Kentik - Network Observability

OTT Services (Over-the-Top Services)

Over-the-top (OTT) services are transforming the way we consume content, from video streaming to gaming and social media platforms. As the demand for these services grows, so does the importance of tracking, managing, and analyzing their performance on your network. In this article, we explore what OTT services are and how Kentik can help network operators monitor, manage, and analyze these services to optimize network performance and deliver a better user experience.

What are OTT (Over-the-Top) Services?

OTT (short for “Over-the-Top”) services are internet-based content delivery platforms that bypass traditional distribution channels such as cable or satellite television. They enable users to access content directly from the provider via the internet, without needing a separate cable or satellite service subscription. Some popular examples of OTT services include Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and Spotify.

These services are typically delivered through streaming media and can be accessed via various devices, including smart TVs, smartphones, computers, tablets, and streaming devices like Roku, Apple TV, or Chromecast. OTT services encompass a wide range of content, including video, gaming, social media, and more.

OTT services are sometimes alternatively referred to as “over-the-top streaming” or “over-the-top media” services, but these terms all refer to the same thing.

The term “over-the-top” refers to the way these services are delivered “on top” of the physical network infrastructure as IP (internet protocol) services, allowing users to access audio, video, and other media content directly from the provider without (for example) the involvement of a multiple-system operator (MSO), such as a cable TV provider.

Types of OTT Services

OTT services can be broadly categorized into the following types:

  • Video Streaming Services: These platforms offer on-demand video content, including movies, TV series, documentaries, and more. Examples include Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and Disney+.

  • Live TV Streaming Services: These services provide live TV channels over the internet, often featuring a mix of local, national, and international channels, as well as on-demand content. Examples include YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV, DirectTV Stream, and Sling TV.

  • Audio Streaming Services: These platforms deliver music, podcasts, and other audio content over the internet. Examples include Spotify, Apple Music, and Pandora.

  • Gaming Services: These services enable users to play games online, either through streaming or direct downloads. Examples include Microsoft (Xbox Game Pass), Valve Software (Steam), Sony (PlayStation Now), and game publishers such as Blizzard.

  • Communication Services: These platforms allow users to communicate through voice calls, video calls, or messaging over the internet. Examples include Skype, Zoom, and WhatsApp.

  • Social Media Platforms: These services enable users to create, share, and interact with user-generated content, such as text, images, and videos. Examples include Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

As the internet continues to evolve, we expect to see more innovative OTT services and platforms emerging, further transforming how we consume and interact with digital content.

Kentik’s OTT Service Tracking Solution

Kentik’s OTT Service Tracking module enables organizations to track traffic for various categories of OTT services, such as video, gaming, and social media. This allows network engineers and strategists to understand the services used on their network, correlate performance issues to specific services, and optimize pricing based on subscriber usage.

OTT Service Tracking Tool
Kentik’s OTT service tracking interface, showing various categories and providers of over-the-top services.

Kentik OTT Service Tracking offers advanced features that provide many benefits to broadband providers. OTT content providers utilize various methods for delivering traffic to Internet Service Providers (ISPs), including embedded caching, private peering, transit types of edge connectivity, and multiple commercial Content Delivery Networks (CDNs). This complexity has made monitoring and managing these services challenging for broadband providers.

Kentik’s True Origin engine is the driving force behind the OTT Service Tracking workflow. It detects and analyzes the DNA of over 350 categorized OTT services and providers and more than 50 CDNs in real-time, without needing deep packet inspection (DPI) appliances. This empowers broadband providers to plan and execute strategies that matter to their subscribers, such as maintaining competitive costs, anticipating and fixing subscriber OTT service performance issues, and ensuring sufficient inbound capacity for resilience.

The latest updates to Kentik’s OTT Service Tracking workflow introduce new features to help broadband providers better understand and manage their OTT services. For instance, the “Subscribers” tab in the “OTT Service Details” screen provides insights into the performance and subscriber count of specific OTT services. This allows providers to monitor and optimize network performance based on subscriber usage patterns and preferences.

Capacity Planning and OTT Services

Additionally, Kentik’s OTT Service Tracking offers enhanced functionality for capacity planning. The “Capacity” tab in the details screen of any OTT Service provides an easy-to-parse treemap visualization that displays the state of utilization and traffic share for each interface involved in delivering the OTT service. This helps network operations teams gain a complete picture of capacity at any point in time and quickly identify potential issues.

Kentik’s OTT Service Tracking offers an advanced and comprehensive solution for broadband providers to monitor, manage, and analyze their OTT services. By leveraging these powerful features, organizations can optimize network performance, enhance customer satisfaction, and make informed decisions to stay competitive in the ever-evolving internet landscape.

Kentik OTT Engine

The OTT Service Tracking workflow is powered by True Origin, Kentik’s OTT service tracking engine. True Origin evaluates and correlates traffic to identify the sources of OTT traffic coming to your network via OTT services. The traffic is broken down into three OTT dimensions (OTT Service Name, OTT Service Type, and OTT Provider Name), and details are extracted for each detected instance of each dimension type.

OTT Service Tracking Metrics

Kentik’s OTT Service Tracking module presents various metrics, including traffic bitrates based on SNMP OID Polling for capacity measurement and flow data from flow records for other traffic values. These metrics help organizations understand the origins and growth of network traffic, evaluate the competitiveness of in-house offerings, and analyze usage patterns across customer segments to optimize plans and pricing.

Benefits of Monitoring OTT Services with Kentik

By leveraging Kentik’s OTT Service Tracking, organizations can gain valuable insights to improve customer service outcomes, detect and analyze content events, and evaluate OTT utilization metrics for specific categories of users and delivery methods. Some key benefits include:

  • Understand the impact of OTT services on your network and optimize traffic management.
  • Evaluate the ramifications of zero-rating specific content providers.
  • Support customer retention by identifying problematic user experiences related to individual OTT services.
  • Monitor suspicious traffic from or between users to assess potential legal liability.
  • Receive notifications of performance issues with specific OTT services or providers.

Video Overview of the Benefits of Kentik’s OTT and CDN Analytics Solutions

In this short video, Kentik experts provide an overview of what OTT services are and the benefits of Kentik’s OTT and CDN (Content Delivery Network) analytics features:

Takeaways from this video include:

  • Kentik’s OTT and CDN analytics provide a deeper understanding of application activity on a network, going beyond just seeing data to understanding why a network or application is performing the way it is.

  • Kentik uses data sources like network flow data (NetFlow), BGP data, SNMP data, and DNS telemetry to provide visibility into OTT services and analytics of content delivery networks. This approach avoids the heavy lift and cost of DPI (Deep Packet Inspection).

  • With Kentik’s analytics, it is possible to map OTT services to the physical network infrastructure, which can help reduce support costs and improve the overall understanding of how services are delivered.

  • Kentik’s analytics can help network operators identify types of traffic, providers, volume, and ingestion methods while also providing performance indicators like bitrates per subscriber.

  • These analytics have practical applications, such as helping service providers identify and provision additional capacity for popular OTT services like Disney+ or gaining insights into traffic from different content delivery networks.

How Kentik Helps Track, Monitor and Manage OTT Services

OTT services are a significant part of today’s internet landscape. As their popularity grows, so does the need to effectively monitor, manage, and analyze their performance on your network. Kentik’s OTT Service Tracking offers a comprehensive solution for organizations to gain valuable insights into their OTT service usage, enabling them to optimize network performance, enhance customer satisfaction, and make informed decisions for their business.

To learn how Kentik can benefit your organization, request a demo or sign up for a free trial today.

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