I work with Flash Media Server since the very first release (2003) and in the last 8 years I have designed several streaming infrastructures, developed interactive programs, optimizations, services and provided consultancy for companies that wanted to leverage the flexibility and the power of Flash streaming.
In the late 2008 I was contacted as a FMS and streaming expert by Adobe Italy to help Finelco Group replacing Windows Media with Flash technologies for audio streaming.
Finelco Group controls the largest private radio network in Italy with 3 FM national radio stations (Radio 105, RMC, Virgin Radio Italy – over 8 Million daily listeners) and recently a Digital Terrestrial TV channel (Virgin Radio TV).
The decision to migrate from Windows Media to Flash streaming was motivated by the desire of innovate the offer of streaming services. Windows Media, Real Audio, Shoutcast are system that can offer only a fraction of the flexibility of the Flash Streaming Platform while they needed the maximum flexibility to create new services and offer more interaction.
Designing a private infrastructure
Since the beginning they were convinced to set up their own infrastructure for streaming instead that leveraging CDN. I think this has been a key factor for the success of the initiative, because the audience of the streaming services (radio re-broadcasting, webradio, 24h live video and vod) is almost exclusively in Italy and with a bandwidth requirement which has not much spikes a custom infrastructure can offer the best value for money.
I have had the opportunity to work with a team of excellent professionals like Carmine Montella, Marcello De Palo, Francesco Bruni and Salvatore Sciacco, to name a few. Salvatore has been really precious. He is an excellent system administrator and now extremely expert in FMS tuning especially on Linux.
During this multi-step project we have had the necessity to push FMS to its limit thanks to the high popularity of the services that have been implemented and almost all the sub-systems of the streaming platform have been implemented using Adobe technologies:
1. Adobe Flash Media Streaming Servers for A/V live and vod streaming.
2. Flash Media Interactive Servers with custom server side scripts for stream replication and fail over.
3. Metadata distribution using dedicated data channels in RTMP.
4. System integration with Flash Projectors or AIR to integrate RTMP messaging to legacy systems.
5. Live encoding for audio and video using FMLE.
6. Dynamic webradio using server side playlists.
More recently we have added Wowza Servers to integrate support for iOS mobile devices (using live HTTP) and generic mobile applications (using RTP).
You can find some details about the FMS infrastructure in this old blog post.
The project involved also the development of client side players for audio and video streaming, the use of dynamic streaming, advanced Flash features like smart buffering, client side playlist for pseudo-live streaming and much more.
A really successful story
I helped them to design, deploy and tune one of the largest, privately held infrastructure for audio and video streaming in Italy. Now, using this platform, Finelco is offering the re-broadcasting of the 3 national radio channels plus over 30 webradio channels, 5 web TVs dedicated to music clips and the re-broadcasting of the national DTV channel. Add a complete series of VOD, special live events and interactive services and you have a picture of the system.
The infrastructure has up to 8 Gbit/s of bandwidth available. Usually there are 30/40.000 concurrent users that consume over 10 Million hours of audio streaming monthly.
To make a comparison BBC iPlayer delivers 17 Million hours of audio streaming.
Concluding, I think this is definitely a new little-big Flash based success story.