The 4 Must-Haves for any CDN Analytics and Reporting Solution
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The 4 Must-Haves for any CDN Analytics and Reporting Solution

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With this white paper, we reveal the four essential analytics and reporting elements necessary for Operator CDNs to successfully measure and manage their content delivery networks.

With this white paper, we reveal the four essential analytics and reporting elements necessary for Operator CDNs to successfully measure and manage their content delivery networks.

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  • 1. The 4 Must-Haves for any CDN Analytics & Reporting Solution
  • 2. The 4 Must-Haves for any CDN Analytics & Reporting Solution | White Paper Introduction   If you are a communications service provider, the decision on whether to build your own content delivery network (CDN) can involve considerable deliberation and a fair bit of  handwringing.   After all, despite appreciable benefits, building your own CDN often involves a significant financial commitment, a lengthy deployment and a Gantt chart full of dates and deliverables to be managed.   Given the stakes then, operators must carefully vet CDN platform providers to ensure that they provide the tools and resources to successfully deploy and operate a content delivery network. Amid all the complexities involved with this process, however, some decisions can seem more abstract at the initial stages and receive less rigorous scrutiny.   Analytics and reporting can often fall into this category.   This is often driven by the fact that the true significance of reporting features and functionality don’t fully come to light until a CDN is operational, at which point it’s too late to make an easy change. What might have seemed inconsequential at first can become critical once the content delivery network is up and running.   To assure that prospective operator CDNs fully understand how to evaluate different analytics solution, we’ve put together a list of “The 4 Must-Haves for any CDN Analytics & Reporting Solution.” citrix.com 2
  • 3. The 4 Must-Haves for any CDN Analytics & Reporting Solution | White Paper 1. Multi-Dimensionality   Beauty is only skin deep. So too with CDN analytics and reporting solutions.   Most all CDN reporting applications get high marks for dashboard user interface design these days, so it’s easy to become distracted by the pleasing aesthetics and lose focus of the differences in the depth and breadth of insight that each can provide.   Simply put, if you select reporting solutions that provide only top-level gross metrics — no matter how nicely packaged — you will only be able to answer rudimentary questions like “what happened?” For some that may be enough. For many, however, that won’t provide the level of insight necessary to make sound decisions.   To answer more vital questions like “what’s causing a problem?” or “where does a problem originate?” requires the ability to probe beneath the surface data and:   • Drill down across multiple dimensions; to start at a summary level and incrementally view increasingly detailed data. • Aggregate data across dimensions; also referred to as a “roll-up.” • Slice and dice the data any number of ways; to select one or more dimensions and create subsets for specific analysis. You will also want to make sure that your CDN reporting solution allows you to quickly and easily build your own reports on the fly, without the need for IT department intervention.   The combination of rich, multi-dimensional data and the ability to dynamically analyze it using easy to use ad hoc queries provide a powerful one-two punch to extract genuine insight from the information. 3
  • 4. The 4 Must-Haves for any CDN Analytics & Reporting Solution | White Paper 2. Proven Track Record   With so much riding on your decision, you will want to make sure that the analytics and reporting solution provided by the CDN platform provider has been widely deployed with other service providers and has genuinely earned the designation “carrier grade.”   Ask the platform providers that you are considering if their analytics and reporting:   • Has been deployed at a large scale. What traffic level has it been proven to handle? If you are a Tier 1 operator and the platform provider has only handled smaller carriers, that should be cause for concern.   • Is proven to support adaptive bitrate streaming (ABR) protocols. Can it aggregate adaptive streaming data so that it can be viewed by actual video assets rather than by thousands of file fragments? Your ability to quickly and accurately measure content assets will be nearly impossible otherwise.  • Incorporates best practices gleaned from working closely with telcos, cable operators and content providers. How long has it been deployed in the field and under what circumstances? Only by evaluating criteria like the above can you be assured that the analytics and reporting integrated into your CDN platform has been battle tested in the field and proven to withstand the demands required. citrix.com 4
  • 5. The 4 Must-Haves for any CDN Analytics & Reporting Solution | White Paper 3. Flexibility   The online video landscape is constantly shifting, and video delivery along with it.   Business models. Alliances and partnerships. Product and service offerings. They are all constantly being revised and refined to address market demands.   Which is why it is so critical that your CDN analytics and reporting solution be flexible and extensible enough to accommodate this fluid environment. When evaluating solutions, you’ll want to make sure that they include: • A multi-tenant architecture that supports a hierarchy of different roles and permissions. That way, you can provide reseller partners and online video content owners with their own secure reporting portals in addition to your CDN operator view. It’s not something that can be easily grafted on later. • APIs that enable you to share your data whatever way you wish: to a data warehouse or database, to a corporate portal or BI platform, to a billing system. • Custom dimensions that allow you to model new elements of your business processes as needed. • Flexible administrative controls. Different information will be appropriate for different users. You will want to be able to easily manage access at the user or report level. Whether you call it a pivot or a plan B, you’ll want to invest in an analytics and reporting solution that affords you the flexibility to explore new alternatives and change directions. citrix.com 5
  • 6. The 4 Must-Haves for any CDN Analytics & Reporting Solution | White Paper 4. Timely Reports   Time is a valuable currency.   When you need to mitigate problems and get an accurate read on your content delivery network, the freshness of the data being analyzed is essential. The value of data that is 10 hours old can be significantly less than data that is 10 minutes old.   The volume, variety and velocity of log files that a CDN can generate can make it exceedingly difficult, however, for a reporting solution to provide timely insight. Doubly so if it’s rich, multi-dimensional data.   When considering a CDN analytics and reporting solution, pay particular attention to the time it takes to process the data and turn it into useful reports. How long does it take to ingest all the data? How long to transform the data into meaningful reports?   You’ll also want to consider another facet of time; the time to value. Namely, how much time, effort and ongoing operating expenses are you willing to incur before you begin reaping the benefits? The ideal scenario is an out-of-the-box application that can be deployed quickly and which can also provide near real-time reporting. citrix.com 6
  • 7. The 4 Must-Haves for any CDN Analytics & Reporting Solution | White Paper The importance of multi- dimensionality in practice   Your operations team will undoubtedly be very concerned about maintaining high quality of service (QoS) levels. But to truly deliver high QoS requires an ability to root out and fix problems that can adversely affect quality. Many CDN analytics and reporting solutions will feature dashboards that track error status codes. But it’s of negligible value to know, for instance, that the network is experiencing a lot of “404 - File Not Found” errors if you are unable to determine why. By leveraging multi-dimensional analytics and reporting, you will also be able to determine what is causing the errors and where the root cause of the problem lies. • For instance, if you are considering launching a wholesale CDN model — where you sell content delivery services to media companies — you will want to drill down to see which customers are experiencing the most 404 errors. • From there you might want to drill down further to determine the number of 404 errors by customer and the percent of the total traffic that these errors represent. By doing so, you will have a better sense for which customers may be the most significantly impacted. In this example, it may be that a link was pointing to a corrupt file and that the problem can be easily remedied by replacing it with a new file. Without multi-dimensional analytics and reporting to deduce the problem, however, it would be like looking for a needle in a haystack. citrix.com 9
  • 8. The 4 Must-Haves for any CDN Analytics & Reporting Solution | White Paper The importance of real-time measurement in practice   You will use your CDN analytics and reporting solution to root out and fix problems but you’ll also want to leverage it to preempt problems before they even occur. One way to do this is to gain an understanding of daily traffic patterns, then identify patterns that deviate from the norm. This is important because a variance from the norm may spell trouble. And this is where the right CDN reporting application can be invaluable. To accurately provision capacity, you will want to make sure that you can measure data in 5 minute increments over a 24 hour span so that you can get a precise read on the ebb and flow of traffic. In one scenario, you may notice traffic that is exceeding standard levels, which may signal looming capacity problems that can result in poor quality of experience (QoE) for viewers. • With the right reporting solution, you will be able to drill down to view the traffic levels that correspond to each of the points of presence (PoPs) in your network. • From there you should be able to identify any edge locations where the traffic spike may be particularly pronounced and how it is trending. • Ideally you will be able to investigate even further to identify which content assets are driving the most traffic growth so that you can quickly take corrective action. Without the ability to interact with the data while it is still fresh, you won’t be able to foresee and prevent as many problems from escalating into full blown headaches. citrix.com 9
  • 9. The 4 Must-Haves for any CDN Analytics & Reporting Solution | White Paper Related Skytide Whitepapers   citrix.com 7 Learn how CDNs can transcend the limitations of 95th percentile billing to establish pricing policies that more closely parallel true peak-load pricing and, in turn, maximize revenue and control costs. Read Whitepaper Now Discover the benefits of utilizing CDN and Transparent Caching in tandem to reduce network video delivery costs and how using a single analytics system across those installations can maximize these benefits. Read Whitepaper Now Many telecom service providers are building their own content delivery networks as a means to capitalize on the surge in Internet video coursing over their networks. Learn about the four key success factors necessary for Telco CDNs to effectively harness their competitive edge and realize success. Read Whitepaper Now