StreamGuys, a content delivery network and streaming media provider, has introduced SGmetadata, a SaaS-based metadata delivery system that reduces the informational workload associated with connecting and updating listeners to streaming media. SGmetadata’s ability to reduce the server/client workload is directly tied to its use of push-based metadata. Unlike the older ‘short polling’ version of metadata transfers between streaming providers and users, StreamGuys’ push-based metadata system sends the full layer of the provider’s HTTP protocol – including headers and extras – to the user just once when the streaming session starts. Any new metadata is then only sent as required. Fewer transactions means less server time and bandwidth consumed, which results in lower per-user costs.
“Both push-based and short polling metadata work over a persistent connection between the content provider and the user,” said Andy Jones, director of sales engineering, StreamGuys. “The difference is in what happens after the connection is established. Taking advantage of recently-released web socket technology, which supports persistent open channels between servers and web browsers without the need to constantly poll servers for replies, SGmetadata can push and pull data between the two ends only as needed. In short polling, the servers have to be polled (contacted) by connected web browsers and then reply every few seconds; even if nothing has actually changed.”
Any company that serves streaming media on the web is faced with the dual cost of maintaining servers – even virtual servers in the cloud – and consuming bandwidth per connection. Any innovation that allows this dual usage to be reduced without compromising the quality of the portal’s streaming service is good for the bottom line. By slashing the number of two-way interactions per streaming session, SGmetadata achieves both goals.
“Reducing the number of metadata interactions between the content provider and its users actually improves the listener experience,” added Jones. “This is because fewer two-way transactions means lower data latency. This translates into fewer delays and dropouts at the receiving end.”
StreamGuys’ SGmetadata system can serve out metadata to the company’s SGplayer, which supports multimedia playout via HMTL5 or Flash; or to any other streaming platform and browser using web socket software like Socket.io. SGmetadata is backwards-compatible with older browsers and streaming players, allowing streaming providers to upgrade to this solution today without requiring listeners to upgrade their browsers. It also simplifies connectivity with third-party service providers like TuneIn – a benefit that early SGmetadata adopter RFC Media finds value in.
“RFC Media supplies custom-produced webcast streams for brands and events, and we are known for the full-format services we provide to top-tier streaming radio platforms who demand seamless integration for their listeners served online as well as mobile,” said John Whiteside, technical director for RFC Media. “SGmetadata allows us to deliver song information from our live streams to our TuneIn players in real time, with very low bandwidth usage and low latency. That especially makes it a perfect data support solution for music listeners streaming on the go.”
One additional benefit of SGmetadata is that it can be integrated with StreamGuys’ SGalerts software – another highly valuable service according to Whiteside. This combination allows streaming providers like RFC Media to be automatically informed when their metadata streams are not changing in sync with their automation-controlled schedules, or have stopped functioning all together.
“In a world where streaming media portals pay to serve content to each user, it is vital to reduce that per-user cost while keeping service levels even higher than before,” concluded Jones. “SGmetadata is designed to do precisely that for streaming content providers, all while keeping their users happy and coming back for more.”