Test & Measurement

EXFO checks OTT's heartbeat

EXFO is broadening its test and measurement repertoire with a new over-the-top monitoring tool that, it says, enables service providers to automatically detect and diagnose the root cause of video streaming problems as soon as they show their ugly faces.

The new Nova Active OTT video monitoring offering joins a mix of service assurance capabilities at EXFO that help service providers troubleshoot and provide actionable insights across multiple layers of the network, according to Abdelkrim Benamar, EXFO's VP of service assurance, systems and services.

He says EXFO's new active testing approach for OTT effectively blends together quality of service (QoS) and quality of experience (QoE) capabilities, enabling partners to keep close tabs on streaming services using throughput, latency and jitter testing.

The new offering, designed to support wireline networks as well as emerging 5G-powered wireless and mobile networks, centers on the deployment of orchestrated lightweight probes – deployed at various points, including the transport and caching level and even inside the consumer premises device itself – that can generate tests and determine how various paths of the networks are reacting. In turn, the probe-level QoE component of the platform can generate near real-time analysis and determine the origin of network degradation without more traditional big data approaches that usually require lots of compute power and storage, Benamar said.

EXFO supports those test agents as part of its baseline Nova Active platform, but the new OTT component can also be sold on a standalone basis and be embedded in a third-party solution, Benamar said.

Though media companies are entering the OTT video game in a big way with various direct-to-consumer services, EXFO is initially targeting this new offering to network service providers, which tend to be the ones that get the bulk of the blame when a streaming service goes awry.

To amplify that point, EXFO claims the new offering enables service providers to pinpoint whether problems like freezing, buffering or lagging originate from their network, the video platform, the user's device, or even the OTT service itself, such as Netflix or YouTube.

However, EXFO also intends to explore business models that would help it extend the market for its new OTT-focused offering, which is being sold under a license model, Benamar said.

EXFO hasn't announced any takers for its OTT monitoring service, but trials are underway with service providers, he said.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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