By Darian Germain
For those who use an eCDN vendor, you’ve likely heard of ‘silent testing’ – which allows webcasting teams to populate their networks with a script that shares video traffic across client workstations to simulate how the load will impact the network prior to the live event.
While it’s a great tool for testing the efficiency of each eCDN technology/vendor, it does not provide a comprehensive test across multiple eCDNs, unicast/multicast connections and/or edge caching devices. For that reason, we’re pleased to share our new, cross-platform Broadcaster Silent Testing capability delivered and managed by our customer-favorite MediaPlatform Professional Services Team.
Why Test Before Events
Many clients think of ‘silent testing’ as a post-event tool they can use to diagnose where perceived viewer issues occurred. This is a bit like using a fire extinguisher after your house has burned down! Silent testing will help you identify where the gaps in your network are, and help you either address and
improve bandwidth-challenged locations or properly set viewer expectations (i.e. preparing viewers in
locations with poor connectivity to receive an audio-only webcast will reduce support calls and quality
Silent testing can be an invaluable tool for understanding the current capabilities of your distribution infrastructure, testing your infrastructure to identify potential network issues before major online events. In addition to verifying that networks will be able to effectively deliver video to large, simultaneous audiences – such as during a CEO town hall – tests can also be used to show how video streams traverse corporate networks, providing insights that can be applied to other network traffic applications, such as software updates.
MediaPlatform’s silent testing methodology only requires that ‘viewers’ workstations are turned on and can be reached by the network administrator running the testing process. The test simply uses the ‘viewer’ workstation to recreate a live webcast situation. From a ‘viewer’ standpoint, the test will be ‘silent’ in that the viewer will not see, hear, or be required to take any actions during the test. Unique to this methodology, network and IT teams running the test will collect analytics as the data moves to actual end users to reveal network performance at the employee desktop level. This is different than other testing methods, where a few ‘load generation servers’ may be set up on the network, but they only pull load to the load generators.
Establishing Baselines, Managing Viewer Expectations
MediaPlatform customers will often ask us ‘what video quality should our viewers expect?’ and ‘how many buffers should a viewer have in an hour on our network?’ Silent testing is the only way to accurately answer those question, since no two client networks are the same and every network is in a constant state of change as offices are expanded, new divisions are opened, and new network equipment and software are installed.
MediaPlatform’s Professional Services team will work with you to install a main silent testing script that launches a headless browser for the Broadcaster audience application to run on a client machine and a second, master script for starting the test on remote hosts within a domain. The benefit of running the test in this way is that the script execution will be visible only to the user running the master script and not to end users.
MediaPlatform Professional Services recommends running several tests to ‘baseline’ the network for performance on a regular basis, rather than just running a one-off test. The baseline tests can include small test team runs to ensure the scripts are configured and working correctly, larger tests that show how the network performs under load across audiences the same size as those anticipated for the webcast, and check-in tests that can be run in the weeks ahead of important webcasts to detect, and remedy, any degradation in network performance.
If you’d like to learn more about how silent testing can improve the quality and viewer experience for your important Broadcaster webcasts, our Professional Services team is here to help and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.