Higher Resolution Pt. II: Behind the Scenes
This is the second of a two-part blog about some of the continuous improvements we’re making to reduce operational complexity and friction for our customers. These may not be the headline-grabbing marquee features you’ll see in other VCAS Ultra marketing materials, but they will provide tremendous value, greatly improving our customers’ user experience, satisfaction and making it even easier to deploy and support VCAS.
Rewind: Back in the Day
Five years ago, we proudly released VCAS™ 3.0. VCAS had originally started off as an IPTV security product, but now we had expanded into providing security for cable, satellite, terrestrial and Internet TV. It was the first version of the product to provide a unified entitlement and content ingestion interface to weave together our discrete IPTV, DVB, OTT and MultiRights™ OTT product lines.
It enabled us to provide a single content security solution to our customers for the converging and consolidating markets of telco, cable, satellite, terrestrial and over-the-top Internet streaming. Instead of having to purchase, integrate and manage different conditional access systems between IPTV, DVB, OTT (Apple HLS, Microsoft PlayReady, Google Widevine, MPEG-DASH, etc.), customers only needed to buy one [from Verimatrix, of course!].
During this time, Verimatrix grew its customer base by more than 70%, and the number of protected consumer devices grew by 500%. To say that it was a hit product would be an understatement. However, as we’ve quickly grown, so have the requirements and complexity of our customers’ and partners’ solutions. We knew that as we continued to add functionality, we needed to find the balance between complexity and simplicity.
Now we’ve launched VCAS Ultra™, our latest evolution of our multi-network content security solution. Our Product Management, Engineering and Quality Assurance teams have dedicated hundreds of thousands of person-hours to design, develop and test an improved solution that provides our customers with additional functionality, along with security, performance and usability improvements.
Here are a few notes on the things we’ve been doing behind-the-scenes, as well as improvements to the product, that show our commitment to making our customers’ lives easier, and making the task of deploying and supporting VCAS as transparent as the CA/DRM itself.
Organizational Improvements: Growth in Capacity and Velocity
2015 and 2016 have been incredible years of re-investment in Verimatrix. We nearly doubled the size of our Product Management, Engineering, Quality Assurance and Global Operations teams to better support our customers. In addition, we transitioned to a new form of agile product development lifecycle called Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) to scale our velocity of getting new and updated products and services to market across an expanding portfolio.
Having been at Verimatrix for 11 years, I can honestly say that the amount of focus, visibility, transparency and communication across all teams and with executive buy-in has never been greater, and we’ve never had greater capacity to deliver more. It’s this environment that has helped us make VCAS Ultra our most valuable and feature-rich release ever.
Usability Improvements: Reducing Operational Friction
In addition to the new features described in the previous blog post, we have also added the following functionality:
*New System Health Dashboard - A brand new interface within the VCAS GUI that enables customers to see real-time performance and system health of the VCAS system.
*Documentation - All new documentation format, content and numbering scheme to make it easier for our customers to research our full installation and configuration steps, integration references, API frameworks, best practices and reference guides.
*Improved Knowledge Base - More articles have been published related to VCAS Ultra, including attaching all product documentation in a searchable format. Additionally, you’ll now find all of our well as latest published technical and security bulletins to ensure your team haven’t missed any critical update notifications.
*Full 64-Bit Application Support - All operating system, database and applications have migrated to full 64-bit support, which enable them to take advantage of 64-bit CPUs, larger memory capacity and increased speed in bare metal servers or virtual and cloud instances. This means it becomes easier for our customers to use a single common platform of operating systems, database and unifies many of our shared libraries and interfaces.
*Refreshed Hardware Specifications - In addition to improving the software performance, we have also refreshed our server hardware specifications to create a performance multiplier to further reduce your CAPEX compared to previous VCAS server specifications and reduce your OPEX compared to previous VCAS software versions. Additionally, Verimatrix now offers better server warranties, providing more comprehensive hardware support worldwide.
Performance & Reliability Improvements: Scale Up With Less
Another area of pride in the release of VCAS Ultra is the performance improvement we’ve made throughout the VCAS application stack, including in the database and operating system. This translates into fewer physical servers or virtualized instances required to support the same volume of subscriber devices, channels, VOD content ingestion, etc. For VCAS for IPTV CSM servers, this translated to a 3X client capacity increase per server over VCAS 3.0; for VCAS for IPTV RTES servers, it means a 25% improvement in bandwidth capacity; for MultiCAS servers it means only needing two MultiCAS instances to redundantly support up to 1000 channels.
On the VCAS for Internet TV side, we’ve increased the client capacity to store up to 16 keys (an 16X increase) in memory to better enable ViewRight® Web clients to pre-cache more keys in advance further to reduce peak server load and more smooth, uniform network traffic patterns. We also introduced the concept of an over-encryption key to VCAS for Internet TV which will further reduce the server load necessary to support OTT clients by 48X. Increased performance means reduced complexity, which contributes to increased system reliability.
With our new offline and persistent key storage for PVR, VOD and linear content, it means that not only can customers play content offline if your business model allows. Keys can be persistently stored which further reduces load to fetch keys during playback, and for unmanaged networks, it can improve subscriber viewing experiences.
Security Improvements: Faster, More Comprehensive Responsiveness to Critical Security Issues
Undoubtedly, you’ve seen increased security alert messages in the last couple years about vulnerabilities in many of the products in your networks including, but not limited to, a collection of OpenSSL issues with marketing-friendly names like Heartbleed, Shellshock, FREAK, and GHOST. Additionally, there have been critical discoveries in fundamental core services such as DNS, NTP and OpenJDK.
Verimatrix takes these security vulnerabilities very seriously because we know that both the severity and frequency of these security vulnerabilities is only going to increase over time, especially with the fragmentation of device types and platforms, and we need to enable our customers to keep their systems up-to-date with the latest security patches to mitigate these threats.
To address these potential security exposures faster, we created a Security Vulnerability Board, comprised of members of our Security, Product Management, Engineering, Global Operations teams. The Board has a mandate to review all security issues and then provide Technical Bulletins to all of our customers and partners to proactively notify them if their products are at risk for the latest security issues du jour. You can also review all published bulletins in our Knowledge Base in the Customer Care Portal.
Additionally, as part of our Quality Assurance processes, we will be introducing an additional step of performing Nessus scans of all of our GA software prior to release to further enhance the strength and security of our products by identifying additional vulnerabilities in source code or default configuration settings.
Operational Improvements: Effortlessly Stay Up-To-Date
As mentioned in the previous blog post, we are implementing a hosted Verimatrix Update server to allow operators to automatically download the latest software updates, bug fixes, security patches and errata from a trusted source, which will be available for your next maintenance window. Additional benefits of this include reducing the need to apply service packs from Verimatrix to address platform security issues; simply point your VCAS system to the update server, and you’ll automatically get them delivered as soon as they’re available.
Coming Soon: Automated Software & License Deliveries
Next up, we are working on releasing our Automated Software & Licensing service which will enable our customers to have their software and license deliveries be completely automated, delivering products faster from the time we receive your order. We are still working on this, and plan to have this ready for production in early 2017.
Fast Forward: Accelerate To VCAS 4.0/Ultra
If you’d like to take advantage of all of our efforts to make the product easier-to-use and investments in our teams and processes to get these updates to you faster, please reach out to your local salesperson to learn how we can accelerate your upgrade to the VCAS 4.0/Ultra platform.