Choosing the right live streaming solution is very important with many different factors to consider. Latency, scalability, usability, functionality, and, of course, price.
At Red5 Pro we’re a little biased towards which solution is the best, so in the interest of fairness and transparency we’ve compiled a list of different providers and covered their pros and cons. We didn’t come to the conclusion of which is “The Best”, but we think you know which one it is.
In no particular order, we present the leading companies that provide Ultra Low Latency Video Streaming Solutions:
A giant in the streaming video sector, Wowza has a well-established history. Over the years, they have built a trusted brand that has garnered them a large base of customers.
Wowza’s biggest strength is their ability to support a variety of ingest types. In fact, a large percentage of their customers use Wowza simply as an ingest point in their origin server. By taking in a variety of streaming protocols, the origin can then convert the streams for delivery out over a CDN. This repackaging of streams for CDN delivery is something Wowza’s software is well suited for.
Wowza also offers their SDKs as a part of their license plans.
The fact that Wowza is a large company speaks well to their ability to put out a functional product. However, this strength can also be a weakness. Responding to new industry changing developments can be a challenge. Take for example the introduction of the new Web Standard WebRTC. With Flash facing end of life support this year, Wowza has been slow to adopt WebRTC as a very functional, low latency replacement for browser-based streaming.
Accordingly, Wowza currently suffers from high latency of around 2 seconds at the very lowest. That’s pretty far from what we consider ultra low latency video streaming. When WebRTC produces latency in the milliseconds, measuring latency in seconds clearly isn’t adequate.
Also, there can be a concern with getting locked-in to their Wowza network.
Lastly, the customization of such an entrenched product can prove challenging. With a focus on creating a working platform that functions at a basic level, custom feature development or even modifications can be hard to implement or receive feedback on.
Another established player in the live streaming industry is Limelight. As a managed solution with mobile support through SDKs, Limelight’s RTS (Realtime Live Streaming) offering is an easier solution to implement. You don’t have to worry about setting up and maintaining server infrastructure. It functions well and offers consistent and reliable content delivery.
Their recent introduction of the RTS feature provides low enough latency for what we consider true low latency. This powers interactive experiences with real-time responsiveness.
The reason Limelight can achieve such low latency, is that under the covers it’s Red5 Pro. While this does give them the advantage of low latency streaming under 500 ms, there are still some limitations. Limelight has yet to enable the full feature set of Red5 Pro so that limits the full functionality. Limelight doesn’t allow its customers to deploy their own server side apps, and you are essentially limited by what they choose to expose.
Also, Limelight does not have transparent pricing on their website, but we have heard reports from the live streaming community that they are expensive.
Finally, Limelight is a CDN which means the reliable data delivery depends upon a fixed series of data centers. As the tech industry moves towards a more flexible cloud based system, this could pose a bigger problem in the future. For a more detailed examination of CDNs, please take a look at this blog post.
Adding to a list of well functioning products, TokBox can be setup quickly and is relatively easy to run. Their environment, including their extensive SDKs are well structured which means it works well and you can plug and play fairly easily. This makes it ideal for establishing POCs whether meeting a deadline or as part of a hackathon. TokBox also excels at simple, point to point communication.
However, this simplicity comes at a cost both financial and functional.
ToxBox charges per stream per minute, so scaling gets prohibitively expensive. In other words you will pay for each individual subscriber and broadcaster. For example, let’s say each day you have 3 broadcasts lasting 30 minutes with 100 subscribers each.
- 100 subscribers x 30 minutes x 3 broadcasts is 9,000 streaming minutes a day.
- 5 days a week for 4 weeks is a total of 180,000 streaming minutes a month.
- First 2,000 minutes is $9.99 meaning 178,000 additional minutes will be charged at 0.0045 per minute.
- Grand Total = $810.99 per month
There is also an additional charge for advanced features such as “Recording” and “Interactive Broadcast”. Their Interactive Broadcast feature doesn’t specifically mention the expected latency. Plus, anything beyond 2,000 connections will switch over to CDN delivery. This means that not only will it cost you more but you will have higher latency as well.
Additionally, the simpler install means less customization so if you are looking to add features or expand functionality, you may be forced to wait for TokBox to do it themselves rather than build your own modifications.
ANT Media boasts basic functionality and cheaper pricing. In fact, their non hosted solution is $49 per server instance. They also offer a hosted solution, which can be more convenient for teams lacking the time and expertise to maintain servers. With WebRTC support, their website lists expected latency at about 500 milliseconds. Despite these strengths, there are some glaring weaknesses.
Firstly, their Large Enterprise Instance hosted package limits you to 8 concurrent broadcasters and 400 HLS subscribers. Even worse is their WebRTC subscriber count at only 300 clients. They do offer a Custom Scalable Cloud with a quote “flexible” number of publishers and viewers.
ANT Media can suffer in regards to customer support. As a company based in Turkey, they often rely on employees whose primary language is not English. This could create some communication problems when going through technical support.
Like Red5 Pro, ANT Media is built on top of our open source Red5. However there is a major difference in that our team at Red5 Pro is responsible for the open source Red5 code. As such, when Red5 Pro is adding new features and streaming optimizations, they are simultaneously updating the open source as well. This ensures that both systems are in parity with each other and mesh together seamlessly in order to minimize any conflicts or regression bugs.
Without any direct contributions to Red5, ANT Media cannot ensure consistent functionality. Furthermore, they cannot innovate new features thus resorting to copying Red5 Pro. This lack of originality and progressive development results in slow product updates and/or features at best and outright dysfunction at worst. As they say, you get what you pay for.
DACast is another convenient hosted solution. They have an HTML5 player which supports browsers and mobile devices. VOD is also another use case that they support with ad-insertion capability.
Their HTML5 player supports both browsers and mobile devices, but they lack a native SDK for mobile specific development.
Though they appear to have moderate pricing, the variety of pricing plans makes that a little unclear. Also, you will have to do some of your own math as they only list the per month breakdown of their plans.
DACast is built with CMAF which will produce high latency due to how it requires small chunk sizes. In fact, their website states a latency of 10 seconds (although realistically CMAF should be able to get down to 3 seconds or so). Again, any solution that measures in seconds falls far short of ultra low latency video streaming. For more details on how CMAF solutions work, please take a look at this blog post.
Led by the outspoken Dr. Alex, Millicast is another hosted solution based on WebRTC. That means you can get solid streaming performance with a latency of 200-500 milliseconds and the convenience of pre-packaged hosting.
However, that convenience comes at a cost. When you build an application completely on top of third-party architecture you can fall victim to a service trap since you are effectively bound to that service. Nor do they allow you to implement your own server-side logic including custom authentication, the ability to transcode the streams, push off to other processes and more. This lack of flexibility can hinder customization options and confine your product. A hosting agnostic solution, such as Red5 Pro, avoids this issue.
Furthermore, Millicast is expensive. Their hosting packages come with a limited amount of data with a surcharge if you go over.
For example, their “Pro” plan is listed as $2495 per month with 40,000GB of data included. That’s a good amount of data and considering that it’s hosted and mobile SDKs are included maybe that’s a fair deal.
Now let’s compare that to Red5 Pro. The equivalent Growth Pro plan and mobile SDKs with DigitalOcean hosting would cost $1,238 per month. That doesn’t even include the savings with an annual plan and Red5 Pro is still half of the cost of Millicast.
From what we’ve heard, Phenix is a reliable and functioning solution that offers live streaming with a fast time to first frame. However, since they don’t provide live demos, expose example code or offer free trials, we don’t know too much about them. Though we have heard they are expensive, you will have to contact them to find out how much so as it is not listed on the website.
Kurento is a solid choice for live WebRTC based streaming. As it is open source it will beat all the other options here for price. However, that also means that it is entirely up to you to implement a functioning solution, but it will definitely serve as a good backbone if you know how to use it.
There are other great open source WebRTC options out there as well like Jitsi, Janus, and Media Soup. Kurento is the most well known and widely used of the many WebRTC based media servers.
Of course, we can’t compile a list of ultra low latency video streaming solutions without including ourselves. It’s only fair.
We’ve already covered our pricing, but there are other things we do well too. Like others in this list, our WebRTC based platform supports sub 500 milliseconds of latency. Where we stand out is that we can extend that real-time latency to millions of concurrent connections. We leverage cloud providers in a hosting agnostic way that doesn’t lock you in and gives you tremendous flexibility over the environment. We also have full featured SDKs for Android, iOS and soon Linux. Our responsive technical support has certainly been a key factor to our success as well.
As a highly customizable solution, there may be some additional configurations to get everything working as needed, but we’ve been told that our documentation is pretty useful for addressing that. Currently, we don’t provide a hosted solution, but that’s something coming down the line so keep an eye out for a future announcement about that.
To explore everything we can do check-out our ultra low latency video streaming demo and sign-up for a 30 day free trial.