Putting the Cloud to Use for Video Encoding

In a world with millions of different mobile devices, televisions, screen sizes and video formats, something has to give. But instead of giving in, device proliferation combined with content producers’ desire to deliver clean video is giving rise to a new market for hosted video encoding, sometimes called transcoding. The goal is simple: provide the right format to the right screen at the right time without requiring content producers to invest in infrastructure. Done right, content producers should be able to dial up a video encoding service in the cloud.

The cloud provides an ideal infrastructure to handle this task. Transcoding is CPU-intensive, but CPUs can be provisioned and de-provisioned quickly with cloud providers, and end customers can be charged by the minute as opposed to investing in their own hardware. Of course, bandwidth can still be an issue at times. Large video files are not always easy to ship around on the Internet, but that also makes the case that they should be shipped once to a hosted encoding provider, with various formats created and downloaded from there.

Most of the video encoding sites operate using a simple model: you set an area for the service to source your video content, assign a site of rules and policies for how that video should be transcoded, and then assign some output rules for where the video files should be delivered.

It’s not hard to envision the next step in this sequence where hosted encoding is paired with content delivery networks (CDNs) to provide a one-stop shop delivering multiple video formats and sizes, all with the global reach a CDN can deliver.

It’s become clear with the rise of YouTube (s goog) and the dollars spent by mobile carriers promoting video capabilities that the age of “video anytime, anywhere” is well upon us. As Robin Harris of StorageMojo writes in A Cloud App for the Masses, “Business units are discovering the power of short videos to inform, train, persuade and excite. All at a fraction of the cost of 4-color brochures.”

As conventional content moves to the web, and newer web-based content continues to grow, expect to see multiple winners in the race to transcode in the cloud. We might not be able to pick the winners yet, but there is no doubt that the cloud has found another perfect use case in hosted encoding.

For those who want to investigate further, here’s a list of leading hosted encoding providers:

  • Encoding.com – The self-proclaimed “world’s largest encoding service” runs on both Amazon and Rackspace clouds.
  • Zencoder – Runs on the Amazon (s amzn) cloud and recently expanded its presence in Asia and Europe to serve a global audience.
  • FlixCloud – Uses software from Zencoder and On2 technologies. On2 was recently purchased by Google.
  • Hey!Watch – Boasts several impressive customer references. There are few details about the company on their website.
  • HD Cloud – Has all the standard transcoding capabilities on demand and recently announced a partnership with BitGravity, a video deliver network.
  • Panvidea – Released a new version of its video processing engine in July and boasts a wide range of value added capabilities around transcoding.