Microsoft's Azure-based video streaming service goes live

Enterprises can distribute video content to any device without building their own infrastructure for encoding and streaming

Microsoft continues to expand its cloud offerings with the general availability of Windows Azure Media Services, which lets enterprises skip building their own infrastructure for streaming on-demand video.

The service, released Tuesday, can be used to deliver training videos to employees; stream video content from a website; or build video-on-demand service similar to Hulu or Netflix, Microsoft's Scott Guthrie said in a blog post.

Like many cloud-based platform-as-a-service offerings, Windows Azure Media Services aims to make it easier, in this case, to roll out video streaming services.

Building a media distribution platform that encodes and streams video to various devices and clients is a complex task, which requires hardware and software that has to be connected, configured, and maintained, according to Guthrie. Windows Azure Media Services makes it easier by eliminating the need to provision and manage a custom infrastructure, he said.

With Windows Azure Media Services, enterprises can stream video to laptops, tablets, smartphones, game consoles and TVs based on, for example, Windows, iOS and Android. Developers can build workflows for automatically uploading, encoding and delivering video using REST APIs or .Net and Java SDKs, which can be downloaded from the Azure developer website. At that website, developers can also find documentation to help them get started.

A version that allows for live streaming is currently available in a private preview, and a public preview will be coming next, according to Guthrie.

To encoding Windows Azure Media Services, users pay a flat rate, which starts at US$1.99 per gigabyte and is then discounted for larger volumes. For streaming, users pay for storage and bandwidth when streaming low to moderate traffic volume, and can then add more origin servers to handle a larger number of users.

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