AWS Launches MediaConnect and almost gives us multicast

It’s Re:invent time, and Amazon have launched a new service to make video routing to the cloud reliable and easier to set-up.

A few weeks back I was at the brilliant DPP Leaders Summit, it was under the Chatham House Rule.1 There were some great speakers, and I particularly loved the exec who, to paraphrase, “If it doesn’t work without months of professional-services, THEN IT ISN’T AN ACTUAL PRODUCT.”2

Anyway one of the speakers was facing rebuilding their entire stack due to ownership changes, and wanted to do so in the cloud. They said “We need multicast and Precision Time Protocol”. Which I can understand, for playout or production applications, the need for those two is pretty clear.

It’s now Re:invent season, which is the point in the year when AWS tend to release a lot of their good stuff. And yesterday they unveiled a new media ingest service AWS Elemental MediaConnect.

It’s a managed service to get your video signals to/from/between your Amazon clouds.

This has historically been a pain: back when I was working on the Video Factory project we initially mooted a box in the cloud that we would send the signal to, and then that would fan out to both archiving and live streaming. This was hard to do, so we side-stepped the issue, and just rapidly uploaded the stream to S3 in consistently sized chunks instead. Later something was put in place to do the streaming, using something that I don’t think has been spoke about too much in public, so I shan’t detail here.

Anyway, this new service allows you to send content to/from an endpoint using standard RTP (with/without Forward Error Correction) or the more reliable but commercial Zixi protocol. The video has an Amazon ARN identifier, which then means that external accounts can have permissions to subscribe to the stream, the documentation says a ‘flow’ can have up to 20 outputs.

How are we going to use this?

  1. Contribution to streaming output: fire the video somewhere and you don’t have to know if/where it’s being used
  2. Contribution for programming: using few Amazon regions, broadcasters could very easily build a global contribution network to backhaul outside-broadcasts very easily
  3. Contribution from a Playout appliance, if your cloud playout outputs to an MediaConnect flow, then you can then output that flow to your broader distribution chain, allowing re-routing of things downstream.

It isn’t multicast within a VPC, it’s not PTP, I suspect the latency involved may be too great to allow it to be used to route between different stages in a virtual playout chain3.

MediaConnect does however simplify integrating cloud processing workflows by providing fixed points at the edges in and out of the cloud.

I’ll be interested to see how people use it.

  1. That it is a singular rule is one of those bits of pedantry I cannot let go of
  2. This is probably a topic for another time, but the fact that so many enterprise vendors expect you to pay for their ‘product’ then explain that ‘oh, no, you can’t just use it out of the box even in a basic manner’ is a bit of a joke
  3. I could be very wrong here, I don’t have a one of those hanging around to test