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Windows Media Services 2008 Features and Benefits

Updated: January 6, 2010

Applies To: Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2008 R2

Features

Benefits

The features and functions in Microsoft® Windows Media® Services 2008 make it an ideal media server for delivering high-quality on-demand and live streaming experiences.

noteNote
The features in Windows Media Services differ, depending on which version or edition of the Windows Server® 2008 operating system that you are running. For a complete list of the features in Windows Media Services that are available in each version of Windows, see Decide which version of Windows Server is right for you.

New in Windows Media Services 2008, the built-in WMS Cache/Proxy plug-in can be used to configure a Windows Media server either as a cache/proxy server or as a reverse proxy server so that it can provide caching and proxy support to other Windows Media servers. By caching and proxying your digital media content, you can reduce operating costs and provide a better viewing experience for users by conserving network bandwidth, decreasing network-imposed latency, and offsetting the load on the origin server.

In the Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2 operating systems, administrators can install Windows Server with only the services required to perform the Streaming Media Services role on a Server Core installation of the operating system.

The Server Core installation option does not install non-essential services and applications and provides base server functionality. While the Server Core installation option is a fully functioning mode of the operating system supporting one of the designated roles, it does not include the server graphic user interface (GUI). Because Server Core installations include only what is required for the designated roles, a Server Core installation will typically require less maintenance and fewer updates, as there are fewer components to manage. In other words, since there are fewer programs and components installed and running on the server, there are fewer attack vectors exposed to the network, resulting in a reduced attack surface. If a security flaw or vulnerability is discovered in a component that is not installed, an update is not required. For more information about installing Windows Media Services 2008 on a Server Core installation, see Update the Windows Media Server Platform.

Fast Start delivers an instant-on playback experience by eliminating buffering time. When a viewer connects to a stream, the first few seconds of data are sent using the maximum available bandwidth so that playback can begin as soon as possible. Advanced Fast Start adds to these capabilities by allowing Windows Media Player to begin playing content as soon as its buffer receives a minimum amount of data, further reducing the amount of time a user must wait to begin receiving the stream.

Broadcast content can be archived to a file, and the archived content can be made available for on-demand requests or rebroadcast even before the broadcast is finished being archived.

Improved fast-forward and rewind ("trick mode") functionality for the video portion of content stabilizes network bandwidth availability by using separate files for each FF/RW speed. This results in a fixed bandwidth requirement per client, regardless of playback speed, and greatly smoothes the FF/RW experience. Potential server performance bottlenecks are reduced because the server must read less presentation data from the source content disk, while delivering a seamless experience to clients.

In the event of an interruption, such as a power failure, broadcast publishing points can be configured to begin running again automatically whenever the Windows Media server starts, so that viewers experience less disruption when viewing streaming content.

Absolute Playlist Time adds the playlist timing value wallclock. You can use the wallclock value to automate broadcast schedules by assigning real-world clock values in Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) to attributes in server-side playlists.

If the primary encoder fails or is stopped, you can configure Windows Media Services to pull content from an alternate encoder or other content source after a specified period of time by using URL modifiers in the path to the primary encoder. Using redundant encoders or other alternate content sources increases the reliability of the source content.

Windows Media Services 2008 is available as an optional, installable component in the 32-bit editions and 64-bit editions of the Windows Server 2008 operating system, and in Windows Server 2008 R2 (all editions of Windows Server 2008 R2 are x64-based.). x64-based computers run 64-bit processors with an extended x86 instruction set, such as the Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) AMD64 and Intel Extended Memory 64 Technology (EM64T) processor lines. Using a 64-bit version of Windows Media Services can result in scalability increases of over 40 percent compared to a 32-bit version of the operating system running on the same hardware.

Windows Media Services 2008 provides the ultimate fast-streaming experience, dynamic programming for on-the-fly and personalized content delivery, and an industrial-strength platform that ensures ease-of-administration, customization, and scalability.

Fast Streaming capabilities in Windows Media Services effectively eliminate buffering time, and reduce the likelihood of playback interruptions due to network conditions. Features like Fast Start, Fast Cache, Fast Recovery, and Fast Reconnect provide an always-on viewing experience by streaming content with minimal buffering and down-time, even over high latency network connections such as wireless and satellite.

Combined with Windows Media Player 10 or later, Windows Media Services can provide an instant-on/always-on playback experience for users on broadband networks. It dramatically improves streaming reliability and responsiveness for dial-up users, virtually eliminating annoying buffering delays and interruptions when playing digital media content. Windows Media Services features like Advanced Fast Start, Advanced FF/RW, and Play While Archiving also make it ideal for delivering a high-quality experience to IPTV viewers.

Windows Media Services enables dynamic content programming, so that you can instantly update and personalize content to provide the most compelling user experience. Take advantage of these programming capabilities:

  • Automatically program and seamlessly update digital media content on-the-fly.

  • Make program changes during on-demand or live broadcasts, change the order of clips, insert an ad, insert a new clip, and more, without interruption to the viewer.

  • Generate revenue with a wide variety of advertising types, including lead-in or interstitial ads, which you can easily integrate with third-party advertising servers. Advanced reporting ensures tracking of how and when ads are viewed.

  • Make streaming content more relevant and useful to each user by automatically generating personalized playlists that are tailored to individual audience members.

Windows Media Services provides simplified, flexible administration—with increased reliability and security. Developers can integrate and extend streaming environments with this extensible platform, which provides:

  • Increased scalability. Windows Media Services reduces costs by enabling economical streaming for the largest enterprises and content delivery networks (CDNs). You can increase the scalability of Windows Media Services in the following deployment scenarios:

    • Run Windows Media Services on x64-based versions of Windows Server 2003 to increase scalability up to 40 percent.

    • Add the Windows Server 2003 Scalable Networking Pack to your Windows Media server to increase scalability by an additional 40 percent.

    • Upgrade the Windows Server 2003 operating system on your Windows Media server to take advantage of the new network offloading technologies in Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2 and nearly double the scalability of Windows Media Services. For more information about installing Windows Media Services on Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2, see Update the Windows Media Server Platform.

    • Install Windows Media Services on a Server Core installation of Windows Server 2008 or Windows Server 2008 R2 to provide base Windows Media server functionality, thereby increasing server availability.

    You can also maximize scalability of rich-media delivery in Windows Media Services by extending multicasting capabilities beyond audio and video content to include Web pages, slides, and images.

  • Cache/proxy solutions. New in Windows Media Services 2008, the built-in WMS Cache/Proxy plug-in can be used to control native cache and proxy policies. Cache/proxy solutions are cost-effective and efficient, enabling organizations to conserve network bandwidth, decrease network-imposed latency, and decrease the load on origin servers.

  • Flexible administration. Manage servers in virtually any environment through the familiar Microsoft Management Console (MMC), a Web browser, or command-line scripts. Diagnose possible service outages or configuration issues with the Windows Media Services Management Pack for Microsoft Operations Manager, and use the information to correct server issues or optimize the server for performance.

  • Robust use-limit parameters. Windows Media Services provides the industry's most robust set of properties, enabling IT professionals to set limits down to the individual transaction level to ensure that transmissions do not exceed the capabilities of the server, network, or client.

  • Secure delivery. Secure server-to-server and server-to-client distribution of content uses a variety of common authentication and authorization mechanisms, including support for Kerberos and HTTP Digest. Windows Media Services also supports digital rights management (DRM) for on-the-wire and persistent client-side security.

  • Extensible platform. Windows Media Services is an open platform that exposes more than 500 properties and methods of nearly 60 interfaces. You can use the rich set of interfaces to configure a Windows Media server programmatically, monitor both the server and clients connected to it, or access logging statistics.

    You can also customize the functionality of your Windows Media server by using installed plug-ins or create your own. Windows Media Services is installed with the following types of plug-ins, which you can enable or disable depending on your needs.

     

    Plug-in category Description

    Archiving

    Used to archive content that is being streamed from a broadcast publishing point to a file.

    Authentication

    Used to validate client credentials before any additional data is sent to the client.

    Authorization

    Used to grant or deny client access to content.

    Cache/Proxy Management

    Used to control cache and proxy policies on your computer.

    Control protocol

    Used to control the data sent between clients and servers.

    Data source

    Used to receive data from an encoder, file system, or network source.

    Event notification

    Used to control and customize how the server responds to internal events.

    Logging

    Used to record server and client activity.

    Media parser

    Used to allow the server to translate different digital media file types or real-time streams.

    Multicast streaming

    Used to control the delivery of content through multicast transmission. This plug-in must be configured for each publishing point that is going to use multicast delivery.

    Playlist parser

    Used to allow the server to translate different playlist types.

    Playlist transform

    Used to change the manner in which content is streamed from a playlist or directory.

    Unicast streaming

    Used to control the delivery of content through unicast transmission.

    The Windows Media Services 9 Series Software Development Kit (SDK) provides interfaces that enable you to create custom applications using C, C++, C#, Microsoft Visual Basic, Visual Basic Scripting Edition (VBScript), Microsoft JScript, and other scripting languages.

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