Evolving Root Cause Analysis for a Software-Defined World

Posted November 30, 2020

Eunice Park, Zixi VP Global Sales and Revenue explains how software-defined infrastructure enables more efficient processes for RCA

This column was first published by Newscaststudio.com here.

To effectively manage the delivery of broadcast-quality streams over virtualized workflows, video operators and managers need to be able to do more than put out fires – they need to be able to find a way to prevent them. Conducting root cause analysis is essential for any broadcast media organization to help determine what, how, and why a problem happened so that action can be taken to prevent reoccurrence.

Although essential, root cause analysis can be a costly, ongoing process as organizations strive for continual improvement, with some broadcast industry executives claiming that the effort to identify root cause analysis can cost up to $500,000 a year just for one channel.

The current shift towards virtualization in broadcast media offers many advantages: cloud-based solutions are more cost-effective and sustainable to maintain; they offer more flexibility and the ability to iterate; and they permit increased interoperability between hardware and software providers. But as the broadcast industry goes through such rapid digital transformation, the shifting workflows within and between media companies are increasing in complexity.

As hardware-based solutions give way to software-defined solutions, both media companies and the end user client are leveraging hybrid IP-based pathways to move across and in-between on-premise locations, through fiber, up to satellite, and even across the unmanaged open internet. As live video delivery expands across these hybrid IP networks, multi-cloud networks, and on to a variety of traditional and digital distribution endpoints, conducting essential root cause analysis becomes even more challenging, but it does not need to be cost-prohibitive.

The key to conducting root cause analysis efficiently across virtualized video supply chains is enabling a software-defined video platform to abstract that complexity so that engineering resources that are both expensive and scarce can be leveraged with operational resources to manage root cause analysis 24/7 in a way that is both sustainable and scalable.

In this new era of media distribution, a software-defined video platform will become the universal commonality between media organizations and their virtual infrastructures, with the cloud-based control plane democratizing the human resource spectrum. The software-defined video platform not only manages a variety of protocols and a technology stack providing media processing tools and functionality, but its control plane can traverse the entire content supply chain and multiple signal paths.

Eunice Park
Eunice Park, VP Global Sales and Revenue, Zixi

With a control plane, operators and engineers can access essential data and robust analytics on stream health from end-to-end, essential for conducting rapid root cause analysis. This telemetry allows operators to quickly identify the problematic issue, where and when the stream failed, and the extent of the business impact. Content quality analytics show black video, frozen video, audio silence and clipping, and allow users to ensure video is streaming at broadcast quality.

Network analytics can provide insight into bitrate, latency (packet timing), the percentage of dropped or unrecovered packets, round trip time or last connection data, allowing operators to ensure networks are being optimized.

Transport Analytics, including TR-101 analysis, provide visibility into P1, P2 Errors, frame count and PID counts. Business impact analytics can help bridge the connection between identifying root cause and how the problem will impact the business, helping meet SLAs by determining whether the issue faced is related to the ISP, source, network etc. With such analytics, transmission quality metrics, and monitoring capabilities, the control plane provides a holistic view of video and audio health as it moves across touchpoints within the live video ecosystem from contribution to processing and delivery. In addition, a control plane with a robust analytics suite accessed through a centralized interface allows organizations to reduced ongoing costs of standalone stream analyzers across multiple channels.

As the media industry moves from simple hardware-based infrastructures to more complex, software-enabled ecosystems for live video distribution, operational teams will need to quickly identify root causes of problems before they impact quality of service. With a software-defined video platform and the toolset it enables, media organizations can conduct root cause analysis across a vast virtualized network in seconds and minutes, not weeks. Errors can be identified and isolated across the supply chain not just by costly engineers but by operators, resulting in a democratized and scalable solution for error detection and resolution that provides end consumers with the best quality of experience that modern media can deliver.