Clouds and SaaS are hot topic these days so the dilemma of “owned vs. rented” assets also becomes very important. Every company uses solutions that might be divided into two wide categories: critical (you can’t live if they fail) and optional (good things which make your life less complicated). So more and more optional assets are moved to some outsourcing for SaaS products. Even key pieces of the video ecosystem like media servers are becoming cloud-enabled, like Wowza on Amazon AWS, and there are a variety of tools and options for analytics and control in the cloud.
WMSPanel (wmspanel.com) is a company that was started almost two years ago as a reporting project for Windows Media Services. From the very beginning it was designed as SaaS solution and unlike traditional server software analytic tools, it was made as a multi-tier system with an “agent” running on the media server-side and a controller/processing/presentation system built as a web application. No log parsing is required, you can just take any data a media server may spit out and push it to central server. This allows customers to avoid any processing overhead or having to allocate any special computation and storage resources. In addition, since only a delta of information is sent between two parts of the system, there’s no traffic overhead either.
The plugin ideology has served WMSPanel well before as the team had already open-sourced their WMSAuth Windows Media plugin (wmsauth.org) for links re-publishing protection. Having this SaaS-powered idea and the first working prototype WMSPanel launched a promo site to move it towards potential customers in early 2011. As basic reporting for WMS was available, the team started evaluation of Wowza Media Server knowing its great solution capability, mature partner ecosystem and huge market share. So by the end of 2011 they had Wowza reporting capable of showing basic statistics.
Having a proven approach of “agent-controller” chain, the team made another step forward and started implementation of server management capabilities. The agent takes commands from the central server and since the agent is a Wowza server add-on, it’s able to do a number of things which may otherwise only be done via an SSH or JMX connection. Every common operation, which usually requires manual log into the server, can easily be done online via the web control panel, with just a few clicks. The company says users of the system can see server VHost and applications structure, create new accounts, change or delete existing applications and their instances and has a full set of control operations, without needing any server access for manual app restart, since everything is done from the panel itself.
Another advantage is that the WMSPanel is a central place for all operations, which mean you can apply most of the management features to multiple servers at one time. So if you create an application on an origin server or change its configuration, you can apply this operation to all of the edge servers as well. Once a stream is added in the config, all of the existing servers can know about it right away. The WMSPanel team then applied their existing WMSAuth feature set to Wowza and expanded it with simultaneous connections count limit, geo-location and IP-range limitations, and the same proven links re-publishing protection.
WMSPanel has reporting capabilities, real-time, high-detail and daily statistics, with a lot of flexibility in reporting options. Duration analysis might be especially interesting for those who like to know more about their visitors and statistics may be cut to “data slices” to see any aspect of applications usage. And for stream hosting resellers, the control panel may be provided as white label service since some customers prefer showing stats to their clients via custom domains and separate user accounts. Another advantage of the WMSPanel web interface is that it enables all the feature set to work on iOS and Android devices, without the need for Flash or Silverlight for the UI, instead using just HTML and AJAX, something that should be highly appreciated by Apple users.
It’s taken WMSPanel less than a year from making the initial version of their Wowza agent to becoming a Wowza product partner thanks in part to what WMSPanel says is a good approach by Wowza to work with anyone who brings a good user experience and valuable solution to the Wowza partner ecosystem.
At this moment WMSPanel processes data from hundreds of Wowza servers doing hundreds of thousands of streams. As a result that means big performance challenges for access control and reporting features but that’s where the cloud-based infrastructure allows the solution to easily scale. Compare that to traditional statistics and control solutions which a customer’s system administrator must install, maintain and tune to meet new portions of logs data. The WMSPanel team takes the responsibility of scaling the solution and guarantees robustness and availability – not bad considering that WMSPanel has a starting price of only twenty bucks.