This article has been taken from IABM Journal Issue 109.
Dr. Alexander Hackmann
Senior Business Development Manager, Rohde & Schwarz
At NAB, Rohde & Schwarz announced its first fully virtualized broadcast product – PRISMON.cloud. In this article, Dr. Alexander Hackmann, Senior Business Development Manager at Rohde & Schwarz, explains the strategic importance of this product to a company that has 70 years’ heritage as a hardware-based broadcast solution provider. Furthermore, he explains how a long-term Rohde & Schwarz customer, MX1, played a central role in the product’s development.
PRISMON.cloud builds on success of PRISMON monitoring
R&S PRISMON.cloud is a cloud-based A/V OTT monitoring solution that broadcasters and content providers can deploy quickly and without dedicated hardware. An intuitive analysis dashboard displays the latest quality of service (QoS) data in real time. A flexible and scalable pricing model allows users to reduce investment costs (CAPEX) by ordering their individual monitoring services based on current requirements.
At Rohde & Schwarz, we see that constantly changing consumer behavior means OTT service providers have to adapt to new transmission paths. Permanent error monitoring and the resulting quality assurance, especially of audio and video data, are the key to high customer satisfaction. R&S PRISMON.cloud is designed to enable OTT providers to quickly and easily adapt their monitoring infrastructure: for example, when peak loads during the transmission of large events require extended service. Thanks to the easy-to-use setup wizard, it takes minutes to add new virtual sensors and connect them to the dashboard at any time. A live multi-view function, automated analysis of A/V data and error detection in real time make it possible to measure QoS, store it in a cloud and visualize it in a timeline format on a web interface.
In combination with the widely used on-premise R&S PRISMON monitoring solution, analysis data from a combination of physical and virtual sensors can be displayed in a single dashboard creating valuable synergies for our customers. End-to-end analyses quickly and easily reveal errors such as deterioration of video or audio quality or poor CDN performance as a cause of churn.
PRISMON.cloud is offered as a Monitoring-as-a-Service (MaaS) product. This is important since this model allows our software engineering team to continuously develop R&S PRISMON.cloud and support users with regular updates – even on mobile phones and tablets.
To virtualize or not to virtualize – that is the question
Without doubt, virtualization is a key technological evolution focus and it will empower many broadcast and media organizations to work more efficiently and more profitably. But, there is a danger that the perception of this new technology can advance beyond reality. We still see many critical monitoring needs that are best served with on-premise hardware installations – the central issue is whether a technology provider can meet all these needs with a combination of virtualized and on-prem products that integrate and operate seamlessly.
New skillsets and customer insight employed in developing PRISMON.cloud
At Rohde & Schwarz, we have built a reputation on our ability to develop specialized hardware-based solutions. When it came to developing the company’s first virtualized product, the focus turned to software skillsets. PRISMON has taken more than 10 years to evolve to where it is today and during that time we have acquired some talented software engineers. However, we had to be confident that our first virtualized product meets the specific needs of customers. The best way to do this is to involve a customer in the development process – a customer that understands the importance of AV monitoring and understands how a virtualized monitoring platform adds value to their operations. That choice was straightforward: MX1, a wholly-owned subsidiary of SES, is a leading global media services provider. It works with leading media businesses to shape content into the ultimate viewer experience, ensuring it can appear on any device anywhere in the world. MX1 offers a full range of content aggregation, content management, channel playout, online video/VOD and content distribution services via its MX1 360 Unified Media Platform to amplify audience reach on any broadcast, online or VOD platform.
MX1 has 16 offices worldwide and operates global state-of-the-art media centres on three continents, enabling customers to reach a potential audience of billions around the world. As well as managing more than five million media assets, every single day it distributes more than 3,600 TV channels, manages the playout of over 525 channels, and delivers over 8,400 hours of online video streaming and more than 620 hours of premium sports and live events.
“We are long-time users of PRISMON and we’re confident that it enhances our operations, building customer trust in our 24/7 services,” explained Matthias Heinze, Senior Manager, Content Distribution Engineering at MX1. “When Rohde & Schwarz asked for our input in the development of PRISMON.cloud we were excited to explore this option of monitoring our services which are delivered outside of our data centers. We need to monitor our internet-based distribution pathways, including ISPs and CDNs to gain better visibility over the internet for us and our customers.
“The development process was very interactive, based on a level of mutual trust that has built up over our long-term relationship. Also, the proximity of Rohde & Schwarz’s Munich headquarters to the MX1 site at Unterföhring helps facilitate face-to-face meetings on a regular basis,” Heinze explained.
“We were happy to contribute our experience from a service provider perspective to this project,” he continues. “In the future, we will see many more workflows that combine public cloud, private cloud and standard IT in very dynamic ways, so virtualization is a ‘must have’ for operations such as ours.
“The availability of PRISMON.cloud is a straightforward fit into these future architectures. The development work with Rohde & Schwarz has been a very positive experience, and indeed it continues as we look at how to integrate monitoring within a completely cloud-based workflow,” Matthias Heinze concludes.