At a recent ThousandEyes Connect in New York City, Viacom’s IT infrastructure team shared how they are using ThousandEyes to ensure that consumers have exceptional entertainment experiences, and, that internal employees have unwavering access to critical business services. This blog post is part two of two in a series and will cover how Viacom delivers digital experiences to its global customer base.
Bringing Reliable Real-Time Video to Millions of Customers
Delivering superior entertainment experiences for millions of consumers in the digital era is no easy task. As consumers’ insatiable appetite for real-time, streaming content continues to grow, organizations’ back-end infrastructures will need to adapt to support the volumes of data being transferred over networks—and a very important piece of that is putting in place a monitoring solution so IT operations teams have visibility into the end-to-end service delivery path so they can identify and remediate issues before they impact end-user experience.
To improve the performance of its customer-facing applications, the Viacom team was able to draw on its experience delivering real-time streaming video of its CEO during internal town halls dubbed Bob Live (covered in Part 1: How Viacom Improves Employee Digital Experience and Productivity). In this blog post we will discuss their use case on how they addressed a complex over-the-top distribution infrastructure, which supplies mobile users with the television channels that are broadcast traditionally. This infrastructure is comprised of 20 unique HTTP live streams that are uploaded in real-time to Viacom’s partner’s public S3 point of presence in AWS’s US West region. To help isolate different portions of the workflow, and test the performance in those different portions, the team deployed ThousandEyes agents throughout this infrastructure and set up some systematic tests to take measurements (as shown in Figure 1).
The results of this effort proved to be positive. “The insight was invaluable,” says Peterson. “We uncovered some pathing issues, which we quickly resolved. We uncovered a long-running subtle hidden ISP performance-related issue, and we were also able to quantify one DNS issue.” This is especially important because DNS is critical for resolving names in elastic environments, and DNS errors are typically highly visible to customers. With the help of ThousandEyes, the Viacom team resolved a lot of these problems, and today those agents still continue to baseline HTTP and DNS traffic, giving the team constant visibility into that environment and alerting them if there are any issues.
An Infrastructure Designed for Digital Experiences
When the time came for the team to embark on a new project to build a network infrastructure to support IP-based streaming of Viacom’s Veneer Channels, ThousandEyes agents were used strategically throughout the infrastructure to map and test critical communications paths in this infrastructure. Using these agents the team was also able to set baselines for network metrics, such as latency and jitter — two metrics that are incredibly important for the broadcast team to monitor.
Having the ability to see the full picture of how different agents are talking to each other throughout the Viacom infrastructure proved to be incredibly valuable. “All these tests and results come together in the ThousandEyes dashboards and reports to give us an at-a-glance view of things like latency and loss, which a lot of our internal customers love,” says Peterson.
Now, as the team works to build out the production version of this infrastructure, they are including ThousandEyes agents and similar tests so that they can continue to have visibility into these networks and workflows.
Scaling the ThousandEyes Deployment through Automation
Given the complexity of its networking interface, Viacom deliberately took a modular approach to design its infrastructure to help automate certain processes. For instance, by developing and templating reusable components, they can automate and manage the deployment in an agile fashion. In addition, these agents enabled the team to automate the creation of tests, dashboards, reports, alerts and alarm rules, and ultimately determine probable issues and event correlations.
To simplify the deployment of ThousandEyes Enterprise Agents within their network infrastructure, Viacom wanted a tool that would automate configuration management and provisioning. They found the solution with Ansible, which they use to deploy agents in their corporate environment on a semi-automated or fully-automated basis.
The team also uses ThousandEyes and Ansible to ensure that deployed agents remain configured, secure, and compliant. According to Danilo Ruiz, Sr. Network Engineer at Viacom, “we develop Ansible Playbooks that install the applications, and then we push these configurations on to all the ThousandEyes Enterprise Agents that keep the updates running. You pretty much set it and forget it.”