When it comes to being entertained, we can be an impatient and fickle breed. If our favorite show takes too long to load we get distracted, we switch around for other content to watch.
Quality of experience is established via video app performance, and this can really only be measured from the perspective of the end user - they only see what’s on their screen. If a video stutters, takes too long to start, shuts down or crashes, or the audio is out of sync, that’s a sub-optimal experience. For OTT app providers, their customers will use an app that is reliable, works well and plays back quality video, consistently. If your app can’t deliver this experience you’re likely to face churn - it can hurt your brand and your business.
In terms of performance, there are a few initial metrics that are typically measured:
- how fast it takes the app to download to a device (and how pain-free subsequent updates are)
- how long it takes to open, initially
- how long it takes to authenticate once you log in
- how fast you are able to scroll from page to page in the UI
- how quickly video starts to playback once you click on the video you want to watch.
Also, app providers will measure length of engagement and session time - ie how long a consumer (or a group of individuals, eg on a set of devices) stays in the app to watch content; or how and how much a group of individuals are staying within the app. This can indicate how people engage for longer or shorter periods of time depending on the device and therefore location they are watching in.
A well performing OTT app should launch in just a few seconds. There should be no delay in UI responsiveness, even if lots of metadata needs to be loaded. And video streaming should start quickly and be at highest quality with minimal or no buffer. App exit should also be short.
What are the triggers that can impact performance of an OTT app?
OTT app providers must work constantly to optimize their applications and make revisions so they can work optimally on new hardware and chipsets, working with analytics companies to monitor performance of their apps across various hardware. As they are so reliant on hardware, it’s why we see constant discontinuation of older hardware as it becomes incompatible with newer versions of applications. With rapid introductions of new devices, platforms and software, keeping pace with updates is hard. Apps that crash, low memory conditions and a reduction in performance ultimately impact consumer experience – before any video is even watched.
The question is - can virtualization help app performance?
Absolutely! Virtualization is a performance enhancement - we see a dramatic improvement for example in time to open the app, time for playback and remote control key press, the UI is ‘snappier’. This will convert to happier customers - people will get content much quicker.
By virtualizing the application, we use CPU and memory in the cloud to augment the available CPU and memory in the device. The CPU in the cloud can “turbo boost” for periods of time when the app requires lots of processing, for example at startup. By having memory available in the cloud, the app can cache more assets than would be possible on the device alone. We also offer the option for direct cloud to cloud communication for metadata assets which offer greater bandwidth and lower round trip times.
In addition, virtualization reduces development costs and time to market. With virtualization we can leverage an existing app that is deployed and tested and can optimize it to run on millions of devices that have been previously unreachable.
For operators, they want to offer apps first and foremost. Not only do they want to offer two or three, but a broad set of apps that are optimized for their platform and their devices today in the future, so that they are attractive to a broader audience. They want to keep customers in their own ecosystem - once they lose them, they are gone. Performance therefore is critical. The battle is on for the consumer and capturing the biggest share of their time spent watching video. Virtualization holds the key to most efficiently getting big chunks of app-based video content to the broadest set of customers with the best quality of experience.
For app providers looking to learn more about how to harness the power of virtualization to streamline and accelerate time-to-market, read more about our AppCloud solution here.