Provisioning Satellite Communications in Mere Minutes? SDN Makes It Possible

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Exploration companies work in some pretty remote areas of the world. The Chukchi Sea in the U.S. Arctic region. The North Kerio basin of Kenya. The Norwegian North Sea. It seems there are few places on earth that are too remote or too extreme to explore—but that doesn’t mean conditions are easy in the field.

One of the more challenging needs of companies in such far-flung stretches of the globe is networking communications. These desolate field facilities need to do things like transmit geo-magnetic and seismic surveys and production data back to the home office for analysis. Some of the land-based locations might have terrestrial networks as a data transmission option, but offshore operations almost surely need satellite communications.

Of course, oil exploration companies aren’t the only ones with extreme networking needs. Many other commercial ventures have similar communication requirements where they have intermittent or unpredictable transmission needs. Here they are at the mercy of their communication service providers to provision service when and where the company needs it.

At Serro, we’re pleased to say we’ve had a hand in bringing this business down to earth, when and where it is needed. We’ve recently been involved in developing a software-defined networking (SDN) application that a satellite communications provider is now using to bring near real-time service to its commercial customers. With this application, an end user can schedule the communications at the desired time, between source and destination locations. It puts the power of global communications in the customer’s hands like never before.

In the past, an end customer might have waited weeks to have communication services provisioned to meet its needs. This is largely because the manual processes of provisioning the desired service are complex and error prone.

Serro’s SDN solution has eliminated the human factors in the service provisioning process. Now instead of people having to perform complex manual tasks such as analyzing whether a service request will violate the network’s defined policies, the work is all done machine to machine (M2M). Computers interface much faster than humans do, and rarely do they have errors in their actions.

Here’s the basic recipe of what we have created.

A simple user interface (UI) allows an end user to submit a request for communications services. The request includes a time frame and source and destination locations.

  • A resource manager determines what resources (primary and backup) should be reserved to fulfill the request, and then it schedules those resources.
  • The application collects a range of parameters such as traffic statistics, telemetry, line usage, weather conditions and more. These and other parameters go into an analytics engine for use in policy decisions. This helps determine the optimal time, path and conditions of the desired service.
  • A policy manager takes directives for requests from the resource manager and creates the code to configure the resources.
  • A configuration manager makes the necessary changes to the resource configurations.

Once all of this is done – without human intervention, of course – the service is available for the end user, and it can be mere minutes since the customer made the request. At this point, those distant and desolate places no longer seem like a world away. Now they are as connected as any First World city.