The iPad doesn't support flash and Steve Jobs has clearly stated why, but at a recent marketing meeting, (VP and CTO of Emerging Technologies group) talked about how a colleague wanted to use his iPad to view a flash file, but instead of receiving an error message or that empty flash box that displays, he was able to view the file. Why? How? Because the Cisco Media Experience Engine (MXE) was able to convert the flash stream to an H.264/MPEG-4 stream that does have viewing support on the iPad. And it did it on the fly. For those of you who attended Cisco Live you may have seen this being demo'd in the Cisco booth.
That led me to think of the implications of doing transcoding on the wire and what it means for architecture. We list transcoding as one of our capabilities in the collaboration services layer of the Collaboration Architecture, but let's talk about practical use of that capability.
Serving video (or any content for that matter) you have a couple of choices, standardize on one format and hope enough people have adopted it, or provide the same content in different formats for different users and serve up accordingly. For many organizations picking a single standard is considered enough as long as they feel they've hit a high enough percentage of the market. As more and more devices, particularly mobile devices reach the market, format requirements are changing, different OS', resolutions, access and bandwidth are now in use. A common trend we see with the consumerization of IT.
I could build a video server, and store different formats in my data center, identify the client device and route to the proper format, but now I am spending extra time in compiling video to different formats, I'm using additional storage space for all those formats and I have to write and manage code to route and serve the proper format based on each and every client. Huge expense, huge risk for time to market, huge hassle for everybody involved. Now I can standardize on a single format for my data store, maybe it's flash, maybe it's something else. With an MXE on the network I don't have to worry about the client devices accessing it, I don't have to fight the cosumerization of IT as employees bring prefered devices in-house and I can leverage existing policy and access controls to ensure my content is secure.
From an architecture standpoint using network-based services such as transcoding allows me to simplify the serving of video content by centralizing the funcationality that had to be provided each and every server as a reusable building block located in the network .
What do you think? Do you see more application functions being centralized to the network and what's the implication from an architecture perspective?
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