Starlight delivers software to improve data streaming

Starlight Networks Inc. last week introduced a new product designed to improve the performance of multimedia applications by simplifying the process of streaming over the Internet audio, video and other types of information.

Streaming involves sending multiple types of data, such as audio, video, slides and interactive text, at one time in a steady stream, instead of in a massive download, which makes multimedia communication more real time and interactive.

Starlight developed the StarCenter streaming applications manager to simplify the storage, delivery and access of streaming media applications, which will help move streaming technology from the realm of early adopters to the mainstream, according to the company.

Streaming is a powerful communications and training tool, said John Downey, deputy director of information management in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Technology. The new software should help to manage the large number of video files his office uses to put together applications, Downey said. "Nothing else on the market does that."

"We want a product that's smart enough to know what person needs what version" of a video file, depending on the client machine's connection speed, he said. "We want to make administration simpler" and access as easy as asking for an official's "last video event."

Slated for general release this summer, StarCenter resides on an organization's World Wide Web server and mediates between client applications and the media server. StarCenter will work with other streaming media engines, including Microsoft Corp.'s NetShow and RealNetworks' RealVideo and RealAudio, as well as Starlight's own StarWorks and StarCast products.

StarCenter promises key management features, including brokering of client application requests to the media server, media search and retrieval, usage log information, and client playback monitoring said Paul Slakey, Starlight's director of product marketing in Mountain View, Calif.

The software can also select the appropriate content version to suit a client workstation's capabilities and provide automatic replication and archiving. Automated replication and archiving means users can move video files between servers— a useful feature with distributed server applications, Slakey said.

Content can also be kept fresh by allowing users to define expiration dates by which files must be moved offline. StarCenter also prevents "link rot," which occurs when managers move an application to a different location without indicating the new path to it, he said.

The Defense Department recently used the software for a multimedia streaming broadcast, which involved as many as 1,200 users during Acquisition Reform Week. Participants at their desktops received live or pre-recorded video, audio, slides and text chat areas on their computer screens. Downey's office also helped to put together a "satellite event" related to acquisition reform, in which as many as 199 simultaneous users participated online.

In the acquisition area, streaming also will allow the formation of "virtual integrated product teams," whose members can discuss business process re-engineering issues from their desktops, he said.

The streaming market today is worth more than $200 million, counting all tools and solutions, said Greg Tapper, an analyst with Giga Information Group, Santa Clara, Calif.

StarCenter will help drive the market, allowing users more control over streaming applications and encouraging further adoption. Streaming is an infant market, he said; most products only came out last year. Starlight estimates it owns about 80 percent of the enterprise, intranet streaming market, which the company pegs at around $20 million last year.

The product also helps to close the gulf between information technology departments and applications managers, which has been obstacle to deployments, said Christine Perey, president of Perey Research and Consulting in Placerville, Calif. While management of content, policy and bandwidth consumption is centralized with IT, access is disbursed.

StarCenter will have a list price of about $25,000.

-- Adams is a free-lance writer based in Alexandria, Va. She can be reached at cbadams@erols.com.

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