A big part of what we do at Agama involves making sense of the vast amounts of data a modern monitoring solution can provide. Doing this effectively requires a deep understanding of the video distribution solutions and the technology needed to manage them.

What to monitor and where

Every time we watch a TV show, sporting event or film, our experience depends on the performance of every link in the delivery chain – from creation in the head-end, through to distribution and last-mile delivery to actual playback. Each link provides its own set of opportunities for insights, as well as risks that need to be proactively managed.

The Agama solution provides detailed, objective data on each link in the video service delivery chain, with a focus on customer impact. This data is further refined to provide top-level, end-to-end perspectives and business-supporting insights into service quality, operational efficiency and customer behaviour.

We start with service creation in the head-end, which is the natural point for in-depth quality assurance of video and audio content. Each active processing step has the potential to introduce errors, so we often advise monitoring incoming streams; as well as between processes, such as transcoding, transrating, segmentation, muxing and encryption. In addition to content analysis, any transport-related incidents detected here should be highly prioritized, not only because they will affect subscribers everywhere, but also to avoid misdirected and costly downstream troubleshooting.

After the head-end, the focus must be on assuring timely and intact delivery. The distribution itself, whether it is done via IP, cable, over the air or other means, cannot affect the video encoding directly, so there is no need to decrypt and analyze the content after the head-end. Of course, network incidents can affect the service in different ways, depending on the contents of affected packets, so service awareness is still important here. Coverage of key handover points is key to understanding where in the network problems are occurring.

The final link in achieving true end-to-end understanding of the service is in the subscribers' gateways, set-top boxes and OTT players on smartphones, tablets, computers or smart TVs. Here, the focus is on the downloading, buffering and playback performance of the device, as well as device health and viewer behaviour. At the top level, aggregation and grouping play an important role in understanding patterns and trends.