Music And Video On Server 2008

VARs can offer customers virtual media solutions that were once out of reach

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The launch of Windows Server 2008 triggers VARs' imaginations for new ways they can utilize the operating system's virtualization capabilities for their customers, especially when you consider Hyper-V.

When multiple server environments can be deployed without the need for additional hardware and also can be centrally maintained, the possibilities are endless. The Test Center chose its own adventure and built a streaming media server inside a Server 2008 virtual machine.

Significant Savings
To be clear, streaming media software has been around for a while and both software- and hardware-based solutions have been on the market almost as long. But while the demand for multimedia over IP is steadily growing, traditional media servers have been expensive and/or complex (especially with video over IP). With virtualization, VARs can potentially offer solutions that may have been out of reach for their clients in the past.

The Test Center found a more cost-effective solution to building a media server using a virtualized environment and open-source software.

The streaming server and client software downloaded for the test was VideoLAN version 0.8.6e--a free media player that is actually a complete multimedia solution, because it's a transcoder and streamer as well.

Installation was simple and there were no apparent compatibility issues with Server 2008. Streaming was set up via a wizard. Streaming can be done through UDP/RTP, UDP/RTP multicast, HTTP/HTTPS/FTP/MMS or RTSP. The streaming server was configured to use HTTP and the default port 8080.

The simplicity of the install does not belie how powerful this software is, however. Streaming can be controlled to the minutiae, through scripting and the command line.

The VideoLAN media player (VLC player) was installed on the client side (although other media players will work with VLC's streaming function, as well). VLC player was installed on Vista, and once again, there were no hiccups with the install. From the client, the networked stream was connected by simply pointing to the IP address of the server through port 8080.

Next: No Andromeda Strain

No Andromeda Strain
Next, Andromeda streaming software was used for a second round of testing. An evaluation copy of Andromeda was downloaded, as was the .ASP version. Andromeda uses an ASP or PHP script to enable streaming and requires a Web server capable of running either. For the test, reviewers installed Internet Information Services as a role inside the virtual machine. A virtual directory was then created against the physical folder containing the Andromeda ASP file and a few MP3 files.

The Andromeda home page is fully customizable. Company logos can be added as well as text. Links can be added and there is even a built-in logon feature that can be used to restrict access.

To get to the Andromeda server, the clients browsed to the newly created Web site and streaming was underway. At the moment, however, Andromeda only supports streaming for audio files.

Streaming with both VLC and Andromeda resulted in no readily discernible performance issues on either the server or client side. With video streaming, reviewers were still able to browse the Internet and run multiple Microsoft Office applications.

VLC is free; Andromeda is a $20 download. While the software was tested in a Windows virtual machine, VLC is platform-independent and Andromeda supports Windows or Linux deployment. That choice allows the VAR to set his or her own price for deploying a streaming media server on a Hyper-V virtual machine.

There are several scenarios in which a company could incorporate a multimedia server into its infrastructure. A doctor's office could use it as a commercial-free streaming jukebox in a waiting room. Or, it could be integrated with a VoIP telephony system, where companies would control the music for callers on hold.

Company announcements and alerts could also be streamed via a multimedia server and delivered to the phone system or to computers.

Though not a new technology, virtualization is now a full-blown hotbed in IT and is set for even greater deployment with Hyper-V's official launch later this year.

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