RealNetworks Unveils Streaming Media Server

The company has unveiled its own new industrial-strength enterprise media server, the Helix Server Unlimited, for wired and wireless devices.

One day after one of its biggest competitors, Macromedia Inc., announced its second-generation heavy-duty streaming media server, RealNetworks Inc. Wednesday unveiled its own new industrial-strength enterprise media server, the Helix Server Unlimited, for wired and wireless devices.

This latest version of the Helix server enables RealNetworks enterprise customers the ability to deliver high-end 3rd Generation Partners Project (3GPP) content to a variety of multimedia-enabled mobile devices and handsets, the company said.

Helix Server Unlimited is Seattle, Wash.-based RealNetworks version of the open source Helix server, a universal delivery engine that packetizes and transmits any media type to any device over a network in real time.

The 3GPP is a collaboration agreement among international data standards bodies established in December 1998. Content created under the 3GPP standard—generally large file formats such as high-end video and audio—is commonly transmitted in Europe and Asia but is relatively unknown in the United States.

The Helix Server Unlimited is the only multi-format, cross-platform enterprise streaming server on the market to deliver RealAudio, RealVideo, Windows Media, QuickTime, Mpeg-4 and 3GPP from a single server infrastructure, the company said. The server fits within existing operating system environments and supports Windows, Solaris, Linux and Unix-based operating systems for streaming.

New features include support for SNMP v3 and next-generation protocols such as IP v6, as well as improved firewall support and Helix Rate Adaptation for better utilization of network resources, RealNetworks said.

Industry analysts say the overall market for high-end streaming audio and video is expanding exponentially.

Mobile content on the handset mostly has been focused on delivery of entertainment, but for the enterprise market such as corporations, higher education institutions and government agencies, it is becoming a valuable training and educational tool, according to Research Director Richard Doherty, of Seaford, N.Y.-based Envisioneering.

"There just arent enough classrooms for all the training that needs to be done at the enterprise and government levels," Doherty said. "For example, what do you do for the guy out at JFK [airport] whos suddenly having trouble connecting the fuel hose on the 747, even though hes been trained to do it? You can send it [new information via video] to a device right in his hands using this technology."

Doherty said that streaming video is being evaluated more often as an alternative to classroom training throughout the public and private enterprise sectors.

"Being able to just beam out Web content at a high level to all kinds of devices ... that is very valuable, indeed, to an enterprise," Doherty said.

Doherty said that 3GPP content is "incredibly widespread in use in Europe and in Asia, with all the [high-end] portable wireless devices and cell phones that are in use there. We lag behind in the United States at this time because the content providers and cell network operators have to solve some major challenges in order to get onto the same page.

"But once the standards are all in place and WiMAX [wireless broadband] becomes widespread, well be seeing more of this in the U.S.," Doherty said.

/zimages/4/28571.gifHigh-risk RealPlayer flaws are patched. Click here to read more.

The Helix Server mobile application is currently being implemented by several of Reals enterprise customers, including the City of Seattle and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, the company said.

The City of Seattle has been streaming its television programming to the desktop for eight years and is now expanding it to the handset.

"The mobile component is another great value-add service for our residents," said Nate Eckstine, of the City of Seattle Department of Information Technology. "Our citizens used to have to catch our council meetings, arts and public affairs programming on TV or order a tape before we made it available on demand on the PC, but now with the enhancements to Reals server they can watch from their local coffee house or anywhere else."

Virginia Tech currently streams a variety of content to students multimedia handsets that is used in formal and informal learning experiences.

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Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...