Brenton Ough, CEO & Co-founderWhen Sky, the major UK Pay-TV operator, detected critical streaming issues they approached Touchstream—a provider of proactive Live and On Demand stream monitoring platform. Touchstream worked closely with Sky’s streaming architecture team and their OTT NOC to deliver a solution to find streaming issues that were previously not visible to Sky. Streaming delivery seemed somewhat unpredictable until Touchstream, the pioneer in active monitoring, stepped in. Touchstream also built a direct integration to the leading Content Delivery Network (CDN) providers, including Akamai, sharing critical relevant monitoring data. The OTT manager at Sky states, “We are pleased the CDNs are using Touchstream. It has significantly improved the incident resolution time as both teams are now looking at the same information and this is improving our relationship with the CDNs.”
Prior to Touchstream, Brenton and his team spent most of their careers building high-end data center monitoring solutions for broadcast media and finance companies. As streaming media began to emerge, Brenton noticed general toolsets were not capable of adequately monitoring this new technology, so the team began investing heavily in building a solution that focused 100 percent on live stream monitoring. “After struggling for over a year trying to convince the big name monitoring vendors to support Adaptive Bitrate (ABR) streaming we decided to design and build the solution ourselves,” he stresses. This was the pivotal moment in the team’s timeline. “We realized the best way to start the journey was by working with a couple of the biggest streaming companies in the world to thoroughly road test our approach and ideas. And Touchstream was born,” delineates Brenton.
Proactively Monitoring Streaming
Today “viewing behavior” is no longer limited to traditional broadcasting as people want to watch video anywhere and anytime. “If content buffers, stalls or fails to play for a particular streaming service, viewers generally switch from that service and get their fix elsewhere,” says Brenton. The biggest painpoint in live streaming is when issues arise, the root cause needs to be identified and fixed as quickly as possible. Touchstream addresses this by providing constant, round-the-clock monitoring of live streams and delivers detailed information about the nature of the problem in a simple-to- navigate interface. Subsequently, our customers can share the meticulous information provided by Touchstream with their CDNs or other partners using the click of a button. This itself greatly reduces the mean time to repair. “We help our customers deliver an optimal viewing experience with our comprehensive stream monitoring service—down to every bitrate, all of the time.”
Unlike in-player monitoring tools, Touchstream’s active monitoring capability tests live streams even when no one is watching to ensure everything will perform as expected. If a glitch is detected, Touchstream sends early warning alerts to our customer’s streaming team giving them time to fix problems before they become viewer issues. Since Touchstream is a cloud-based monitoring service, it can be up and running usually within a few hours. There is no need for code changes and “nothing to install.” “We monitor from our own high-quality, predictable, high-speed Point-of-Presence (PoPs) on the Internet to provide actionable alerts on issues that are within our customers’ control,” says Brenton.
We help our customers deliver the optimal viewing experience with our comprehensive streaming monitoring service—down to every bitrate, all of the time
The Distinct Path of Error Detection
Through predictive buffering analysis Touchstream’s exclusive ‘quality of experience’ monitoring system for live streaming measures and reports on every adaptive bitrate against predetermined KPIs. Their in-depth ability for custom header injection, header capture, including CDN debug headers, provides unparalleled insights into the streams’ health. This enables Touchstream to identify the root cause of delivery problems that are extremely difficult to determine by other means. One of the unique features the company has added to its key differentiating capabilities is detection of single bitrate issues, something fundamental to the early warning of health concerns with a streaming platform.
Touchstream offers a parallel monitoring service for Video on Demand (VOD). “It is fundamentally the same monitoring approach except that typically we monitor an agreed number of VOD assets that the customer updates via our API as often as required,” cites Brenton.
“Our customers trust us to keep theirs and their viewers’ data safe— our attitude to data safety is to never store sensitive data by design,” states Brenton. Touchstream does not collect, store or transmit any viewer identifying or viewer-related data or financial data. All data that is stored is generated directly by Touchstream from its remote probe collectors as part of our monitoring solution.
Building a Future-proof Foundation
Touchstream is highly acknowledged for its culture of listening to their clients’ serious streaming issues and simultaneously working closely with them to scrutinize the best possible monitoring approaches—identifying the problem with informative data. “We see Touchstream becoming the essential standard for operational monitoring of live streaming,” notes Brenton. Poised at the pinnacle of success, Touchstream is expanding its relationships with the leading global CDN providers and all parties who have appropriate information at their fingertips to correct issues before they are visible to the end viewers. “Driven by our customers, we will continue to extend our monitoring service further into the encoding chain to give better visibility to issues from signal acquisition, through encode and package, right up to the CDN delivery point,” he concludes.