For modem manufacturers, one solution to the optimization problem is to design add-on computing cards that offload optimization processing from the primary CPU. Datum and Work Microwave recently announced deployments of embedded XipLink optimization into their next-generation modems using add-on processing cards.
“For the longer term, I expect to see higher-end models from the VSAT manufacturers that include enough processing for advanced compression and acceleration,” says Waters.
In other words, technical advances are getting smarter and moving to a different level. Bandwidth management at the data link, networking and transportation layers are only three of the various elements used by companies to efficiently manage their communication needs. There is currently a shift from the provisioning of plain bandwidth in generic pipe systems, to smart bandwidth in application-aware communication links.
“This is enabled by a widening gap between the cost of providing bandwidth versus cost of storage and computing power,” says Placido.
In addition to the traditional bandwidth management techniques such as packet inspection and prioritization, the use of content delivery networks and application-aware optimization and compression technology will also gain prominence in the future. This shift will be enabled by more intelligence being deployed at the edge of the network, according to Placido.
“A scenario of increasing computing power and storage at lower costs prompts the developments of smarter compression and network optimization techniques,” he says. “For non-real time applications, additional efficiencies will be enabled by more powerful computing resources within communication networks. Flexibility is key since the limits tend to be found in trade-offs existing between compression ratio and processing latency.”
Applications are becoming increasingly complex and the satellite industry will need to follow this trend by moving up to higher layers of the OSI network architecture. This is precisely what solution providers such as Ultisat are doing. “At UltiSat, traditionally we have been dealing with layers three and four of TCP/IP, but the focus now is also on layer seven, the application layer,” comments Michael Pollack, UltiSat’s vice president of business development. “That’s where we are going to see a lot of advances in the future.”
Naturally, such a shift of focus is not without consequences. As operators continue to move up the value chain and become engaged in increasingly complex solutions, the traditional, symbiotic relationship between operator and service provider comes under threat. This also has consequences for the types of services users look for.
“The complexity of our solutions also create opportunities to use different systems and technologies, thus longer term commitments for capacity are not as palatable as they once were,” says Scotto.
In his analysis, the first reaction many operators have when facing this scenario is to continue to climb the value chain, which in turn leads them further and further away from their core offering. “In time, operators will find themselves without distributors, thus by definition they become solution providers and faced with the same technological evolutionary challenges service providers are better equipped to handle,” Scotto says.
Some challenges, such as the provision of on-demand services, are going to be incredibly complex to handle, according to Lucas. “An increased demand for clients to access high-speed, ‘on-demand’ services presents a challenge to the satellite industry to offer innovative business models, ensuring such services are affordable,” he says. “Ultimately, the adoption of such models will result in considerable benefits for all involved.”
But, in order to reliably deliver high-speed and on-demand services such as video capabilities, an ability to manage bandwidth at a granular level is required. Knowledge of available capacity is key in understanding what services can be activated on a real-time basis. “To succeed in delivering such type of service, a holistic approach to capacity management across all associated components is required,” says Lucas.
Technology is important, but even more so is the ability to use it efficiently, as the ability to provide cost-effective services extends to how the client network is configured, says Pollack. “Ultimately, the real breakthrough in this area is in operation not in technology. You can have nice tools, but for them to be effective you need to be able to use them well.”