Akamai takes proactive approach with new OTT monitoring center headed by NBCU veteran Azzarto

LAS VEGAS -- Akamai, best known for its globe-spanning content delivery network (CDN) operation, is upping the service ante with broadcasters that also plan to stream linear video over the top. The provider added a live-stream monitoring component to its operations with the unveiling of its new Broadcast Operations Control Center (BOCC) at its headquarters in Cambridge, Mass.

The facility provides a staff of between 12 and 50 personnel, depending on the size of a live event, providing 24x7 monitoring of live streaming video as well as real-time support and insight.

Akamai will demonstrate the BOCC's live and on-demand OTT workflows here at NAB.

Matt Azzarto, who previously headed up on-air engineering at NBCUniversal, came aboard to design and build the BOCC for Akamai as director of media operations.

"We're taking the ubiquity of Akamai's pervasive network and our Media Delivery Solutions, and empowering a specialized staff who have 'eyes-on-glass' 24x7 to support our customers with a unique set of tools that we believe deliver unprecedented visibility into hundreds of live video streams and linear channels at any given time," Azzarto said in a release.

A key difference between Akamai's BOCC and other live monitoring services is that Akamai takes the step of calling the client directly when a problem occurs. "Instead of the customer having to contact say, 12 different vendors to figure out where a problem originated, they get a call from us" informing them of the problem and working with them to quickly implement a solution, if the problem hasn't already been fixed, Azzarto told FierceOnlineVideo.

Akamai BOCC

Akamai's BOCC features teams monitoring multiple channels during a streaming event. Its customer-facing dashboard includes screens such as a channel "health" update, seen at the left side of screen. At top right, a real-time rendering of network operations. (Photo courtesy of Akamai)

The BOCC's on-site staff are engineers with a mix of network operations, broadcast and IP video delivery experience -- a combination that Azzarto said made staffing the center a challenge. But it's also a skill set that he believes is becoming more in demand as broadcasters make the jump to OTT video and need experienced employees to handle monitoring and troubleshooting online video streams.

The BOCC will monitor streams using a combination of technologies, such as Akamai's query system already in use within its Network Operations Control Center, as well as beacons sending diagnostic reports from components across the full workflow, from ingest to playback.

Akamai's BOCC will be in beta for the next six months. About 12 customers have signed up for the beta period, including a few yet-to-be-named major broadcasters and networks. Live-streamed video will be the first phase of the beta, with on-demand video monitoring part of the second phase, Azzarto said.

While Akamai has powered most major OTT players' streaming delivery over the years through its CDN -- for example, CBS Sports' live stream of the Super Bowl utilized Akamai's CDN -- the launch of the BOCC is another example of the increased demand for deeper insight into the quality of video streams and faster problem resolution.

This is particularly true of live-streamed sports, where even a few seconds of down time could mean losing thousands of online viewers. IneoQuest -- a vendor that also provides end-to-end QoS monitoring -- found in a recent survey that 40 percent of viewers who experience 10 or more seconds of buffering time will click out of the problem video, and almost 40 percent of those who click out never attempt to restart the stream.

Akamai also isn't the only NAB attendee debuting a QoS monitoring solution: NeuLion, an online video delivery provider, announced it has added a new "OTT Dashboard," that provides real-time monitoring and metrics, to its turnkey NeuLion Digital Platform.

For more:
- see the release

Related articles:
Harmonic, Elemental top ABI Research ranking of best video encoders; Akamai comes in No. 1 in cloud services
Akamai continues to shift focus from media-based CDN to infrastructure, security
Live streaming latency: As Super Bowl preps its largest live stream ever, the OTT industry scurries to catch up to broadcast

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