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Highwinds Rolls Out Reporting and Content Management Upgrades

Since rolling out its Rolling Thunder content delivery network last fall, Highwinds has sought to differentiate itself from the rest of the increasingly crowded CDN field in two ways. First, it sells CDN services to resellers rather than to content providers themselves. Second, because of that business model, Highwinds has had to be extremely aggressive in providing a dashboard that allows these resellers to effectively manage their CDN customers.

"Our channel partners want to own the customer relationship themselves," says Mark Hayes, VP of marketing and business development for Highwinds, which is based in Winter Park, FL (just outside of Orlando) and has data centers in 16 North American and European cities. "We don’t have to be involved in the provisioning of accounts, and they don’t want us to be."

To that end, the company has just announced a significant upgrade to that dashboard, called StrikeTracker. Version 1.5 takes the already-robust dashboard and makes significant upgrades to the analytics offerings, says senior technical consultant Chris Bray. "We’re dedicated to providing everything to the customer’s fingertips in real time," says Bray. "You don’t have to submit a form, and there’s no need for separate portals for file management, reports, analytics, etc. StrikeTracker gives you the keys to the kingdom."

StrikeTracker allows resellers to split up information by product line—about half of the network’s traffic is HTTP, Hayes says, with the other half being evening split between Flash and Windows Media/Silverlight—and reconfigure charts on the fly. It also allows for what Bray calls a "hybrid report/dashboard" environment. "It’s interactive, but you can print them if you choose to do so, using typical comma-separated values," he says.

New In Version 1.5
Most of the newly announced features in StrikeTracker hav actually been available for a while, says Hayes, even though they weren’t advertised.

First and foremost in the new version is quicker and more detailed reporting. Rather than periodically gathering up raw logs to a central location and generating data, Bray says the Rolling Thunder network has custom software at the various endpoints that logs events in real time and uses a message bus to deliver the information. "We do a little miniature roll-up every 15-30 seconds, taking cumulative analytics from the edge nodes to create a single stream delivered to the StrikeTracker endpoint where that stream is coalesced and delivered directly in the Adobe Flex application," he says. "We need to provide analytics data that is actionable during a campaign so that marketing folks can make decisions as the campaign is evolving, rather than having to wait."

Version 1.5 also adds self-service live event provisioning; previously, customers had to contact Highwinds to help them provision live streams. "We’ve had a lot of customers who previously only looked at video-on-demand delivery, but are now considering doing more live events because all they need is at their fingerips," Bray says.

The new version also adds policy-based content access, with StrikeTracker users being able to set content protection polices on a per-folder basis, with policies inherited by every piece of content that’s in a folder. Types of content protection available include signed URLs, referrer restrictions, HTTP basic authentication, and geo-blocking.

The upgrade is rounded out by virtual host configuration, which increases the extent to which channel resellers can private label the Highwinds CDN, adding their own logo, branding, and name to the dashboard.

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