CHAPTER TWO (Continued):
STREAMING SERVER TECHNOLOGIES
RealNetworks Helix Universal Media Server Technology
RealNetworks is a company involved in all aspects of streaming media, and this singular focus has allowed them to become a leader in the technology. RealNetworks recently released their “ninth generation media delivery system,” which incorporates the Helix Universal Server, Helix Universal Gateway and the Helix Producer.
>> This refers to the 2004 release of the server software. The correct name now is the Helix Universal Media Server, but I could not locate a version number for the 2012 edition. It is possible to download a free trial version of the server from the following link:
There is also a tutorial available which will take you step by step through the download and installation of the trial version of the server software. I have made this tutorial available through my companion site on cable and satellite technology, which I have located on the magnify video platform under the link below. The Helix server tutorial should be on the landing page, or just go to the Main Playlist to find it.
I have not downloaded the HUMS software myself as of this writing, but I hope to in the near future and will be sure to describe my experiences on the blog, so please check back if this is an area of interest. Or if you just want to check out some cool technology videos and music videos, please visit this site. <<
In contrast to an open source project like the one Icecast already discussed, RealNetworks is a commercial enterprise that generates profits from the sale and application of their products. The company’s reliance on Intellectual Property as a key business driver leads to the development of many proprietary protocols, and thus they do not necessarily rely on open source code or standards for product development. This approach has changes somewhat with the introduction of the Helix platform, which is built on Helix DNA source code, which is offered to the development community.
Therefore, they do offer a viable commercial alternative for a start-up enterprise that has sufficient funding to consider the purchase of their streaming media products. The large market share of their media player and other products in the marketplace make them one of the leaders in the area of streaming media technology. The extension of their technology to embrace competing technologies and to provide their technology in an open source environment is an exciting development that offers much potential value to a webcasting operation.
The Helix server technology has embraced formats other than the well-established RealMedia and RealAudio formats that formed the backbone of the company since their original release in 1995. In fact, RealNetworks has attacked the Microsoft Windows Media 9 series not only based on the superior performance of Helix, but also on Media 9’s proprietary nature. Helix developers included compatibility with other formats such as Windows Media, QuickTime, Macromedia FLASH, and MPEG-1, MP3, MPEG-4, and a complete list of 55 data types. [i]
Although the original protocols of the RealMedia products delivered streams over proprietary formats, the new server products have embraced a universality that provides many advantages to a streaming operation, including an Internet Webcasting operation. In fact, the Helix server runs on the Unix/Linux platform based on open standards.
The advantage for the Internet broadcaster is a single server application that can provide streams to many of the deployed players in the marketplace. The Helix server accepts both live and on-demand connections from a variety of encoders, including: Windows Media Encoder, Microsoft Digital Media types (.wmv, .wma, .asf), QuickTime Broadcaster Encoder, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MP3, and MPEG-4 Encoders.
As an example, just considering two of the more widely deployed media players, Windows MediaPlayer and RealPlayer, you are looking at two proprietary delivery systems. This means two server systems and associated software to make sure that listeners can be reached on both of these media players. Yet, you are still not reaching them on some of the other less deployed but still valuable players such as QuickTime, even if you have built an infrastructure that includes both of these server technologies. Helix Server eliminates the need for two proprietary systems by incorporating support for Windows Media and RealNetworks, along with QuickTime and the other popular formats already mentioned.
Compatibility with Macromedia FLASH enables the possibility of a media player based on FLASH technology deployed on 98% of personal computers [ii].
>> Adobe purchased Macromedia, see footnote below.<<
Some additional features of the Helix Server platform include:
- Compatibility with multiple operating systems. Helix Universal servers are available on a number of operating systems including: Unix, Linux, HP/UIX, IBM/AIX, and Solaris just to name a few.
- Compatibility with multiple protocols. Supports Real Time Streaming Protocol (RTSP) for standards based media players, Microsoft Media Service (MMS) proprietary protocol for the Windows Media Player, and Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) for non-streaming activates such as server configuration.
- Improved scalability and reduced bandwidth costs with an integrated content networking system specifically designed to provision live and on-demand content reliability across distributed networks.
- Reduce delivery costs and increase audience size with industry leading performance, reaching 10,000 simultaneous users on a single entry-level server.
Additional information on the Helix Server can be found at:
>> Link is still valid in 2012, linking to latest version of Helix Universal Media Server, providing this description on their website:
” With streaming digital media servers from Helix, you can stream video content once and simultaneously deliver it to PCs, mobile devices, tablets and IPTV. All Helix Universal Media Servers are multi-format, multi-platform and multi-screen, simplifying the process of delivering digital media files and lowering the total cost of ownership by reducing number of hardware platforms and power consumption. With an easy-to-use GUI and quick installation, the Helix Universal Media Server can be up and running in less than 15 minutes.
And billing, subscriber management, enhanced caching and multi-lingual capabilities are all easily integrated into Helix Universal Media Servers using Helix Extensions: Helix Session Manager, Helix Security Manager, Helix Proxy and Multi-Track.” <<
Also included with the RealNetworks Helix system are two additional products, the Helix Gateway systems, and the Helix Producer. The Gateway is intended for commercial enterprise deployments that might benefit from not only the ability to receive content on the edge of the network as a subsystem of the server, but also to cache content that is viewed frequently. Eliminating much of the transmission traffic back to the primary server preserves valuable bandwidth. Internet webcasters would not appear to need this capability in order to deliver content to individual Media Players.
>> It appears that the Gateway product name is now applied to the Helix Mobile Gateway, which comprises the Helix Universal Media Server for Mobile and Helix Proxy for Mobile, the core delivery and proxy-cache components of the Helix Media Delivery Platform. <<
The Helix Producer will be discussed in detail within the Authoring Technologies section of this blueprint.
An excellent overview of the entire Helix system is available from the RealNetworks web site in the form of a streaming presentation that runs on the RealOne player, so it is recommended that this player be loaded onto the viewer’s PC. Click on the Helix Media Delivery Platform Overview available for download from
>> I updated this to be current for 2012.<<
>> This link is still active to RealNetworks website, however datasupport document is no longer available. You can download the latest version of RealPlayer and see the latest news and product developments on this site. <<
[ii]Adobe purchased Macromedia, so it is now the Adobe Flash player. Adobe maintains the 98% penetration rate figure based on an NPD study . Downloaded 01/13/12 from: