LiveSide: our head in the (Azure) clouds

Well so far so good in our “hosting video on Azure” experiment.  We followed David Sayed’s tutorial and with only a few bumps along the way we now have a couple of videos in the cloud.  Our interview videos are self-hosted now, but we’d really like to get them offloaded, and so far it’s looking pretty good that we’ll be able to do that. (By the way pretty funny that some Azure ads just started showing up on our site.  We knew nothing about it, really!)

First up is an interview we did with Mike Torres from Windows Live Movie Maker, back in late August of last year.  If you remember, we had some serious audio sync issues (that were caused by YouTube’s audio codecs, not by WLMM or us) that caused us a lot of headaches.  Anyway just as a trial run here’s that same video, hosted on Azure:

(hmm we tried to set a thumbnail in Expression 3, still working on that)
(edit: setting the autoload to false corrected the thumbnail issue, it was loading the first frame over the thumbnail :) )

Azure offers storage space (and sql services, and appfabric) in the cloud, but one problem with hosted video is that with our worldwide audience, the further you are away from the source, the worse the experience will be.  Azure is experimenting with a CDN (content delivery network) to solve that problem by mirroring content at strategic points around the world.  Once the content is propagated around the world, the CDN can deliver a much better experience worldwide.  Here’s a video we did with Brian Hall, GM for Windows Live Business, at the launch of Windows Live Wave 3, running on the Azure CDN:

We’d be interested to hear how the experience with the two videos differs for you, especially if you’re far away from the US.

By the way, although we followed David Sayed’s tutorial pretty closely, we do have a few observations.  First, naming “containers” will throw errors when publishing from Expression Encoder if you don’t do it right, and you have to do some digging to find out what you can, and can’t do.  This is from MSDN:

Container Names

The container name must be a valid DNS name, conforming to the following naming rules:

  1. Container names must start with a letter or number, and can contain only letters, numbers, and the dash (-) character.
  2. Every dash (-) character must be immediately preceded and followed by a letter or number.
  3. All letters in a container name must be lowercase.
  4. Container names must be from 3 through 63 characters long.

We also were able to amend a copy of a Silverlight player to get around some of the configuration issues that David mentions regarding Firefox/Safari, and to stop the videos from autoplaying when you hit the page.  We’re still experimenting with that, and we’ll write it up once we get a better handle on it.