Hive WebRTC, Hive Agents, or Both?
The Hive Streaming service can be tested and deployed by enterprises as installed agents (Hive Agents) and/or as Hive WebRTC streaming software. This blog answers the often-asked question about what the differences and similarities are between the two services.
Similarities between Hive Agents and Hive WebRTC
Hive Agents and Hive WebRTC solve the same challenge in much the same manner in that they both utilize peering technology to significantly reduce network bandwidth congestion. Fundamentally, both allow everyone in a network segment to view the same video stream, rather than every viewer pulling their own unicast stream. Hive Agents achieve this via our agents/software that are installed in the video players supported by the video/webcasting platform our customers use (see supported partner platforms here). Hive WebRTC utilizes the WebRTC protocol already installed in compliant browsers to enable peering and efficient distribution – this page has more information on Hive WebRTC and supported browsers.
Hive Agents and Hive WebRTC are also similar in that both can:
- Offload up to 99% of video traffic from your local network access points. Savings will primarily depend on the number of viewers in each location utilizing the Hive service.
- Support similar levels of simultaneous viewers.
- Support bitrates up to 3.5 Mbit/s.
Hive Agent and Hive WebRTC deployments are supported by the same customer support team and priced in a similar fashion. Analytics for both services are aggregated and presented in our industry leading Hive Insights service. Hive Agents and Hive WebRTC can be deployed in the same enterprise simultaneously. Hive Insights will aggregate analytics, but Hive Agents and Hive WebRTC devices will not peer with each other, i.e. Hive Agents will only peer with other Hive Agents and the same for Hive WebRTC.
Differences Between Hive WebRTC and Hive Agents
The obvious difference is that Hive WebRTC does not require that agents be installed on each users’ device/s. Pushing software to users’ devices can be a challenge for some enterprises. With Hive WebRTC there’s no need to install software on end devices, the service is activated centrally within the administrative controls of your chosen video platform. There’s also less maintenance with Hive WebRTC due to there being no broad deployment of software. Another advantage that Hive WebRTC has is that it can extent efficient video distribution to devices that aren’t managed centrally and some mobile and VDI devices on which you can’t install software.
So why bother with Hive Agents? One of the major hurdles to overcome in most enterprises is that not all browsers and operating systems support WebRTC. WebRTC is supported in recent versions of Google Chrome running Windows, OSX and Android, but not IOS – the same applies to Firefox. Hive WebRTC is not currently supported by Safari. The good news is that support for WebRTC is increasing. Microsoft has announced that their Edge browser will support WebRTC soon updates in this Github thread) and the Microsoft Teams app supports WebRTC communications.
There are some other advantages that Hive Agents have over Hive WebRTC, and a significant one is that it’s not currently possible to Silent Test with Hive WebRTC. With Hive Agents we can simulate a live video event without the participation of the end user. The other disadvantage of Hive WebRTC is that there’s limited support for video on-demand (VOD) as there’s no means to cache content on the end users’ devices. Hive WebRTC can only help with VOD if there’s a high degree of simultaneous viewing of an on-demand video asset.
Installed Hive Agents also give our customers more control in configuring VPNs and in implementing site specific configurations. For example, there may be a reason why you don’t want peering to occur between different office locations. Hive Agents can be configured to meet this requirement whereas Hive WebRTC doesn’t enable these custom configurations. Hive Agents also gives you the ability to lower the priority of the video traffic whereas this is not currently possible with Hive WebRTC. Also, Hive Insights reporting, in an environment running Hive WebRTC, will not include data on the end users’ physical device, but all other quality of service data is available.
Hive WebRTC is still missing some features that enterprises find very valuable. As WebRTC browser support continues to grow and our development team continues to close the Hive WebRTC feature gap, Hive WebRTC will become a more attractive option for many. In the meantime, we encourage our customers to get up and running quickly with Hive WebRTC and then augment with installed Hive Agents for improved reach and savings – we recommend that both Hive WebRTC and Hive Agents be deployed in most environments.
Thanks for taking the time to read this post and please don’t hesitate to reach out if you still have questions to email@example.com or message me on twitter.