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Coding server side for Wowza Media Server vs Flash Media Server

I get a few questions from clients and some budding developers for FMS and WMS on coding differences and efficiency and performance and ease of use etc etc on coding server side between the two technologies. This is an interesting question I find because Wowza hasn't really been big in the game until reasonably recently, at least in my opinion. By recently I would say in the last year or so as they've been upping their game consistently and with their clients needs in mind.

As we take a look back a little bit about Flash Media Server, it started with Javascript as it's back end coding. That was a good 8 years ago. I think it was about 4 years ago when I chatted briefly with somebody from Wowza about their software and what it could do and how I thought things would go for FMS devs trying to move to Wowza. I can definitely say my thought process has changed a lot since then, but I digress. Back to FMS, it just so happens that the only thing they have done server side is add a couple more classes like the "NetStream" object and improved the engine that runs the javascript. It's been disappointing to say the least.

Wowza comes into the picture and it's running on Java. A full out programming language that is well proven in the industry, constantly growing and of course has a whole plethora of books that people can learn from. Being that Java can be used in all kinds of ways, there are tons of classes, Java code out there that can be incorporated in the applications we build today in Wowza. Granted being a live app there are certain things that are very specific to coding in such an environment, but there are a lot of utilities that can be reused. I can't say that there is the same with Javascript, at least nothing as powerful as what you can actually do with Java.

So, back to the original question that I get asked and it's something along the lines of "which is better to work with?" or "if you could choose one to go with, which would be best in the long run?".

Man.. what a loaded question. There are some real benefits to both technologies, but barring that concept (because that's a whole other post in and of itself), let's just concentrate on developing server side code. Both companies have put a lot of time into their products, I can see that. It comes down to the environment you code in. Javascript vs Java.

It's just about impossible to compare the two. Javascript is useful for some stuff but really Java is hands down a better language to code in. It is a truly object oriented language. Tons of material and resources out there, Javascript too though, and it is pretty close to Actionscript 3. Which brings up a variable in the equation of "What's your background?". So.. loaded question. Leads to more questions.

If you've got great skills with Actionscript 3 then picking up Java is not going to be tough. Sure there are quite a few objects to learn about, checking out the docs and learning to read them etc, but bottom line is that it's not a far stretch.

Good at Actionscript 2 or 1? FMS is a breeze, you're coding in the same language! But as I'm sure this kind of developer already knows, there are some serious limitations with a language that is tough to turn into object orientated. Web developer that codes in JS regularly? Shouldn't be too bad. Going from this to Java? That's a big run.

But in the end if I were to come to a conclusion of all these thoughts and rambling, I'd say it's worth it to take the plunge into the Java world. Even if you don't and you get your work done by a contractor then you can only benefit from using a more powerful language and one that there are a lot of developers out there for. Even if they don't understand some of the concepts around coding for multiplayer apps, the fact of the matter is that they can at least fix or add to what you have.

These days, there aren't as many full fledged apps that require a heck of a lot of server side coding (not that I really notice because we are constantly getting in lots of requests for high end apps), there are lots of video players, video streaming apps etc that just require hooking up to FMS or WMS and off they go. When you want the power though, there's something to be said for having that tool in your toolbox to say that you can quickly knock that out on the server side where it's nice and safe from prying eyes and secure.

Some random thoughts there, hopefully they make sense over all. Working with Wowza more and more along with still pulling in FMS jobs is an interesting mix of work. We really have been paying a lot of attention to which is better, easier, more efficient, more powerful and in which cases. I encourage those that are also in the same boat of getting started with one or the other to just give them both a try, hopefully the thoughts above will assist if you have to make a decision to go with just one though.

Posted by: Graeme Bull on Oct 18, 2010

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