MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT

This month our magazine features the future of Cloud Computing for both GEO and NGSO systems. The expansion of the cloud to satellite is both a great commercial opportunity for satellite operators and their partners but also a key cost savings and productivity enhancing opportunity for their customers. As noted by Shivaprakash Muruganandham, Consultant, NSR, “the advantages of incorporating the cloud into satellite businesses, whether earth observation or communications related are clear: a reduction of upfront capital expenditures and operational costs, ease of development and ubiquitous accessibility. In other words, less CAPEX and more predictable OPEX.”

Our contributing experts address the issues of the future role of cloud implementation and satellite networks generally, explaining that operators have the option of using public cloud services, their own private cloud or a combination of the two.

As described in detail by Bhanu Durvasula, Vice President, Hughes, cloud computing enables flexibility and scalability, it enables superior data analysis that provides useful insights to improve operational efficiencies. It also helps with the ever-increasing network security demands, and utilizing the cloud creates redundancy, providing data recovery in emergency scenarios like natural disasters or power outages and helps prevent data loss from hardware malfunction.

However, as explained by Sean Yarborough, Vice President of Product Management at ST Engineering iDirect, in order to interoperate easily and to run in the cloud, satellite infrastructure needs to first be virtualized and cloud native with technologies such as kubernetes and containers.

Jean-Philippe Gillet, SVP Global Sales, Intelsat describes how extending cloud-based applications to remote users allows enterprises to establish a common toolkit and expectations for productivity and agility across the “ubiquitous enterprise” is based on the ability for an enterprise to “support a common access performance baseline regardless of user location” so that it can deliver “consistent performance and efficiency across the enterprise.”

Alvaro Sanchez, Integrasys CEO explains that their new Beam Budget link budget tool is now available in a new release that has a cloud option available for use with both AWS and Microsoft Azure. What you may not know if that Alvaro is not only Integrasys CEO but also the Marquess of Antella. When you see him at our annual conference this October (Seoul Korea, October 18-29, 2022) please ask him to explain. Maybe he can make you a knight!

Enjoy our excellent articles which describe a critical growth opportunity and success story for our satellite industry. And see you all in Seoul for the APSCC 2022 Conference & Exhibition.

 

Gregg Daffner
President, APSCC

Cloud Computing for Space Applications

Shivaprakash Muruganandham, Consultant, NSR

 

Cloud computing represents an important technological shift that has been underway across industries since the turn of the century, impacting the bottom lines and business models of various players in the ICT sectors. Over the past decade alone, adoption of “the cloud” has surged forward with major legacy software vendors orchestrating efforts towards the emergence of on-demand self-service, rapidly elastic solutions on the so-called cloud. Digitization strategies today are less about the blanket “adoption of cloud-based services” and more about understanding exactly which services need to move on from on-premise, and their associated costs and value-add.

The satellite industry in comparison to the wider ICT sectors has lagged significantly in its true cloud adoption. The three cloud service models as defined by the NIST – SaaS, PaaS and IaaS, each come with their own pros and cons. On the other hand, the advantages of incorporating the cloud into satellite businesses, whether earth observation or communications related are clear: a reduction of upfront capital expenditures and operational costs, ease of development and ubiquitous accessibility. In other words, less CAPEX and more predictable OPEX. The use of cloud-based applications ensures that existing business processes are further streamlined. While these are tactical advantages, shifting to the cloud is more a strategic imperative, with business agility, i.e., the ability of a business to respond quickly to opportunities and risks, and IT flexibility being key drivers. Where then, does cloud computing most impact the satellite industry?

Satellite Cloud Service Revenues, by Market Segment
Source: NSR

NSR’s Cloud Computing via Satellite, 3rd Edition report forecasts a $31B cumulative revenue opportunity for cloud-based services in the satellite/space industry through the coming decade. Of the market segments studied NSR describes how the data downlink as an opportunity for ground segment players represents by far the largest revenue potential throughout the forecast period, from nearly $749M in 2021 to more than $3.1B in 2031. The delivery of cloud services via satcom forms the next largest segment (reaching $2B by 2031), while Geospatial Analytics and Orbital Infrastructure are smaller segments with revenues driven by business model and technology evolution trends respectively.

 

Data Downlink is Where it Rains

The Earth Observation (EO) industry is ascendant on multiple fronts, not the least of it being a growing number of satellites planned to launch over the coming decade. Sensor types are various, from very high resolution (VHR) optical and Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) to hyperspectral, radio occultation and others.
As an industry that has traditionally struggled to attract large commercial contracts, EO has generally focused on Government and Military applications for data and intelligence contracts. Now however, market demand for EO, Science and Situational Awareness (SA) data is beginning to take shape, and satellite operators will need to address a variety of existing challenges to meet it. Data is generally downlinked from satellites either to private data centers, hosted centers or directly onto cloud infrastructure of the operators. NSR’s Cloud Computing via Satellite, 3rd Edition report forecasts over $21 billion in cloud service revenues for data downlink through the next ten years. The transport of satellite imagery onto public cloud servers is a growing fraction of the downlink business: incumbent EO operators offer a suite of ancillary services directly or through subsidiaries and are reshaping business structures to keep up with new-space operators who are to adapt to the cloud from the start.

Data Downlink Service Components

Delivery modes for satellite imagery are changing and multiple operators are shooting for a data subscription model. Platforms and marketplaces are on the rise, attempting to breakdown the traditionally opaque model of how EO data is sold. Getting closer to the customer, whether in the energy, agriculture, insurance markets is important for operators and downstream analytics providers alike. Understanding end customer requirements and meeting them to spec will be a key factor in differentiating the winners. As such, geospatial intelligence tools are fast become a component of existing big data applications. Given such a diverse ecosystem, the cloud is an essential foundation for each layer in the EO demand stack.
Meanwhile, ground station service providers are accelerating efforts in revamping/augmenting existing infrastructure, with the use of cloud-enabled services or virtual ground stations built on shared infrastructure. Cumulatively, nearly 1400 PB of data is expected to be downlinked over the next ten years onto cloud servers. There are a few main factors driving this market: the emergence of Newspace players with solid investor backing (Infostellar), the entry of major CSPs with deep pockets and resources into the space industry (AWS GSaaS, Azure Orbital) and the virtualization of ground station services. Commercial EO players are open to a fully/partially outsourced ground service model, thereby generating cloud-related data traffic in this segment. SAR imagery players such as Capella Space and Umbra Labs, for instance, have leveraged AWS services to simplify and automate their data flows. Improvements in the resolution and quality of EO data (optical, SAR, hyperspectral etc.) will only increase the volumes of data being downlinked. Pricing models too are changing. While the traditional pricing per satellite pass metric still has its place, pricing per minute is on the rise as well. Ground service providers are currently either augmenting or revamping their capabilities. Virtualization at all layers will be the most effective way to meet emerging EO data requirements in the market. Offering these data providers a seamless cloud-based experience via easier APIs and autonomous satellite contact scheduling will be key, and cloud is again an essential foundation for such services.

 

Satellite Communications: Building Steam

The space-cloud ecosystem is converging, as satcom service providers partner with cloud providers to make applications available on-demand. Incumbent cloud providers continue to dominate the market as they enter the space industry, each with their unique selling points.

Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) have made a flurry of announcements in the last few years alone, expanding their direct connectivity partner programs to include satellite operators and service providers: from Microsoft Azure ExpressRoute (SES, Intelsat, Viasat) to IBM DirectLink (SES) . Such partnerships ensure high performance cloud-access to satcom customers, whether in the maritime, aero, energy or govmil sectors. RigNet, for instance, leverages cloud capabilities to provide video intelligence and cybersecurity solutions in the energy sector. IIoT-based analytics are another key factor in the mobility satcom segments, as with the Inmarsat/Microsoft or AWS/Iridium partnership.

The cloud trend in satcom is expected to impact business models of all actors in the value chain. Such solutions are expected to drive revenues in the long run, sustaining bandwidth demand from traditional satcom customers. On the other hand, the development of applications in the cloud is also expected to bring in bandwidth savings as applications move closer to being “high value low volume” with greater margins, leading to increased revenue opportunities as well. Such a strategy will play a vital role as next-generation satellites that are cloud-ready launch into orbit. Satcom operators are betting on driving long-term growth by attracting larger data pipeline usage from various end customers.

Maritime and Aero satcom are the main revenue drivers, generating $4.6B and $1.6B cumulatively over the 10-year forecast period. In terms of data traffic, the volume is highest for Aero, while Maritime, Onshore Energy, Gov/Mil and Retail segments follow. CSPs are a foundational layer, i.e., a platform for user-focused applications across these satcom segments.

Near-term market pressures impacted revenues in the maritime segment across all vessel types (passenger, offshore, merchant, leisure and fishing). However, the total addressable market is forecast to grow in the long term, and as fleets become digitized, cloud-native value added services are expected to boost satcom service revenues. Applications here can range from passenger cruise connectivity and energy management to offshore energy analytics and route optimization, sustaining demand for cloud services through the years.

Meanwhile, weather reports, ATC communications, connected aircraft services etc. are key for the aero market, driving a significant volume of data traffic. Big data applications such as health monitoring and predictive maintenance will also drive service revenues. Integrated operations via “digital oilfield” and “connected mine” plans of O&G and mining majors are further expected to advance cloud revenues in the VSAT energy satcom markets. As such, cloud compute resources will be a key enabler for current/upcoming predictive and prescriptive analytics, as well as remote asset monitoring solutions.

 

Satellite Big Data Analytics: By the Buckets

Downstream business model innovations are also underway, as analytics providers compete to provide better insights by developing newer products and services, thereby increasing the consumption of cloud services, whether for compute/storage/network capabilities. A few years ago, Descartes Labs built the first system on the TOP500 fastest supercomputers list to run completely on public cloud resources. Soon after, the company launched a real-time geospatial data platform, providing geospatial tools that use satellite big data over the cloud.

There are multiple satellite data analytics providers launching fully managed solutions to provide what is called ‘scientific-grade Analytics Ready Data’ to customers at scale. Such big data solutions have taken center stage in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic as well, and related cloud service opportunities are forecast to increase, reaching upwards of $470M by 2031. NSR expects service providers in this segment to further optimize their cloud usage to improve their margins, while presenting a low hanging revenue opportunity to CSPs.

 

The Bottom Line

Enterprise digitization across industries and cybersecurity considerations have driven the cloud-based satcom service market significantly. As satellite players vie to keep up with the expected demand for connectivity, cloud computing will form a crucial part of digitization strategy. With the growing supply of EO and SA data satellites, the traditional EO industry has evolved to include data analytics, and the cloud is essential in accelerating the adoption of such solutions.

Cloud computing brings multiple benefits to an organization, acting as an enabler by reducing the barrier of entry to a market for small companies and new startups in the space industry. By cutting out the need for ownership of hardware/software, it allows satellite players to cooperate with CSPs and serve their customers much more efficiently. The cost of a cloud service, the potential upside / expected savings for the business, and turnaround time – these are important questions that drive cloud-related conversations today.

Shivaprakash Muruganandham has done Consulting work for NSR since 2018. His areas of expertise cover the satellite big data, optical satcom and emerging space markets. Muruganandham was a systems engineer at Valeo R&D in the Czech Republic, after completing his master’s studies with the Erasmus Mundus SpaceMaster consortium in Space Science & Technology from Luleå University of Technology (LTU), Sweden and Cybernetics & Robotics from Czech Technical University (CTU), Czech Republic.

Cloud Services by Satellite

Jean-Philippe Gillet, SVP Global Sales, Intelsat

 

With the pace of adoption of cloud-based services over the past several years, the appropriate question for enterprises has changed from “do you use the cloud?” to “in how many ways do you use the cloud?” Whether cloud services are adopted because of potential cost savings and the ability to access greater resources, or as part of ongoing organizational digital transformation objectives, it would be hard to find a company that doesn’t have ready access to cloud-based applications and resources.
As the cloud becomes more central to the operations and productivity of an application, establishing a baseline level of network connectivity is key, regardless of the availability of local network infrastructure at the location of the person, object, or resource that needs to be connected. For this reason, leveraging the integration of satellite services and cloud networks allows organizations to extend the reach of the cloud, and with that, the efficiencies of digital processes.
But beyond simply “providing a longer local loop” for enterprise locations, the combination of satellite’s reach and reliability with the growing list of public, private, centralized, and edge cloud capabilities can enable new use cases and improve the effectiveness of organizations across segments. Here we will look at a handful of use cases that highlight the potential of combined satellite and cloud services.

 

The Ubiquitous Enterprise

As referenced above, satellite-extended cloud deployments create the potential for incorporating more sites in more places into cloud-enabled enterprises. Extending cloud-based applications to remote users allows enterprises to establish a common toolkit and expectations for productivity and agility across the organization.
In a whitepaper created for Intelsat by Heavy Reading, the notion of the “ubiquitous enterprise” is based on the ability for an enterprise to “support a common access performance baseline regardless of user location” so that it can deliver “consistent performance and efficiency across the enterprise.” Inherent in this is a hybrid cloud-based model that leverages a combination of physical networks to deliver universal access, with satellite being a key component in addressing requirements for network reliability and reach.
Edge computing complements satellite connectivity well, providing immediate local processing with very low latency that eliminates potential latency concerns with satellite transport. As the definition of “edge” is modified with each customer use case, the consistency afforded by a managed satellite network service can serve as a baseline across regional and global implementations.

Use cases for the satellite-enabled Ubiquitous Enterprise location are as varied as enterprises themselves. A couple examples:

  • A global retail chain wishes to establish a beachside pop-up storefront at a location as renowned for its seasonal popularity as it is notorious for its lack of services and infrastructure. A satellite-enabled, solar-powered solution transforms a modified shipping container into a full-fledged branch with access to point-of-sale, inventory tracking, shop surveillance, and even customer Wi-Fi access.
  • An initiative to make better use of production data across vendors and suppliers relies on a level of connectivity that may not always be present outside of an organization’s own properties. Easy-to-deploy satellite services with SD-WAN-enabled security, application prioritization, and load balancing can not only establish a more resilient data network but can even provide the organization the potential to offer services to its partners.

 

Complementing SD-WAN Underlay Infrastructure

Cloud-based infrastructure and applications have enabled companies to establish operations wherever opportunities exist, expanding markets and streamlining supply chains. Increasingly, SD-WAN underlies the distributed computing architectures emerging from the shift of intelligence to the network edge.
Satellite network-as-a-service and connectivity-as-a-service options can be integrated into a customer’s SD-WAN fabric to complement existing MPLS networks or local internet access. Since the satellite connection doesn’t share any local infrastructure with the terrestrial connections, enterprises can improve the high-availability benefits of SD-WAN with the additional level of redundancy unique to satellite-enabled sites.
Consider a lifecycle view of a new enterprise site. Organizations can leverage quick-to-deploy satellite service as a “first in” solution and then maintain it at the throughput that fits best with their application and business needs when other networks become available. Application-aware routing will direct traffic according to the status of all the available underlay connections – across private, public, and hybrid cloud implementations – to meet the needs of individual applications. When combined with terrestrial alternatives, satellite enhances the ability of the network to support all applications with the appropriate performance.

 

Private Cellular, Globally Available

Enterprise Wi-Fi is the de facto connectivity for the laptop-enabled office employee, powering devices from hallway to cubicle to conference room. Its near ubiquity is due to a level of flexibility and manageability perfect for office settings, although large deployments and certain challenging environments can drive up cost and drive down performance. Public cellular networks provide an enticing alternative for large deployments, although with the availability of the public network comes a tradeoff in performance, control, and cost.
Private cellular networks have emerged as an alternative that delivers coverage, control, and security, especially across indoor/outdoor campuses or in difficult environments such a mines or metal buildings. Those environments often overlap with areas that are in locations that are hard to service with terrestrial connectivity, making satellite-powered services a likely connectivity solution.

In a recent demonstration, Intelsat and Microsoft Azure showed how the combination of reach and reliability from a managed satellite service and the computing power of cloud services can enable organizations to deliver private cellular service to almost any location. Leveraging the ultra-low latency of an edge-compute-powered solution, even remote warehouses and faraway mining operations can take advantage of secure private cellular services to deliver applications, power interoffice communications, and enable machine-to-machine connectivity combining local processing and centralized cloud analysis.

 

Earth Imaging Applications

A driver for some of the recent moves by prominent public cloud providers is the need to aggregate and analyze the huge amount of data coming from earth-imaging satellites. High-resolution images and data about environment and weather conditions are only collected by these satellites – the analysis of that data has to happen on the ground, and the amount of data being collected is a perfect fit for cloud-based storage and processing. Removing steps along the path from raw satellite data to actionable intelligence is of benefit to both the companies gathering the data and the cloud providers.
Services such as Azure Orbital and AWS Ground Station go beyond addressing the basic transport, storage, and analysis requirements to offer as-a-service solutions that reduce the need for satellite operators to own and maintain their own teleport ground facilities. By integrating the ground station uplink antennas with the cloud terrestrial network, operators can shift many costs to an as-needed operational expense where antenna time is paid for in the same way as storage space and processing time.

 

Backhaul to the Virtual MNO Core

As with enterprise networks, the networks that power today’s public cellular infrastructure have become increasingly cloud based. Modern mobile network operator (MNO) network cores combine private data centers and public cloud to support operations, monitoring, and billing, and close integration between the backhaul network and backroom processing is crucial to ensuring quality of service.
At the same time, the number of use cases for satellite-based cellular backhaul has grown. Whether it is to cost-effectively meet universal-service obligations and expand services into difficult-to-serve areas, convert 2G and 3G networks to 4G, provide flexible capacity to support short-term spikes in demand, provide redundancy, or deliver disaster recovery services, the ability to quickly deploy dependable connectivity virtually anywhere means satellite-based backhaul is an important network tool.

Over time, MNOs have adjusted the way in which they integrate satellite services into their operations. Having once maintained dedicated staff to manage satellite capacity and its integration with their ground networks, MNOs are increasingly leveraging managed platforms and services from satellite operators, allowing them to focus on customer-facing services and outsource more of the backhaul infrastructure operations.
With this change comes the requirement that the satellite operator infrastructure has tight integration with the MNO core. As core functionality moves to the cloud, direct connections between satellite operator networks and multiple cloud providers become increasingly important to ensure the quality of services is maintained.
Last year, an Intelsat partner provided a demonstration that illustrates the agility afforded by this integration. In support of a school connectivity project in the Dominican Republic, the solution provider brought up services on their rapid-deploy tower and fixed broadband wireless solution, leveraging Intelsat’s platform-as-a-service connectivity solution that integrates connectivity to their cloud-based core network. Enabling quick deployment of services in areas lacking adequate infrastructure helps to close business cases for projects like this.

 

Monitoring and IoT

Much as the digital enterprise depends on a consistent baseline of connectivity to keep its applications running and people productive, digitalization increases the opportunities to aggregate device and machine data and transform that data into new insights and actions. As with earth imaging, cloud-scale resources become increasingly necessary, and the networks to enable the global proliferation of “things” depends on leveraging all available connectivity types.
Industrial IoT, agricultural IoT, and infrastructure monitoring are prime examples of applications enabled through cloud and satellite integration. Satellite solutions can deliver globally consistent network services that simplify the design and implementation of IoT and monitoring services and complement the intent of automation projects.

IoT project examples include:

  • Using satellite service as “IoT backhaul,” our partners recently worked with farmers in South Africa to establish the foundations for a LoRaWAN (low-power, wide area wireless networking protocol) and Wi-Fi-enabled farm monitoring system. Sensor data collected from across devices and farm infrastructure provided insight into appropriate network and capacity sizing and how edge compute and cloud services would be incorporated into larger implementations.
  • Solar power platforms present an opportunity to enable a number of welfare-enhancing services to citizens in deep rural areas – but they also present management and operations challenges. An Intelsat partner project will enable the monitoring of thousands of systems across a vast forest and jungle region. LoRaWAN networks will provide coverage across village-sized areas while managed VSAT services will provide backhaul from the villages to a centralized cloud platform.

 

Enabling Media Programmers’ Transition to Total Cloud Configurations

Media customers have long used satellite services for the cost-effective, efficient distribution of programming, typically taking advantage of high-speed private links connecting their production facilities with a satellite operator’s global media distribution network. As with the other use cases in this article, these media customers are also moving their playout, video editing, and other resources to the cloud. With that move comes tighter integration between cloud networks and the satellite space and ground networks.

This tighter integration provides a more efficient way to connect to a customer’s cloud-based services with managed satellite services including uplink and/or downlink between satellites and teleports, colocation of equipment, and more. From a satellite operator’s point of view, these solutions will be based on secure access between their networks and the networks of the major public cloud operators.

Two use cases for integrating cloud and satellite services are content archiving and video distribution on a regional and global scale. In both use cases, broadcasters and programmers are able to access their cloud services while still utilizing a broadcast-grade network with low latency and a secure and private connection, adding resiliency and reliability to their linear workflows.

A recent example is that of a North American non-profit broadcaster utilizing using cloud storage to archive hundreds of hours of content. The combination of cloud storage and integration with satellite-operator network provides a reliable path for the customer to downlink content from their broadcast feed and safely store it for easy accessibility later.

Whether used on their own or to complement other network technologies, satellite services combined with either centralized cloud or edge computing can enable a new range of use cases across industry segments. Particularly in light of the availability of more platform-as-a-service and packaged end-terminal solutions, space-based options can become an increasingly straightforward and relevant connectivity consideration for public, private, and hybrid cloud-based networks.

Jean-Philippe Gillet leads Intelsat’s global sales organization; in addition, he oversees Intelsat’s Networks business, with responsibilities for developing and executing the company’s global broadband strategy and solutions. Mr. Gillet previously served as Intelsat’s Vice President for Europe, the Middle East and Africa from 2014 to 2017, as Intelsat’s Vice President of Sales for Europe and the Middle East From 2006 to 2013 and as Intelsat’s Vice President of Media Sales from 2003 to 2006. Mr. Gillet earned a Master of Science degree in information technology from Ecole Superieure de Commerce and a Bachelor’s in computer science at the Ecole Superieure d’Informatique Engineering School.

Satellite Implementations and Private vs. Public Cloud Architectures

Bhanu Durvasula, Vice President, Hughes

 

Since the start of the 21st century, cloud computing has transformed the landscape of the information and communications technology sector, and beyond. The migration to the cloud has affected our personal lives – our email, media streaming, online shopping and more. Agile, scalable cloud solutions deliver many benefits to businesses and end users. It would seem that commercial satellite ground networks – which generate an enormous amount of data that requires processing, storing and analysis – would be a ripe opportunity for cloud computing. And they are, with many leaders in the industry migrating satellite ground systems to the cloud. However, while the cloud can be a useful resource and tool for the satellite industry, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution or magic bullet.

 

Private Cloud for Higher Performance

When it comes to cloud implementations and satellite networks, operators have options of using public cloud services, their own private clouds or a combination of the two. There is not just the “public cloud” offered by the major cloud service providers; there is also the “private cloud” whereby an entity sets up its own cloud-based data center infrastructure to support its services and operations.
The motivation to establish private cloud services includes better economics at larger scale as well as better control over the performance of the cloud. As one example, in the case of the ground system for the Hughes JUPITER™ 3 satellite, a private cloud enables Hughes to run critical, time-sensitive applications for near real-time traffic management. This type of operation would be considerably more difficult in a public cloud environment. In another example, a major global operator is moving many of the software functions that would traditionally lie in their gateways into their data centers (private cloud) instead.

 

Public Cloud for Optimized Operations

Public cloud services also offer a host of advantages to satellite operators. For example, at Hughes, we are taking advantage of public cloud computing for our operational support services and business support services (OSS/BSS,) using cloud-native programs like Salesforce to simplify and streamline our processes and deliver a better customer experience. The cloud migration has allowed us to scale up our configuration, installation and distribution (CID) process, deploying resources much more rapidly. And when we are writing code, we can create separate “containers,” so to speak, for different functions. When we need to make changes, we can adjust the one container rather than having to revalidate the entire piece of code. That flexibility enables us to better meet our customer requirements more quickly.
Hughes also uses public cloud services to help manage our Community Wi-Fi and Community LTE programs, which provide affordable internet connectivity in remote, underserved areas. Hosting the back-end system in the cloud enables us to efficiently manage multiple sites and customers and contributes to overall efficiency and cost savings.

 

The Basic Benefits of Cloud Computing

When we examine the “mass migration” of computing to the cloud over the past two decades, the benefits are consistent across businesses, regardless of whether one is using a public or private cloud. Cloud computing enables flexibility and scalability that helps meet business needs quickly. Many cloud-based solutions enable superior data analysis that provides useful insights to improve operational efficiencies. Turning to the cloud also helps with the ever-increasing network security demands, as cloud partners assume responsibility for data security. Utilizing the cloud creates redundancy, providing data recovery in emergency scenarios like natural disasters or power outages. Similarly, cloud-based services help prevent data loss to other scenarios, like hardware malfunction.

Network Operations Center (credit: Hughes)

Cloud computing does not require a substantial investment in up-front hardware. Combined with many of the above benefits – like outsourced security and automatic redundancy – migrates operations to the cloud can offer substantial cost savings. A “pay as you grow” model appeals to many businesses.

 

Cloud Use-Cases for Satellite Ground Systems

The broad benefits of cloud computing apply to commercial satellite systems – and many players in the satellite industry are already taking advantage of cloud solutions to improve ground network operations and service delivery.
Outside of our own business at Hughes, we see other practical uses of the cloud for satellite communications. For instance, many companies are deploying affordable small satellites for IoT or geospatial imaging. Rather than creating their own computing infrastructure, those small sat operators download that data to a cloud from which end consumers can access specifically what they need. Cloud computing is ideal for this kind of offering and precludes small operators from having to build costly infrastructure.
Additionally, the Earth observation sector of the industry has embraced public cloud services. Not requiring continuous connectivity, these operators use the public cloud for “store-and-forward” services whereby the satellite store images until they are over a suitable earth station.

Hughes JUPITER Gateway (credit: Hughes)
Virtualization and Ground Systems as a Service

When analysts examine the potential satellite market opportunity for cloud providers, they, no doubt, are considering the possibility that public cloud computing could ultimately replace elements of traditional satellite network architecture, like hardware used to convert Radio Frequency (RF) signals from antenna into data. This would lead to an era where baseband components, and even modems, can be virtualized and moved to the cloud, such that public cloud providers provide “ground system as a service” (GSaaS) alongside traditional ground system providers. But the industry is not yet at that point as it will take time for such things as the various standards to be agreed on and implemented.
But the long term benefits are clear as the virtualization of functions, and “renting” of ground technologies, would mean that companies no longer have to invest in creating gateways. For smaller service providers and startups, that can translate to significant cost savings and immediate scalability. Examples of operators that may take advantage of GSaaS via cloud include small, localized internet service providers around the globe, providers of connectivity to shipping vessels that don’t require wide area coverage (for instance maritime connectivity) or oil and gas customers. Those operators enjoy a “pay as you go” model that relieves the burden of building, maintaining and operating a ground system.
While GSaaS solutions using the public cloud may be a good solution for smaller players, larger satellite companies are unlikely to see value in a wholesale shift to the public cloud. These big, global operators, deal with a huge volume of data, computing needs and memory. They already likely have their own private cloud in the form of data centers. For these businesses, the capital costs of continuing to build on existing infrastructure are reasonable compared to the cost of hosted service in the cloud. Further, just because software designed for a dedicated server runs effectively on existing hardware, that doesn’t mean it can be migrated seamlessly to a public cloud platform. There is a lot of work required to optimize software to leverage the benefits of the cloud. Any business that has built legacy software needs to consider those implications of moving to a cloud environment.
So, like Hughes, many of the larger satellite communications companies may move certain functions to the public cloud, but still rely on a private cloud with a vertically integrated, end-to-end, system with its own ground segment for maximum efficiency. This hybrid approach demands that larger satellite companies examine how to most efficiently facilitate data traffic between gateways and data centers and the cloud.
The satellite industry is embracing the “cloudification” of networking, and a trend toward adopting private and public cloud services will continue. But satellite businesses are embracing migration to the cloud only when and where it makes sense for the bottom line. Third-party cloud services, virtualization and GSaaS create a playing field favorable for startups and small operators. For big industry players, a hybrid approach that incorporates third-party cloud services, private cloud and ground system hardware is the model most likely to persist.

Bhanu Durvasula leads the Hughes international satellite broadband product and operations team. In his 30+ years at Hughes, he has held a variety of leadership roles in engineering and product development, most recently focused on satellite network technology for community Wi-Fi hotspot and cellular backhaul solutions in support of the company’s efforts to bring connectivity to unserved and underserved areas of the world. Mr. Durvasula holds several patents. He earned a Master of Science Degree in Electrical Engineering from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Satellite & the Cloud

Sean Yarborough, Vice President, Product Management, ST Engineering iDirect

 

In the mid to late 90s, tech visionaries such as Mark Benioff and Steve Jobs were taking their first steps into the cloud. As speeds grew to access the internet and associated services, milestones started to happen with launches of cloud-based companies such as Salesforce, AWS, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox and iCloud. The cloud resources are virtually available anywhere, reducing hardware costs and dramatically reducing the amount of IT, NOC, and datacenter resources required to run networks and applications – and businesses are catching on in a big way.
Today, enterprises and service providers of all kinds are migrating from physical data centers to the cloud at a significant rate. It makes excellent business sense. The cloud allows a distributed architecture, access to greater security, network flexibility, redundancy, new services, faster time to market and all at a lower total cost of ownership (TCO). Likewise, satellite operators and providers are embracing the cloud as part of its converged infrastructure.
Let’s begin by looking at the benefits of moving networks and applications to the cloud.

 

Cost Savings

Firstly, at a time when lowering costs is at the forefront of any business, a move to cloud-based operations pays off many times over for enterprises and providers by allowing them to embrace virtualization without incurring the significant costs that would accompany such an undertaking if it required purchasing purpose-built appliances, placed into a datacenter. By relying on cloud-based infrastructure, and cloud-native solutions, they don’t need to invest in the capital expenditure of a new or upgraded data center, nor the additional warranty and support costs of this new hardware and the associated real estate to house it. They can save on operating expenses, since they don’t need to fund the utilities and workforce needed to maintain the data center. And they can reduce the cost of their IT and NOC departments by shifting from fixed-cost models to pay-as-you-use or pay-as-you-grow models.

 

Security

Security is also of paramount importance today with service providers extremely sensitive to breaches and threats. Data security is and always has been essential to the success of any company. In a pre-cloud environment, data centers were vulnerable to numerous and ever-expanding security threats. But today, enterprises and providers can rely on cloud service providers to offer data protection that is often well beyond what the largest and most advanced private data centers are capable of. These cloud service providers typically guarantee that all data is encrypted, the network is constantly being monitored and actively protected, and that the latest security application technologies and upgrades are used to protect the cloud environments they manage.

(credit: Shutterstock)
Flexibility and Scalability

The cloud also offers unprecedented flexibility and scalability. Adding users to cloud-based infrastructure requires only additional licensing costs, as opposed to additional hardware and additional storage. This saves on capex costs, of course, and it also saves time and work. For example, upgrading can take just one click and the only remaining work might be merging databases. This advantage in the flexibility and scalability of cloud-based services also becomes useful for large, short-term projects.

 

Mobility

A remote workforce is becoming the norm for today’s corporations. This means that enterprise applications must be reachable outside of the traditional office setting, a corporate LAN. The best and easiest way to support this mobility: providing constant access to the cloud-based applications and services. Cloud access also affords corporations the ability to expand the types of devices that employees can use to access data and complete work.

 

Disaster Recovery

Finally, disasters are unavoidable. But business downtime doesn’t have to be. Whether a company’s facilities are damaged or its offices must be closed, a cloud-enabled operation has an easier time restarting business than an operation that relies on physical IT infrastructure located in a single location. By running solutions in the cloud, companies can have both high availability which is needed when a server or application fails and geo-redundancy when a physical location is compromised.

(credit: Shutterstock)
Why does satellite infrastructure need to move to the cloud

The trend towards the cloud is here to stay and the satellite industry is responding to keep up with this shift. By offering cloud-first satellite services, the industry can meet the needs of its customers while at the same time positioning itself for future success and growth as satellite capacity and numbers expand. Satellite’s role within the cloud is important as enterprises today require ubiquitous access and this ubiquity can only be achieved through enabling connectivity everywhere. This is an inherent strength of satellite. Though there are many countries where public internet is reliable enough to access any public cloud application, there are many regions where this is non-existent or of poor quality and users need to rely on satellite to gain cloud access.

 

Changes within the Satellite Industry

It’s also important to recognize the other trends that are happening in the wider satellite industry that are pushing satellite toward the cloud as a means of reaching its full potential. The industry is adding to its traditional GEO satellite constellations, with highly flexible, digitized high throughput satellites in MEO/LEO/HEO constellations, requiring new ground network technologies. This newer generation of satellites will require a more scalable, flexible, and secure infrastructure solution, and cloud infrastructure meets those needs. For example, in GEO deployments, the number of gateways/teleports a provider may operate is in the 10s. However, when moving to the LEO constellation this scale increases to 100s. Likewise, the number of terminals in a single network grows from tens of thousands to a potential of hundreds of thousands.
For satellite ground infrastructure operators, switching to the cloud isn’t a simple one. The transition to virtualization is complex with a myriad details, transitions, and processes that must be attended to – each vital to the overall success of the transition to virtualization.

 

Virtualization of the ground infrastructure

At ST Engineering iDirect, we are undertaking a move towards infrastructure virtualization and the cloud to ultimately allow our customers to scale faster without the need for additional capex investments. However, in order to interoperate easily and to run in the cloud, satellite infrastructure needs to first be virtualized and cloud native with technologies such as kubernetes and containers. Today, we are taking the steps to virtualizing parts of our hub and NMS infrastructure so that we can offer both private and public cloud-based network deployments. And we are also embarking on development and go-to-market (GTM) partnerships with Cloud Service Providers (CSP) that will enable us to accelerate our time to market and ensure we have truly integrated and proven solutions for our customers.
We recently entered into such a partnership with Microsoft Azure Space to develop a virtualized modem that can be deployed on a Microsoft Azure Stack HCI based solution. Through this collaboration, we will leverage the Azure software radio tools to enable our satcom solutions through the Azure cloud platform. This represents a major milestone in our strategic direction that will lead to the virtualization and cloudification of our satcom platform. Importantly, this positions satellite as a mainstream access technology and opens up opportunities with customers that perhaps had never before considered satellite.
We are also an active member of the Digital IF Interoperability Consortium (DIFI) where we jointly started an open collaboration with ecosystem partners to define the Digitized Interface between modulator/ demodulator, modem and RF components as a standard. This enables the replacement of traditional L-band interfaces between these components with IP connection, thereby making them easier to deploy in public and private clouds. Furthermore, we are adapting our NMS and hub deployment architectures to enable more cloud-based deployment options.

 

Myriad opportunities in the cloud

The cloud affords providers huge opportunities to improve service offerings, increase security and to grow revenue streams, while simplifying network maintenance and lower overall costs. Demand for cloud-based services is exponential and satellite operators and service providers have much to gain from making the transition to the cloud with access to a complete family of networking applications which they can package into advanced service offerings that will provide customers with not only satellite connectivity, but also cybersecurity, hybrid network, application-based QoS, and end-to-end service orchestration.
The time is now for the satellite industry to embrace its future in the cloud and make these opportunities happen.

Sean Yarborough is a Vice President of Product Management at ST Engineering iDirect. In this role, Yarborough oversees the strategies for iDirect’s platform portfolio which includes managing the entire lifecycle from conception to end of life. Prior to joining ST Engineering iDirect, Sean was a Vice President of Service Assurance, with Spirent Communications, where he managed a portfolio of mature and new service assurance solutions for voice, video, and data services in the telecommunications and enterprise markets. These solutions ranged from traditional hardware appliances to SaaS based solutions. At Spirent, Sean advised leading service providers around the world on best practices for activating, monitoring, and troubleshooting business, wireless, and residential services. With over 25 years of experience in the IT, mobile, telecom, and satellite markets, Sean offers a unique blend of knowledge and cross-functional experience to educate the global community on the importance of satellite technology and its continued alignment with telco initiatives. He has a BS in Electrical Engineering (University of Virginia) and an MBA (University of Maryland – College Park).

The New Era of Network Design in the Cloud for the Space Industry

Alvaro Sanchez, CEO, Integrasys

 

Nowadays, software and smart solutions are a pillar of the satellite industry. The approach of tech companies that serve the SatCom industry is migrating software to the cloud. Indeed, NSR expects the cloud-satellite market will reach $21 billion and generate 233 exabytes of traffic by 2030.

 

The Adoption of Cloud-Based Smart Solutions in the Satellite industry from a Ground Segment Perspective:

It was not until 2010, that the adoption of the Cloud started to be contemplated by technology companies. For the satellite industry, the transition has become slower than in other industries, due to the complex architecture of the systems used. Right now, cloud-based systems are a priority for telecommunications software vendors who are gathering all their efforts to offer their customers on-demand self-service, flexible, and adapted to their business needs. Digitalization strategies, and business models for this new cloud movement, are diverse, the most common ones are SaaS (Software as a Service), PaaS (Project as a Service), and IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service), all of which guarantee a CAPEX reduction, operational costs, and easy access and setup. Even though the most advanced segment in this cloud transformation is the space segment, especially for EO data management, within the ground segment, multiple stakeholders are expected to employ best practices to adapt their software to Cloud-based architectures. The opportunity to automate the network design from the terrestrial side is given by a quick availability of smart solutions, as well as offering the flexibility to the customer to acquire the technology by paying per user, per month, or annual.
The ground segment is facing new challenges, such as logistics, and supply chain, which are now a great issue for ensuring a fast delivery, and an easy setup. Cloud-based technologies are the only option to guarantee not only an easy setup, but also an immediate delivery. Regarding the new constellations LEO & MEO, these ground innovations, must be aligned with the new space era approach. The success of the new constellations is subject to the optimization of the network design on the ground, hence smart solutions are mandatory to get the most out of the new constellations. These new technologies can maximize the performance of the network architecture. Moreover, the typology of these technologies requires a cloud ecosystem, as they need to be integrated with complex systems seamlessly. Regarding the commercial side of these types of technologies, cloud-based systems complement with SaaS business model, due to their scalability and ubiquity.

Network Design tool Beam Budget – Interface
Which are the Key Points of Using Cloud-Based Network Design Tools?

Managing these new business challenges from the ground segment, should encompass the entire satellite workflow, starting from the satellite network design as a decisive step. The addressed technologies mentioned above, enable the reduction of operator fails/ issues, and ensure that the establishment of the satellite network is secure and optimized. The inclusion of cloud-based systems brings an easy access for technical teams who are looking for a reliable ecosystem to obtain the needed measures for the establishment of the network. Another point to consider when taking the decision of using network design technologies is the management of the capacity which shows gains and losses on any given satellite link. These are some of the tasks that cover a network design smart solution or a link budget calculation tool, any of them are arduous processes that require a lot of time, and manually they are not accurate. Incorrect calculations, and computations result in an unsuitable satellite selection and that leads to signal degradation. Correct calculations, on the other hand, and completing link budgets quickly and effectively, equalizes to a satellite operator maximizing revenue and providing the correct capacity to the customer every time, with a greater customer experience. Network design tools, ranging from long excel sheets to complex software are not customizable and are complex to use. The new space era demands, less effort when using technology, as the main aim is to simplify technical tasks, without extra effort. From the technical side, an engineering team needs to make link budget calculations accurately and get the satellite footprints easily to get the necessary inputs in seconds. Technologies must take into account the reporting part; therefore, the parameters can be presented in a clear document with valuable information that can be adapted to the needs of the company, or concrete project. As mentioned before, a network design tool is mainly useful for link budget calculation, which used to be arduous work for technical departments. Technologies need to have the multi-orbit option, which means the support of LEO & MEO constellations, which are key for the time being and are the most complex infrastructure on the ground. Other important advances that need to be accurately calculated by the tool, are that the ITU EPFD calculations in seconds, and an easier obtention of frequency licenses.

Beam Budget LEO

Beam Budget by INTEGRASYS is an innovative link budget tool available in the market. The new release has a cloud option available in AWS, and Microsoft Azure. The user can get it instantly, without any logistics or customs, right when they need it. Beam Budget is the ideal link budget calculation tool for Satellite Operators, Service Providers or End-users. This technology is an accurate simulation tool, able to model constellations, spacecraft transponders, beams, and footprints; as well as ground equipment to assess the global performance of wide-area satellite networks on multiple time scales. It is the most accurate link budget tool with reliable satellite network design, automatic and graphical reports, easy to use for Sales Representatives, and the link budget process only takes seconds. Beam Budget is able to simplify and automate the satellite network design for better sales and customer understanding with graphical reports. Accurate link budgets for TDMA networks are complex to calculate, therefore INTEGRASYS has developed the right tool to combine coverage analysis in multi-orbit environment.

Cloud-based systems for the ground segment are mandatory to optimize the satellite network design in this new space era. The new network design technologies need to be flexible, scalable, as well as intuitive.

Alvaro Sanchez is Integrasys CEO and Marquess of Antella. He studied Industrial and Computer Science Engineering in the European University and a Master in Sales and Marketing at ESIC. Alvaro has worked 10 years at Integrasys, being Sales and Marketing Director with tangible results in the revenue. Now Alvaro is Integrasys CEO and his main function is expanding the company.