Harmonic Inc

By: Harmonic Inc on February 4th, 2013

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MPEG-DASH Standard

You've probably heard of MPEG-DASH; it's been all over the magazines this year, and there's been a lot of buzz around it. But this is hardly the first time some new concept has appeared in a blaze of publicity - and sometimes, they vanish again just as quickly. So what's different about DASH, and why is it worth your attention?

Let's answer the second question first. Why do we need DASH?

Several major providers have launched multiscreen services already, and consumers can't get enough of them. The truth is, everything's not cool, for service providers or their customers. On the provider side, delivering all those multiscreen services is kind of a nightmare. Delivering services was fairly straightforward back when the only recipient device was a TV - TVs might have different sizes, but they were essentially the same thing.

With multiscreen devices, each one is unique with a different format, resolution and DRM. This means the provider has to encode, store and stream separately for each device, which is expensive and complicated. Meanwhile, depending on their device, the consumer might not be able to receive the service at all. And if there's one thing that's frustrating, it's DRM blocking them from using services they've paid for.

So how does DASH fix all this?

DASH is a unified standard that provides a universal delivery format and, crucially, uses common encryption to ensure compatibility with multiple DRM systems. What that means is that content can be encrypted just once, then streamed to clients that support the various DRM systems. Each client gets its own set of decryption keys and other important stuff specific to its DRM format. The commonly encrypted content can then be streamed from the same server, saving buckets of money and reducing stress-related hair loss among operators.

But, as I said earlier, we’ve been promised miracles before. That brings us to the second question: what makes DASH different? Well, unlike previous attempts that created something wholesale, DASH is based on existing technology – so you don’t have to go out and buy a whole new system, because your existing system already has the tools you need. Also unlike previous attempts, DASH isn’t just one committee or company trying to impose order.

The DASH standard is backed by a big number of serious players in the business, including Adobe, Microsoft, Qualcomm, Akamai, Cisco, Netflix and many more (including us). This is the first time the majority of the industry has banded together to get this whole multiscreen thing sorted out – and that’s why this time, it’s going to work.

– Harmonic Marketing