Maybe you’ve heard of this crazy new thing the kids are talking about nowadays; streaming media they call it, and everybody from John Glenn to Bill Clinton’s been living out his dream under the squinty gaze of the world’s networked audience. If CNN reports 500,000 requests a second during the recent Shuttle launch, you better believe the client-server software’s been successfully deployed in the mainstream. That means the current generation of players are easy to install, they’re user-friendly, and they work.
At this point, you may ask yourself: Why should I care? Because it’s: Better | Cheaper | Faster
Because it’s Better
If you’re looking for ways to combine IT resources to advance content distribution through the enterprise, serving on-demand video could streamline your operations and save your company lots of money. If that’s what you want to do, the first thing your company should ask is the content question: What do we want to deliver? Streaming audio? Video? Both? This naturally leads to other questions: Who’s our audience? Are we sending this over the web, or through our intranet? If you’ve read this far, your company’s probably ready to respond to these evolving technologies.
Josh Harris, President and CEO of Pseudo, says the “key question is whether to create and produce internally or externally.” Your company needs to decide whether your priority is to re-engineer the business process and save cost, or to extend services into a new marketplace.
Giga Information’s Ira Machefsky, an IT analyst with firsthand experience of the benefits of on-demand delivery, thinks “there’s a big opportunity for self-paced training applications within the enterprise using IP-based video mechanisms. The other area where I think we’ve seen the most deployment of these kinds of technologies, originally with proprietary, stand-alone network products, is in video-conferencing. This is especially true as groups are deployed around the world in various places and have to collaborate across many time zones and across many miles. These groups can find it effective to use video-conferencing technology to facilitate the daily or weekly meetings that they have, eliminating a lot of the travel that would otherwise make that kind of work impossible or impractical. Nobody can travel as often as required in distributed workgroups today.”
Because it’s Cheaper
As Rob Glaser pointed out at RealNetworks’ 1998 Conference, there’s been an upsurge in the last year in deployment of streaming media in intranet applications, specifically in the form of training, communicating sales information and other just-in-time applications. A good example of enterprise-wide deployment is Boeing’s global network of 20,000 users whose accessing of on-demand video has been a major driver of cost savings and improved delivery just in time.
Boeing’s on demand video delivers significant ROI
Fred Kelly, one of the leaders of this initiative, explains: “We produce a lot of videotapes, maybe 6,000 to 7,000 videotapes and put them in the mail. As you can imagine, that’s very expensive, time-consuming, and 6,000 or 7,000 a week can get pretty cumbersome just to handle.” Streaming video has enabled the company to take the same weekly news program, put it on a server, and make it accessible to people using an interface that’s friendly and approachable. “This way we can allow people who have access to our intranet anywhere in Boeing’s system to watch whatever news program that they want to for whatever week that they want to watch. We have saved in that process an estimated $130,000 – $135,000 per month.”
As of today, according to Real’s Intranet Project Manager, Cris Banfield, Boeing estimates a cost savings for 1998 of over $8.47MM. “This number takes into account both actual cost savings and cost avoidance numbers of how they used to train and communicate with their staff by producing and distributing VHS tapes and CD-ROMs to their employees.”
Because it’s Faster
It’s clear to Jose Alvear, author of the Web Developer.com Guide to Streaming Media, that anybody already using video in some context should seriously consider using streaming media. If you’re already using regular downloadable media, whether you’re “downloading” via the snail-mail system or via the Web, streaming media should definitely be in your plans. “No one,” observes Alvear, “likes to wait to download audio or video.”
When an effective technology becomes mundane in the way streaming media has (within the context of IP-based networks), that’s nature’s way of telling us its appropriate widespread use is a categorical imperative. In any event, now is a good time to decide whether streaming media is appropriate for your company. Key players are still accessible and partnerships aren’t difficult to develop as the technology continues to evolve.
About the author:
Adnan Ashraf produces EarthWeb’s Intranet Journal, and is commited to the growth of modular hypertext. His writing has appeared in rhizome.org, The Village Voice, and various magazines.