Auragan’s media server plug-ins give you one-click installs for the most frequently requested paid-media features like deep-link protection (sometimes called hot-linking prevention) and pay-per-minute usage tracking.
Windows Media, Real, and QuickTime servers are designed for free delivery. When you manage your own media servers or operate your own content, it’s up to you to add the technologies needed to protect and manage paid media. Unfortunately, media servers perform very differently in the real world than they do in the lab. Software that tests great in the lab rarely works as well when slammed with unpredictable bursts of Internet traffic.
Streaming networks should focus on helping their clients make money from media
How often have you seen a media server review discuss performance when 20-30% of users are experiencing packet loss from their ISPs? What happens to authorization software’s memory usage when a protected link to popular content is pasted in Google Groups, so users around the world are trying failing passwords with 100’s of milliseconds network latency instead of the 1 or 2 ms latency in a lab?
Our developers have been building streaming applications for nearly a decade, giving us the experience to address these problems. Each of our tools has been extensively tested both in the lab and in the real world. Since 2002, we’ve relied on this software to power our own streaming and downloads network, delivering hundreds of terabytes every month to millions of users.
The Advection.NET streaming delivery network supports a full range of online business models, using Auragan’s media protection software. Our founders worked directly with Microsoft to build the first true “one ticket, one seat” pay-per-view plug-in for Windows Media at a time when RealMedia couldn’t protect streams at all. Several of our founders’ innovations were rolled into Microsoft’s Digital Broadcast Manager product for Windows Media.
Over the years, we’ve learned the best solutions aim for simplicity and elegance, both in technical design and in ease of use. Each of the tools below is incredibly easy to configure. In most cases, the administrator doesn’t have to configure anything on the media server. Integration is also straightforward, since we supply the necessary APIs or web server modules for existing web sites.
If you resell your streaming media delivery services, your customers can take advantage of these paid-media tools without your network administrators having to reconfigure customer accounts.
Bandwidth theft (sometimes referred to as deeplinking or hotlinking) is more and more common, thanks to the explosion of web browser toolbars to help users capture URLs that link to content they like. Once someone links or embeds your content’s URL in their page, without your permission, they’re effectively stealing your bandwidth. The users visiting their site and seeing their ads get the media using your bandwidth. You’ve lost visitors, ad revenue, and subsidized the remote site’s bandwidth with your cold hard cash. Posting images on forum message boards is probably the most common form of bandwidth theft, but embedding music and videos is becoming equally common, and the costs for delivering these large files to visitors of other people’s sites are much worse.
Locus plug-ins running in Windows Media Server. IIS Media Services, Wowza, DSS, and FMS are also supported.
The obvious solution is setting up a foolproof user authentication system, digital rights management (“DRM”)for example. This is the most reliable and secure approach for membership sites or video and music stores, but visitors to free sites find registration impractical and annoying.
Our Locus _DLP™ plug-in solves this problem by checking streaming media or download requests for a valid “token”. The tokens can be unique to a single remote IP address or set of addresses like an ISP. Tokens can apply to a given media file or allow access to a variety of media files, and can have start times and end times. Want to allow AOL users to share links to files less than 300 kbps for the next 24 hours? No problem.
The tokens are extremely secure. By default, we use AES encryption, but we can also support 3DES and various open source encryption methods. This in itself is a challenge, since every flavor of operating system and web language that web sites might want to use to create tokens has different encryption libraries. For example, the PHP version of 3DES won’t talk to 3DES in ASP.NET. To make this simple, our media server plug-in detects the remote encryption type on the fly, then uses the appropriate decryption library.
The Locus _DLP™ system is incredibly easy to manage, since no real-time communication is required between the web site and media servers, or between the media servers and any central database. Thanks to the decentralized design, the authentication module adds virtually no overhead to the media server. Our tests on a lowest common denominator server, a Pentium III with 256MB of RAM, show that adding Locus _DLP bumps CPU usage up by a maximum of about 8%.
Locus _DLP™media server plug-in supports Windows Media 9 Server, QuickTime Streaming Server, IIS6, and Apache. We provide web server token generation modules and web admin documentation for ASP.NET, ASP, PHP, ColdFusion, Java, and Perl, running on Windows, FreeBSD, or Linux.
Today’s digital rights management software licenses entire files, but the largest online streaming sites have found they can make additional money selling the same streaming media by the minute. This works much like pre-paid long distance phone cards or cell phone plans. The user purchases a batch of minutes, and then can use those minutes across any video or audio in a designated library of content.
Locus _PPV™ helps drive the ultimate impulse buy
Although this model works extremely well―users tend to use a lot of minutes and you get paid for all of them―it is the most difficult to implement. Pay-per-minute enabled streaming servers must track usage for each user while they’re viewing and accurately update central e-commerce servers about that usage. If a user runs out of minutes, the streaming server should redirect them to a store so they can purchase more. If the user tries to avoid payments by unplugging their internet connection or rebooting their machine, the media servers need to detect and handle that too.
Our Locus _PPM™media server plug-in handles all of these scenarios. Locus _PPM™builds on the technology used in Locus _DLP™, adding an authenticated username and validated number of minutes to every stream request token. The plug-in actively monitors all media server connections in real time, to track who is playing, pausing, fast forwarding or rewinding, or disconnecting from each stream. The distributed design provides a robust and redundant post-back mechanism to keep the user database up-to-date even if backbone connections between datacenters are spotty.
Like Locus _DLP™, the Locus _PPM™ plug-in adds virtually no overhead to the media server. Even when testing the type of end-of-life server still in use by some hosting providers today, we found that CPU usage on a Pentium III with 256MB of RAM increases by only 8% to 20% when delivering its maximum capacity of streams.
The retail Locus _PPM™plug-in only supports Windows Media Server. If you need a version for Helix or Darwin, please ask. Auragan provides web server pay-per-minute token generation modules and web admin documentation for ASP.NET, ASP, PHP, ColdFusion, Java, Ruby, Python, and Perl, running on Windows, FreeBSD, or Linux.
Locus _DLD™ for IIS prevents downloading media that should only be streamed
Managing a media inventory is hard enough without having to keep track of which video files are for streaming and which are for downloading. With the Locus _DLD™plug-in, all types of media can be stored together without worrying that users can download and save files reserved for video-on-demand (“VOD”)streaming.
Now you can let your customers decide which windows media files are for streaming and which are for downloads, without having to maintain different network storage locations or separate server mappings.
The Locus _DLD™plug-in supports IIS, and Apache offers a similar capability through one of the modules that ships with Apache. This is a server-side technology only, and doesn’t require any changes on the content owner’s web site.
If you are hosting up to a dozen media servers at a single location, or have up to a dozen servers collocated at each of up to ten data centers or offices, you can manage your content distribution and media server performance using our Locus 3s™appliance. The Locus 3s™ appliance has proven itself by managing dozens of terabytes of content across a dozen international datacenters since 2002.
Real world traffic graph of Locus CSRP™ updating media server content while sustaining outbound RTSP streaming
The most successful networks eventually grow out of an appliance model. Once you need more than a hundred media servers around the world, you may find that a redundant and self-managing “peer-to-peer” model offers even more scalability with less management overhead. End-user peer-to-peer services like the original Napster or 2005’s BitTorrent and eDonkey have shown that the more decentralized the model, and the more intelligence in the machines actually delivering the content, the more reliable the service.
Following a year of beta testing, in May 2005, Auragan launched the Locus CSRP™ content management plug-in on the WindowsMedia servers in two of the Advection.NET datacenters. In June 2005, we rolled Locus CSRP™out to all of Advection.NET’s international datacenters. The plug-in works in conjunction with the Locus 3s™ appliance to distribute content decision-making and content management among all the media servers. Most stream requests never reach the appliance, since in most cases, each media server now has enough intelligence to handle or redirect the request to a more suitable server on its own.
Locus CSRP™supports Windows Media Server today. The Locus CSRP™plug-ins for QuickTime, Flash, IIS and Apache are in beta testing. If you are interested in leveraging this technology across a network of this scale, please contact one of our senior executives.
Auragan’s streaming acceleration appliances and streaming optimized storage appliances are built into the Advection.NET network, and available for sale or lease either directly or through our partners.
We offer monthly subscription licenses for the plug-ins on a per server basis. On our high end plug-ins, each additional server license is ~10% off the previous license. If you have a need to use the plug-ins on more than 25 servers, you may subscribe as a site license. We'll provide you with a master registration key for all your servers at your facility. (Note: If you have a multi-POP network, each POP is considered a unique site.) Please let us know your requirements.
The appliance designations Locus™, Locus 3s™, Locus 3c™, Locus 3i™, Locus 3n™, and Locus 5n™ are trademarks of Auragan, LLC, and are copyright © Auragan, LLC 2002–2011.
The name Auragan™, the name Advection.NET™, the Auragan “eye of the hurricane” logo, and the Advection.NET “advection wave” logo, are trademarks of Auragan, LLC, and are copyright © Auragan, LLC 2001–2011.