Optimal Satcom CEO: Capacity Management Tools Save Time for Complex Satellite Fleet Operators
[Satellite News 10-11-11] Coming off of a multi-year contract from Asia Broadcast Satellite (ABS) to provide a satellite capacity system to help manage the operator’s commercial satellite business, Optimal Satcom is now planning to expand the capabilities of its Enterprise Capacity Manager (ECM) software system to reach a more diverse group of customers. The company has now integrated ECM with its Complan capacity management tool to allow operators like ABS to simultaneously manage their capacity from any office while ensuring high-performance and redundancy.
Optimal Satcom President and CEO Ahsun Murad shared stories with Satellite News about how critical it was for some of their operators to implement a capacity management tool as their satellite fleets continued to grow in size and complexity
Satellite News: What do you feel are some of the most beneficial features of your ECM software system in helping operators make their capacity businesses more efficient?
Murad: The biggest benefit of the ECM system is its integrated approach to enterprise capacity management. In developing the solution, we took all functions related to satellite capacity from the technical and operational side, the cost and revenue perspective and the customer contract services aspect and combined them all into one system. There are many advantages created by doing this, but one of the most essential advantages is providing top-level management with the ability to track and supervise their low-level, day-to-day business activities and [key performance indicators] KPIs from a high-level perspective.
Satellite News: Could you provide an example of how this integrated approach has paid off for a customer?
Murad: I was at the site of one of our service providing customers in the United Kingdom last year and it was close to the end of a long working day when one of the vice presidents of this company walked into a conference room and asked his engineers to give him a report that broke down their costs on a dollars-per-bit basis, versus each of the five or six different market segments that they were tracking. Everyone kind of looked at each other and figured it was going to be a long evening for them and probably a few more hours the next day scrambling over this task. These types of reports have very high-level numbers that come from all the traffic, the carriers and the customers that are all on different transponders that a service provider manages. There’s a lot of detail that goes into it, but not necessarily all of the details that a management team would typically worry about. So, what we did for them with ECM was take one of their existing reports, modified it a bit and in less than fifteen minutes, we had the exact metrics that this vice president was looking for. They were able to give it to him before they left for the end of the day, which really amazed them. This is the kind of situation where I think ECM proves its value to the customer.
Satellite News: The design of the ECM’s graphical, linear interface seems similar to the mass-market software programs being developed by Adobe and Apple. Was it a conscious decision during the ECM development phase to create a familiar interface?
Murad: There’s a lot of data that needs to be represented and we need to present it in a way that really makes sense of it all in multiple dimensions and attributes. Often, with these kinds of systems, plain numbers on written reports don’t really bring out the high-level perspective. These kinds of graphical interfaces are a key factor to the top-level approach I had mentioned. You can have a three-dimensional view of capacity usage on a satellite to see how your resources are being utilized and what capacity resources you have available in a very easy way.
Satellite News: Do you evaluate the management systems that operators are using before suggesting your own solutions? If so, what do you notice most operators lack in their current management systems?
Murad: We spend a lot of time talking with our customers’ front-line employees and trying to understand all the pieces of the entire management process before we try to replace it with our own system. This evaluation is actually a very important part of our process in making our projects a success, because we see that a lot of the legacy systems that operators have been working with for a few years are struggling to manage their capacity. We’ve noticed that they tend to be fairly fragmented with a lot of tools that are internally developed. A lot of key employees have valuable pieces of information about the process and what it is they do to make things work. If we don’t talk to them and look at those tools, we wouldn’t know where all the information is and what processes we’re trying to replace. These are often manual processes, but it is important to know how everything flows because we then need to take that information and tie it into the management system. At the end of the day, we’re don’t want to put a system into place that doesn’t work. We don’t want to make this job any more difficult than it already is.
Satellite News: How is ECM integrated within an operator’s network? Does anything need to be adapted or altered on the customer’s end to work with your systems?
Murad: I’ll answer this by providing another example. One of our customers is a company that once had both a satellite side to and a service provider side to their business, but eventually decided to divest their service provider unit. They instantly ran into a problem where they were providing up-linking services, monitoring services and operational management and, all of a sudden, the information that was needed to support these services was on the other side of a corporate firewall. So, we had to work with both companies to put an automated interface in place that allowed the commercial and propriety information that each company wanted to keep separate within their own boundaries. We needed to allow this technical information to flow between the two companies so that they could continue to provide those services, even though there was a significant restructuring of the whole network. It took them some time to figure out the parameters that needed to be enforced, longer than it took for us to completely customize an interface for them and the solution we’ve delivered has worked really well for them. It goes to show that when you get into a business that has impact at a large enterprise level, these are the kinds of things that we would have to address with our customers.
Satellite News: Can you tailor your capacity management systems for operators who provide a variety of bandwidths to customers in both the military and commercial sectors?
Murad: Both military and commercial networks are getting increasingly complex. There are a number of initiatives that have intricate, multi-spot Ka-band payloads. The O3b network and some of the other satellite systems also are getting complicated. It is important for us to have the engineering flexibility to model systems for all of these different types of architectures. We’ve been involved in customized system developments that are used by both sectors for quite some time. The CNPS program that is currently used for managing military capacity on the WGS wideband gap-filler satellites was something that we worked on when we were part of Lockheed Martin and Comsat and working as a subcontractor for Northrop Grumman. Similarly, the commercial system we provided to Intelsat was also something that came from that time period. What really brings the needs of these two sectors together is the cost-based approach to managing capacity systems.