Qosifire Review: Testing the Live Stream Monitor and Debugger
Qosifire is a roll-your-own live-stream monitoring and debugging service that lets you choose which streams to monitor, where to monitor them from, and how much to spend each month to do so. The service is simple to set up and access, provides a variety of status and debugging information, includes iOS and Android apps, and is highly affordable. If you’ve been seeking an inexpensive monitoring system for your live streams, Qosifire is worth a look.
At a high level, Qosifire works like this. First, you choose a stream to monitor, which can be an HLS or Real-Time Messaging Protocol (RTMP) video stream or an Icecast audio stream (other protocols are coming). Then you install agents to access the stream and report back to the web service. The agent is a simple Linux program you can install in data centers or at any AWS or other cloud location to monitor delivery performance near relevant clumps of customers. You get email updates regarding any delivery problems, or you can check the web console or iOS or Android apps for the latest data.
Qosifire is a service from Softvelum, the developer of the Nimble Streamer server/transcoder. Pricing is subscription-based. You pay $10/month for first 5 monitored streams and $1/month for each extra stream on top of that. There’s a 14-day free trial you can use to test the system, but there is no event-based pricing. Also, a free one-time check is available for making check-up of any given stream without any sign up.
You drive Qosifire from the interface shown in Figure 1, controlling streams and agent nodes on the top left and teams and users on the bottom left. The seven test streams I monitored during my testing are shown in the figure.
Figure 1. The Qosifire main console
Softvelum has produced an extensive getting-started guide to help new users get up and running. In the guide, Step 1 is installing agent nodes on Ubuntu, Debian, or CentOS systems with extensive documentation, including screencams, to guide your efforts. Once installed, you access the agents from the Nodes window; you can see the three set up for our testing in Figure 2. The logging mode controls the detail saved to the log file, with five modes available in increasing level of detail: none, error, info, verbose, and debug.
Figure 2. The installed agent nodes for checking streams in Europe, the Far East, and the U.S.
To add a stream, you click the Add stream button on the upper left, place the URL into the designated field, and then choose the protocol via the dropdown list shown on the right (Figure 3). You can set the Alias name and assign nodes to check the stream and the verbosity of the Events log.
Figure 3. Creating a stream
Icecast is typically audio-only streaming, and the Icecast features tab provides access to capabilities like enabling/disabling silence detection (with noise and duration thresholds), choosing the decoding library (FFmpeg or libfdk_aac), and deciding whether to check each channel separately. The Advanced settings tab lets you set the duration of history retained in the log, notification interval, and verbosity of the system log mode.
As mentioned, Qosifire can now monitor three protocols: Icecast, HLS, and RTMP. I asked about DASH support, to which my Softvelum contact said, “We definitely will do it; it’s just a matter of our development resources.” Interestingly, he commented that SRT support would be added before DASH, since its use is expanding and it presents critical issues for monitoring and debugging.
Users and Teams
Most organizations will manage multiple streams and perhaps may assign different employees to monitor and control the streams. In Qosifire, you manage this with the concepts of users and teams. There are two kinds of users: admins and users. Admins get complete access to stats for all streams and can configure the system, while users can access stats for those teams they are assigned to.
A team creates a subset of streams that can be viewed by specifically assigned users. By default, every Qosifire installation has an Admins team that includes all streams from all nodes but is only accessible to admins. To this, you can add additional teams to control which users have access to which stats. For example, Figure 4 shows the HLS team, which can access the four HLS test streams for all assigned nodes. (You can see both teams in the menu bar on the left in Figure 1.) Again, any admin can view all these stats, but only users assigned to a team can view the stats for any particular team.
Figure 4. Creating a team for users who need access to HLS-related stats
Analyzing the Data
Once you assign a node to a stream, it connects with the specified URL and reports back on its experience in retrieving the data and, in the case of Icecast, playing the live stream. Qosifire doesn’t currently actually decode and play the video streams, so there’s no quality check or error detection available. Rather, it downloads all video packets and, in the case of HLS, from all rungs in the encoding ladder.
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