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Amazon CDN Grows Up, Adds Flash Streaming

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AWSWhen Amazon (s AMZN) introduced its CloudFront CDN last year, one of the biggest knocks against the service was that it wasn’t primed for the delivery of video. That changed today, with the addition of video streaming capabilities in the form of Adobe’s (s ADBE) Flash Media Server (FMS) 3.5.

While previously Amazon customers could theoretically use CloudFront to deliver video via progressive download, the addition of FMS 3.5 will enable streaming through Adobe’s proprietary RTMP streaming protocol. The ability to stream comes at no additional cost; customers can use the functionality at the same rates that Amazon had been charging for HTTP delivery, which start at 17 cents a GB and go as low as 5 cents a GB.

Since FMS 3.5 supports adaptive bitrate streaming, customers will now be able to encode their videos at multiple bit rates. The streaming server then adjusts the output to match the available bandwidth of the end user’s connection. Adding FMS 3.5 could also help Amazon’s customers better protect their video content, with copy protection and encryption enabled through Adobe’s (s adbe) RTMPT, RTMPE and RTMPTE protocols.

Since video streaming isn’t exactly child’s play, Amazon also announced that it’s been working with a number of third-party developers to make it easier for customers — mostly small- and medium-sized businesses, not the big media companies sought after by the other CDNs — to manage, encode and preview video distributions. Named third-party developers include BitsOnTheRun, Boto, Bucket Explorer, CloudBuddy, CloudBerry Explorer, and JetS3t.

Adding streaming could give a boost to Amazon’s CDN service, as some smaller customers get comfortable with using video as part of their marketing plans. The ability to stream could also add a bit of a revenue to Amazon’s Web Services, as it will be delivering more large video files via CloudFront. Customers will also be storing more and larger files in their Amazon S3 storage accounts, particularly if they decide to take advantage of the multi-bitrate streaming capabilities, which require multiple instances of the same video file.

Flash streaming will most likely make Amazon CloudFront more attractive to smaller customers that have been looking into video delivery, but the company’s self-service model — and the fact that the service is still technically in beta — isn’t likely to inspire a wholesale exodus from larger, more established CDNs like Akamai (s AKAM) and Limelight (s LLNW). But it could provide an alternative to some of the smaller CDN companies that have positioned themselves as friendly to SMBs.