Kaltura Community Edition

TL;DR version: Don’t waste your time. Kaltura server is prone to problems and the player simply doesn’t work reliably on a number of platforms.

Kaltura Open Source Video DeveloperVideo has become an important part of many websites, and for some YouTube simply does not cut it any more. Not using YouTube for video though can be expensive, in fact it can cost several thousand dollars a month for some sites to host, serve and encode their video for their reader and watchers. Because of the cost of the service, that I will not name, we took a hard look at testing out the Kaltura Community Edition to see if it would meet our needs and potentially save us thousands of dollars in cost per month.

We choose to install Kaltura on a DigitalOcean droplet and using the guide on Github for a single server install using Ubuntu had the server up and running. The first time round it was pretty easy to get the server running without using SSL, and in fact we were able to do a lot on the install including uploading, encoding, serving video etc. All seemed pretty positive, but then we tried to to do a mass upload of a few files and discovered pretty quickly our test droplet simply did not have the power to handle what we were trying to do.

One of the reasons why we choose DigitalOcean to test Kaltura was because it is easy to resize our test machine. A simple resize of our droplet had the Kaltura server up and running again with more ram and processor power to handle a test bulk upload. We were still testing without SSL but were hopeful that adding in SSL would not be to cumbersome. The FAQ here makes it sound like reconfiguring Kaltura is a simple matter of running, in our case the Debian commands,

# dpkg-reconfigure kaltura-base
# dpkg-reconfigure kaltura-front
# dpkg-reconfigure kaltura-batch

and adding the values to change ports and SSL certificates. In theory this should have been simple and easy, in reality it caused multiple headaches and searches on the Kaltura support boards and on the GitHub Issues section.

The problem often seemed to be related to the zzzkaltura.ssl.conf file not properly having the Apache variables replaced. After some searches we tried to edit the template file for zzzkaltura.ssl.conf located at /opt/kaltura/app/configurations/apache/kaltura.ssl.conf.template without the Apache variables but with our inputs and hoped that our problems would be fixed. No such luck. We still were not able to load Kaltura with SSL, in fact we were only able to get the default Apache SSL configuration.

At this point we tried to disable the default Apache SSL site configuration, much like we had to disable the default Apache website to get the non-SSL version of Kaltura to work. No such luck, we were then not able to load anything from the server and only got 404 errors. At that point we decided to re enable the default SSL site and move all of the settings from zzzkaltura.ssl.conf into the default SSL configuration and we restarted Apache. Much to our surprise the Kaltura Community Edition server worked. Once we got this working doing a few searches on the support forum and issues board found no mention of such a problem. I mention it here in the hopes that if you are having problems getting Kaltura running over SSL that it might help you.

Things were looking up once we got the server running with SSL we thought we might get lucky and actually be able to use the community edition for hosting, encoding and serving our video. Encoding seemed to work well, we had some small hiccups with the players but since we wanted to use a pre roll HTML5 player those small hiccups with the flash players did not seem to bother us. Unfortunately the next hiccup was a deal breaker, and if you are still reading because you are trying to still get Kaltura running I would recommend you stop trying to get the server running and save yourself time and energy. The short version is the HTML5 player in Kaltura does not work with Safari and in our tests that included both Mac OS and several versions of iOS.

We tried several things to get video to play using the HTML5 player in Safari from Kaltura, including some of the fixes listed on this post in the support forum but came up empty. At this point we decided that we had spent enough time trying to get Kaltura Community Edition to work properly and moved on to looking for a new provider to host, encode and play our videos.

I prefer to work with open source projects whenever possible but in this case the problems with the player and issues with setup added to the overall frustration with Kaltura. The project seems to be aimed more at driving people to use their commercial service, which by the time we were done testing Kaltura Community Edition, we wanted nothing to do with. What would be nice to see is the ability to use the Kaltura server for managing and encoding videos, since this part of our testing did seem to work well, but have the ability to use other HTML5 players, like Video.js, in place of the Kaltura HTML5 player.

I have had a couple people email me asking what we ended up using. In the end we landed at StreamShark. While the interface at StreamShark needs some work we have been quite happy with their service and have saved quite a bit of money since moving there. Even built a WordPress plugin to manage our videos with their API.

4 thoughts on “Kaltura Community Edition”

  1. Hello,

    I am sorry to hear you had some issues with our CE and would love to further discuss the technical details and help you solve them. We rely heavily on community contributions and feedback to improve our product and would be very interested in getting yours.

    Our HTML5 player does work with all latest iOS versions so we would be interested in further investigating it with you. I can also assure you whatever the issue is, we can solve it.

    You are more than welcome to post on forum.kaltura.org or open an issue on Github or else contact us directly by mail at [email protected]

    I Look forward to hearing from you,

    1. Jess
      Thanks for dropping by, unfortunately we were on a bit of a time crunch and when we found Kaltura CE could not meet our needs we had to find another provider fairly quickly. Not the ideal way to test software I know but that was the way it was. The truth is though I left a lot out of what I wrote to make the post shorter. The longer story included trying both the Debian and RedHat versions, running into multiple install problems on both systems, having multiple issues that needed fixing post install, and then once we started testing the player on mobile devices felt we simply could not continue with Kaltura CE since a large portion of our viewers use mobile. While it might be true that your player does work on iOS, we were unable to make it work reliably on iOS with pre-roll. Often pre-roll would play but only the audio and no video.

      While your VP might feel I was bashing in this post I was actually not trying to bash but simply trying to report my experience of the community edition. While I think Kaltura CE has potential it is not for the average small business person to sit down and try running. For many small businesses that might be considering using Kaltura, if they don’t have a larger IT team, might have many headaches ahead of them. I could see us trying Kalture again in the future, but probably not until we have the time to actually create our own player to place in front so we are not dependent on others players.

  2. Hello,

    I do not wish to fight, my goal is to make Kaltura CE [and other Kaltura FOSS projects] the best they can be.
    That said, in my book “Don’t waste your time. The server is prone to problems and the player simply doesn’t work reliably on a number of platforms.” can certainly be considered as bashing. You can look up my FOSS history and see I am an active participant of many FOSS projects, both as part of my job at Kaltura and otherwise, so I think I’m in a rather good position to say so.

    I can tell you many of our community users successfully deploy CE, on both RH and Debian based systems and are happily playing videos from iOS devices as well.

    If you truly wish to improve FOSS projects, the way to do so is not by posting it is not worth the time but by reporting the issues. If you had done so, I can assure you I would have helped you solve them and the project would have improved as a result of that as well.

    If you don’t want to spend time reporting the issues, I certainly cannot force you, but in such a case, I’d appreciate you refraining from providing subjective criticism without providing the technical details of your case.

    If you’re interested in resolving this, feel free to reach out,

    1. But you do want to fight, otherwise you would simply say “Sorry you had a bad experience and hope you will consider us again in the future.” At which point this whole thing would have already been resolved and we all would have walked away from this and moved on in our day to day jobs.

      I am not questioning your experience or your ability to do your job. I am simply stating that for us Kaltura was a waste of time and was not reliable. There is nothing to resolve because we had to find a system that was reliable and worked. In this case the back and forth it would have required to get the system to the point of being production ready was longer than we had and for many small businesses that might easily be the case. If I had 3-6 months time to resolve the issues we would have considered keeping Kaltura, but the amount of time available was short.

      That being said I am now closing the comments here since there is nothing more to be said or needs to be said. If you are trying Kaltura I hope your experience of the software is better than mine.

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