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Control Plane Protocols for Streaming Video Services

The explosion of streaming video happening across all networks is forcing changes to the infrastructure that governs and controls the delivery of the video. Traditional video delivery control infrastructure was an isolated island of specialized servers delivering specific video content across a dedicated network for video. The evolution of IP networks, online video, and user experiences with video has brought about significant changes in the manner and infrastructure that controls video streams for end-users to watch.

The end-user experience for consuming streaming video includes many new devices, such as phones, tablets, PCs, and IP-enabled TVs, as opposed to the traditional TV of the past. Content is no longer limited to a live event or the current broadcast of a specific channel. Live events, recorded content, newly released content, and time-shifted broadcasts are just a few of the many different types of video streams that are surging over the Internet and IP networks today.

The marriage of the new content with the choices of screened devices by which to display the video has placed many new demands upon the infrastructure built by Service Providers (SP) to deliver video to their customers. The infrastructure to deliver the variety of video content to the many different devices used by consumers to watch video is no longer an isolated island of functionality. The constant changes in security, authentication, location, content, social media influence, and other factors have pushed SPs to build a multi-vendor based delivery network to meet the ever changing demands of consumers. This network infrastructure enables browsing for content, selecting the content, viewing the content now or preserving the content for later viewing. To implement those functionalities, based on the network, a certain number of Video Control Protocols are being used.

Northforge has done work in the area of providing monitoring and troubleshooting capability of session-related messages and information flow between the primary components of the video service network. Message exchanges (request/response) are correlated into transactions, and transactions further correlated into sessions. Based on the transaction and session data collected, performance data is provided to the network administrator. At the same time, the network administrator has the ability to view each Protocol Data Unit (PDU) in a decoded format and observe the association to a particular transaction and session.

There are challenges within each use case, most notably the need to monitor different Control Plane Protocols without impacting performance of other protocols. Different protocols require different techniques. With an HTTP Based Control Protocol (HBCP), each node can use a different application protocol. To allow operational troubleshooting and performance monitoring, a new technique was required to measure the quantity and characteristics of user sessions attempting to join video services being controlled by the session control servers. With Binary Based Control Protocol (BBCP), where message lengths are not specified, to achieve the required packets per second (PPS) rate within the constraints of the processor performance and memory capacity of the network interface card, a heuristic technique for flow identification is being evaluated.

To address some of these challenges, we analyzed interface specifications and packet captures from the HBCP and BBCP deployments and proposed designs to reduce consumption of resource capacity of the network interface. For transaction correlation using multiple responses and mapping error codes to specific transactions, we developed a customized solution.

So far, we have achieved:

  • A way to provide operational troubleshooting and performance monitoring capabilities to service providers deploying session control functionality for video services. Performance measurements of the session attempts will allow short-term and long-term evaluation and improvement of the overall performance of video services and the infrastructure as part of a network.
  • A method to search text patterns and correlate large, fragmented HTTP PDUs from different interfaces into video control sessions, at a high packet-per-second rate.

 

We are pleased with the results of this project to date and will publish more information as we proceed.