Wowza Media Systems, the SRT Alliance and Ultra Low Latency

The impact of Wowza Media Systems joining Haivision to create the SRT Alliance two years ago can’t be understated. Their embrace of SRT as a critical enabler for a range of use cases and workflows exposed the protocol – and the birth of the open source project – to a massive footprint of pioneering video developers and streaming media professionals globally.

I spoke by phone with Elliot Miller, Wowza SVP, Corporate Development & Legal. Elliot previously led Wowza’s cloud service as GM for the past year. The company was one of the first to offer Ultra Low Latency (ULL) cloud streaming, which they define as under three seconds of latency, globally. 

Most folks don’t know it, but that’s no easy feat. For reference, most TV broadcast systems achieve about 6 seconds of latency. Video is hard! There are a lot of moving parts from supply to demand. So shaving time off the so-called first-mile ‘contribution’ link to the cloud is an essential component to any low latency streaming capability. And it’s one of the main reasons why SRT ingest is a key capability of Wowza’s ULL offer.

“Wowza and Haivision have both been on this path for the better part of a decade, trying to find a way to solve these huge problems with streaming media, and specifically this kind of whack-a-mole zero-sum trade-off game of latency, quality, and scale. There has always been a trade-off that undercut the value proposition of live streaming to whatever that customer engagement was. And so around the time that work was underway on our Ultra Low Latency product, we saw what Haivision was doing with the open sourcing of SRT, and we just thought, this eliminates those trade-offs. It’s just really well aligned, thematically, to move these use cases forward.”

By now, informed video tech readers know that there’s an amazing diversity of video use cases out there, and each can tolerate various levels of latency. That set of opportunities and challenges is what we love about the video tech revolution. Elliot took me through that discussion with some great examples.

“We’ve seen really high-demand for these services in some fascinating use cases. Of course, we see a lot of gaming, both video games and gambling. We’ve seen a lot of pick-up there. But there are many other interesting use cases,  from auctions and eCommerce to first responders and field service.”  

Elliott landed on a critical point that I’ve previously written about with respect to low latency. That’s the simple fact that in many cases, it’s not low latency that’s needed, but synchronized latency. And it’s just another facet of usefulness that the SRT protocol brings.

“You know, one of the things that we’ve learned about latency, there are some use cases, military use cases, for example, that demand very low latency, lower even than three seconds. But then, on the other hand, you look at interactive video uses cases, take HQ Trivia or auctions just as an example, those companies have a much bigger concern, which is synchronizing the content playback to all viewers, who are on different devices on different networks on different continents. So, sure, low latency is important for them, but it’s even more important to have synchronized latency.”

As we wrapped up our discussion, I couldn’t help but ask about a recent press release I’d seen. In June, the company officially announced a professional services division. I can’t imagine a better place for SRT to be applied and leveraged.

“Yes, that’s right. We are in the midst of a fundamental shift in our business at Wowza and that’s a shift from offering amazing, best-in-class components of video infrastructure off-the-shelf to offering full-service solutions. Customers are focused on ground-breaking, complex projects. Video is no longer the project, it’s a component of the project. So they’re coming to us to help them build and deploy from end-to-end. In that environment, we know SRT is going to provide a lot of value, a lot of utility.”

Be sure to add Wowza Media Systems on your must-visit list at IBC 2019. They’ll be at Stand 14.E08

Interested in learning more about SRT at IBC?  Sign up for this free to attend  SRT Open Source Technical panel on September 15th. Designed for current and future SRT developers, the event will focus on the applications and workflows that SRT solves, the technical roadmap, and implementation stories.

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