Project Starlight: Multicast Plug-in for Silverlight

It’s Streaming Media East this week. Alas, I’m racing towards a book deadline, and so am skipping the show for the first time in years. I miss it; it’s long been one my favorite shows of the year, and an extremely productive place to meet with customers, partners, as well as a family reunion for us grizzled veterans of digital media.

But a bunch of the rest of the Silverlight media team are there. They’re demoing our big news, but I can at least write about it.

And that news is the Qumu Multicast Plug-in for Silverlight and  Project Starlight, which bring Windows Media multicast support to Silverlight.

What is it?

The Multicast Plug-in for Silverlight is a set of native code browser plugins (ActiveX or NSAPI) developed by Qumu that enable Silverlight to access multicast streams from Windows Media Services. Versions are available for all supported Silverlight browsers on both Mac and Windows.

Why?

Windows Media has long been the leading media platform in the enterprise, and a big part of that has been our support for multicast. Multicast is basically required to do big live corporate events on a LAN/WAN given their network topology. Proxy caching from Smooth Streaming is great for scaling up consumer content delivery, but Enterprises generally don’t have proxy caches inside the WAN. So, to date Silverlight wasn’t a good fit for corporate events.

But Silverlight itself has been very compelling for the enterprise, and they’ve been itching to take the rich presentations they’ve been able to do for on demand and use them for live. And Silverlight can do some great stuff there:

  • Multi-camera views for multi-location events
  • Synchronized slides and other multimedia assets
  • Integrated chat, voting, and other feedback to break out of one-way only communication
  • More robust cross-platform embedding for the Mac users in graphics or video departments

Both Microsoft and Qumu have had many, many requests from our corporate, education, and government customers for multicast in Silverlight, and thus the best of both worlds. Qumu developed Starlight with support from Microsoft.

What modifications are needed to support this?

There’s no changes on the server or networking side required – that was a core goal of the project.

The Plug-in is accessed via MediaStreamSource, and so will need some code added there. It’s the same API for all platform/browsers, and the necessary source code is provided as part of Starlight.

The biggest task is to get the components installed on all the machines. It is supported by the standard enterprise deployment tools like WSUS.

How does Starlight get deployed?

It’s a native code browser component, and so will require administrator access to install. This is the biggest work item in most cases. Since multicast is of most interest inside enterprises and other large LAN/WAN configurations, the majority of the machines that would run it are managed desktops. Thus the IT departments for the organization will need add it to their standard build.

What does Starlight cost? What’s the license?

The Starlight binaries are free downloads. Source code is also available under a license compatible with MS-PL, which allows very broad modification and then redistribution of those modifications.

I’m looking forward to see what other partners can do by extending Starlight to enable new content types and scenarios.

When and where can I get it?

The binaries and source code should be available for download at Codeplex in the next few days.

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