Microsoft has announced the general availability of Windows Azure Media Services, an enterprise video streaming service that saw the light of day last year at the Olympics in London.
Microsoft is getting into the cloud video streaming business, but it's something that's been coming for several months now. Windows Azure Media Services was used while in beta to livestream the 2012 London Olympics, and after much time (and presumably much tinkering by Microsoft engineers), the service is now generally available to the Azure customer base.
Scott Guthrie, Microsoft's corporate vice president for the Microsoft Server and Tools Business, posted on his blog that the release was now in live production. Supported by a new media services development center, Azure Media Services was designed so enterprises could build scalable, end-to-end media solutions for streaming on-demand video to any device.
"For example, you can easily build a media service for delivering training videos to employees in your company, stream video content for your web-site, or build a premium video-on-demand service like Hulu or Netflix," he wrote in his blog entry.
As Guthrie further noted in his blog, broadcasters last year used the service to stream the Olympics.
Surely, not many enterprises are going to try to become the next Hulu or Netflix, and many have already jumped on the video training bandwagon. Still, moving things such as training videos to the cloud will enable enterprises to deliver such content a bit more broadly -- while hopefully retaining a good level of security. How far enterprises may take this is anybody's guess. Perhaps we'll see more video streams from convention floors -- or maybe we'll simply see more cat videos making their way around the corporate network.
Still, video streaming is not always easy, although websites like uStream and Livestream have simplified things considerably. What does Azure Media Services have that existing video streaming sites don't? For one, there's the enterprise SLA that's involved, so when free services fail, Microsoft should keep right on chuggin' along. It's also probably safe to assume there will be additional features using Microsoft's service that will be of interest to enterprises.
Fees aren't all that bad. They start at $1.99 per gigabyte, but larger volumes are discounted. However, customers will be paying for both storage and the bandwidth used to stream video.
As for what's in it for Microsoft's channel partners, well, we'll just have to wait and see.