pay for storage and bandwidth, and then under the Media Services category on the pricing page you will need to select the correct value for "Encoding GB Processed"?  

I assume that for a small scenario the "Encoding Reserved Units" and "On-Demand Streaming Reserved Units" may not be required.

# re: Announcing Release of Windows Azure Media Services

Tuesday, January 22, 2013 9:55 PM by ScottGu

@Daniel,

>>>>> Any news on when live streaming will be supported on Azure?

Now that on-demand streaming is enabled our focus will be on enabling live streaming as well.  We have this available in private preview today - public preview will be coming next.

Hope this helps,

Scott

# re: Announcing Release of Windows Azure Media Services

Tuesday, January 22, 2013 9:57 PM by ScottGu

@Eduardo,

>>>>>> This is incredible, congrats! Do you support content protection? If so, what technologies?

Yes - we support DRM/Content Protection.  Currently we support both Microsoft PlayReady and Apple AES content protection formats.

Hope this helps,

Scott

# re: Announcing Release of Windows Azure Media Services

Tuesday, January 22, 2013 10:01 PM by ScottGu

@Jerrie,

>>>>> Scott, I am not sure that I understand the pricing for media services correctly.  Am I correct that you basically pay for storage and bandwidth, and then under the Media Services category on the pricing page you will need to select the correct value for "Encoding GB Processed"?  I assume that for a small scenario the "Encoding Reserved Units" and "On-Demand Streaming Reserved Units" may not be required.

For encoding you can pay a flat $/GB rate - it starts at $1.99/GB and is then discounted for larger volumes.  There is no extra cost for VMs or compute if you encode only one job at a time (making it very attractive for small scenarios or cases where it isn't time dependent).  If you want to encode jobs faster (multiple in parallel or with an SLA on time) then you can add reserved encoding units as well - this gives you more capacity and faster throughput.

For streaming you pay by default for just storage and bandwidth. There is no extra charge to use our built-in origin streaming servers for low/moderate volume scenarios (again making it very attractive price wise for a lot of scenarios).    For more high-volume scenarios you can optionally add reserved origin servers which give you even more load capability - when you do this there is an additional fee.  But for low-end/moderate scenarios there is no need.

Hope this helps,

Scott

# re: Announcing Release of Windows Azure Media Services

Tuesday, January 22, 2013 10:02 PM by ScottGu

@jackbond,

>>>>> Great stuff as usual Scott. Quick question for you... why aren't you CEO?

LOL - thanks but I like my current job a lot. :-)

Scott

# re: Announcing Release of Windows Azure Media Services

Wednesday, January 23, 2013 1:36 AM by wilbigs

Scott, great stuff...

We already have a large number of WMV videos in our blob storage and we have created services and client applications around that. Now, we want to convert them to H.264 (mp4) format.  Would it be possible to use the encoding services w/o ingesting the videos into media services?  Ideally, we want to tell media services the location of a WMV video in the blob storage, encode it, then spit it out back to the blob storage as MP4.

Cheers.

# re: Announcing Release of Windows Azure Media Services

Wednesday, January 23, 2013 3:15 AM by Vladimir

This thing is awesome. However, one thing I am missing is a client-side SDK for media recording (and when live broadcasting is available also client-side SDK for live broadcasting to the Azure). What are the plans now, when Windows Media Encoder is long time dead and the Expression Encoder has been just killed?

# re: Announcing Release of Windows Azure Media Services

Wednesday, January 23, 2013 6:09 AM by Otavio

Can we use WA Access Control to protect access via Federation?

# re: Announcing Release of Windows Azure Media Services

Wednesday, January 23, 2013 6:13 AM by Kalle Launiala

Scott,

This thing really differentiates Azure from the current offering of "primitive operation stack platform" (storage, cpu, network).

We are building a refined platform "Service Operating System", that's only concrete implementation is running on Windows Azure, and Media Services provide another unique reason, why it's further bleeding edge development will stay on "Azure First".

Is there any team/focus on Azure working with "platform-on-platform" partners or is there any interest for that, before market adopts the new services?

Kalle

# re: Announcing Release of Windows Azure Media Services

Wednesday, January 23, 2013 6:55 AM by Andrew

I have the same question as wilbigs.

# re: Announcing Release of Windows Azure Media Services

Wednesday, January 23, 2013 9:41 AM by Silvio Sousa Cabral

Thanks Scott! This is great news.

# re: Announcing Release of Windows Azure Media Services

Wednesday, January 23, 2013 12:07 PM by Jason B

Great news! We're very (very) eager and excited to try the live streaming capabilities. We're looking to integrate it with our global live teaching platform. May I make a feature request? Please enable server side (using blobs storage!) for each live stream. Thanks Scott.

# re: Announcing Release of Windows Azure Media Services

Wednesday, January 23, 2013 12:51 PM by ScottGu

@Wilbigs,

>>>>>> We already have a large number of WMV videos in our blob storage and we have created services and client applications around that. Now, we want to convert them to H.264 (mp4) format.  Would it be possible to use the encoding services w/o ingesting the videos into media services?  Ideally, we want to tell media services the location of a WMV video in the blob storage, encode it, then spit it out back to the blob storage as MP4.

Yes, this is possible as the Azure encoding solution can take in WMV assets directly from blob storage and convert it & save it back into your storage account.

Feel free to send me email (scottgu@microsoft.com) for help on this, or visit the azure media forums here: social.msdn.microsoft.com/.../threads

Hope this helps,

Scott

# re: Announcing Release of Windows Azure Media Services

Wednesday, January 23, 2013 12:53 PM by ScottGu

@Vladimir,

>>>>>> This thing is awesome. However, one thing I am missing is a client-side SDK for media recording (and when live broadcasting is available also client-side SDK for live broadcasting to the Azure). What are the plans now, when Windows Media Encoder is long time dead and the Expression Encoder has been just killed?

We continue to support Expression Encoder - although we expect more of the encoding workloads to move to the cloud over time, which is one of the reasons why we are investing in solutions like Windows Azure Media Services.

Hope this helps,

Scott

# re: Announcing Release of Windows Azure Media Services

Wednesday, January 23, 2013 12:55 PM by ScottGu

@Maciej,

>>>>>> As I understand your post, saying "The pluggable nature of this architecture will allow us, over the next few months, to also add DASH Live Profile streaming of fragmented MP-4 segments using time-based indexing as well." means, LIVE Streaming is not yet available to the public, right?

Our Live streaming services are currently in private preview - we'll be making them public a little later this year.

Hope this helps,

Scott

# re: Announcing Release of Windows Azure Media Services

Wednesday, January 23, 2013 12:57 PM by ScottGu

@Otavio,

>>>>> Can we use WA Access Control to protect access via Federation?

We are looking to enable the ability to use Active Directory and ACS tokens to control access to streams in the future.  That will support federation and even better enterprise integration.

Hope this helps,

Scott

# re: Announcing Release of Windows Azure Media Services

Wednesday, January 23, 2013 12:58 PM by ScottGu

@Kalle,

>>>>>> We are building a refined platform "Service Operating System", that's only concrete implementation is running on Windows Azure, and Media Services provide another unique reason, why it's further bleeding edge development will stay on "Azure First".  Is there any team/focus on Azure working with "platform-on-platform" partners or is there any interest for that, before market adopts the new services?

Feel free to send me email (scottgu@microsoft.com) and we'd be happy to follow up.

Thanks,

Scott

# re: Announcing Release of Windows Azure Media Services

Wednesday, January 23, 2013 12:59 PM by ScottGu

@Jason,

>>>>> Great news! We're very (very) eager and excited to try the live streaming capabilities. We're looking to integrate it with our global live teaching platform. May I make a feature request? Please enable server side (using blobs storage!) for each live stream. Thanks Scott.

Archiving of live streams to blob storage is on the roadmap.

Thanks!

Scott

# re: Announcing Release of Windows Azure Media Services

Wednesday, January 23, 2013 1:29 PM by Andrew

I apologize if this information is available elsewhere but for the upcoming live streaming, what options do we have for publishing?

Can I publish mpegts over tcp/udp,flv/rtmp, rtp, rtsp?.  I use Wowza Media Server and CrtmpServer in Amazon EC2 and libavcodec/ffmpeg to publish live streams.  Your solution might be easier/cleaner and possibly even cheaper than the Wowza+Amazon route so long as I can publish the live stream in a supported format.  

Will we be able to record live streams?

Any chance you have or will have a low latency live stream option?  The mp4/mpegts fragments streaming is a wonderful idea for most things but totally sucks for conferencing and video surveillance.

RTSP (standard rtsp, not the weird MS ASF version) or RTMP would be preferred as these have broad industry support.

# re: Announcing Release of Windows Azure Media Services

Wednesday, January 23, 2013 1:56 PM by Andrew

Just in case it ate my comment.  

What live publishing formats will be supported?  MpegTS UDP/TCP, FLV/RTMP, RTP, RTSP (standard, not MS asf)?

Any chance we'll see a low latency viewing protocol, such as rtsp (standard, not MS asf) or rtmp?

# re: Announcing Release of Windows Azure Media Services

Wednesday, January 23, 2013 6:59 PM by Martin de Ruiter

Excellent news Scott, Azure is getting more interesting each day!

Any chance Azure will include an Office Web Apps service any time soon? Since the latest release is a seperate server install, this may be possible? Being able to integrate Office Web Apps viewers & editors in an ASP.NET app from Azure would be a great feature.

# re: Announcing Release of Windows Azure Media Services

Wednesday, January 23, 2013 11:48 PM by Raahul

Excellent news Scott. I would love to know if Azure is implementing REAL TIME Video Streaming / Broadcasting anytime near in future??

# re: Announcing Release of Windows Azure Media Services

Thursday, January 24, 2013 5:18 AM by Eleasar

When will the .NET Windows Azure Media Services SDK (not the client SDK) be available for WinRT?

# re: Announcing Release of Windows Azure Media Services

Thursday, January 24, 2013 7:26 AM by Jeff

Great news, unfortunatly Azure preformance in my country (Israel) is very slow.

any news on that???

# re: Announcing Release of Windows Azure Media Services

Tuesday, January 29, 2013 11:00 PM by Rajiv

Do you know of any consumer apps in Azure Marketplace that are (or will soon be) using Azure Media Services that would allow studio quality editing, publishing of rights protected content? Music education could get a huge uplift using this and Skype / Xbox Live. This is exciting stuff!  

# re: Announcing Release of Windows Azure Media Services

Wednesday, January 30, 2013 4:08 AM by Darren

Bulk upload is a challenge, so I followed the link to the Aspera Platform on Demand. On demand is a slight misnomer as it requires a monthly subscription. LOL

# re: Announcing Release of Windows Azure Media Services

Tuesday, March 12, 2013 6:50 AM by mark eric

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# re: Announcing Release of Windows Azure Media Services

Wednesday, March 13, 2013 10:57 AM by Bill Creighton

Does Azure Media Services integrate with Mediaroom clients? For LOTT or other/traditional video delivery?