The shift in perspective on the role of private CDNs has prompted one of the leading platform suppliers, Stockholm-based Edgeware, to strengthen quality assurance (QA) on video streams by pairing monitoring and metrics-generating capabilities built into its Distributed Video Delivery Network with the Insight for CDNs analytics system supplied by Oakland, CA.-based Skytide. The joint solution enables operators “to dramatically reduce the complexity, cost and turnaround times associated with QoE reporting and analytics in an adaptive streaming environment,” says Skytide CEO Michael O’Donnell.
Such capabilities are critical to offering the SLAs (service level agreements) intrinsic to operating a wholesale CDN business, says Edgeware CEO Joachim Roos. “Cable operators see an opportunity to make money from the OTT market by providing wholesale services in their territories, but they have to be able to demonstrate they’re satisfying the quality requirements set by content owners,” Roos says.
To the surprise of Roos and his colleagues a growing number of operators are purchasing Edgeware’s platform to meet wholesale opportunities as the first priority, whereas the assumption had been that the primary goal would be to have a private CDN in place to support premium content streaming. “Some of the biggest deals we’ve made recently have been to build a CDN, maybe not skipping in-house service, but doing it the other way around where the launch for in-house purposes occurs after they have the wholesale business in place,” he says. At this point, he adds, about half of Edgeware’s customers are using the technology to support wholesale opportunities.
OTT providers’ need to go beyond the reach of public CDNs to maximize the user experience in local markets has intensified with the complexities of multiscreen adaptive rate (AR) streaming and the opportunity to drive revenues through advertising and subscription fees on those streams. Where, in the traditional pay TV business, a provider has control over the quality experience end to end, the OTT environment offers no such capability even as the challenges for quality control multiply with the complexities of multiple AR formats serving multiple types of devices.
Knowing how important QA would be whether for wholesale or private in-house purposes Edgeware recently introduced what it calls Active Video Awareness, a protocol that allows users’ devices to generate information back to an analytics system for compilation into useful views of what’s happening across the access end points. To make this happen, the system turns the flow of brief AR segments into virtual video sessions of longer duration that can be read holistically for service assurance purposes, Roos explains.
Analytics can be applied to these virtual video sessions to aggregate and measure them many ways, depending on what operators and their wholesale customers want to keep track of. For example, parameters of interest could be average bit rate, degree of user engagement or instances where sub-par bitrates persist beyond an acceptable timeframe. Actual delivered quality over some subset of each session can be compiled into different types of reports such as “all sessions to a certain device type,” “all sessions for some specific content,” or “all sessions over a certain network segment.”
Skytide’s Insight for CDNs can handle the volume and complexity of the data that AR demands and transform it into meaningful reports in real time, O’Donnell says. The combined solution reduces the traffic and processing overhead from potentially thousands of log entries to one per session, resulting in much faster turnaround time in alarms and analytics around QoE, he notes.
With their respective bases in Europe and the U.S. the partnership provides both companies opportunities to increase sales of their products in each other’s core market centers, Roos says. But he acknowledges that there’s still a learning curve ahead, given how new the wholesale CDN business if for operators.
“To some extent this is still an immature segment where people only recently started worrying about scalability and the requirements for SLAs and pricing of these services,” he says. “It’s a moving target, but we think we can help them get there with our combined solutions.”