ICT Portal – Delivering Transparency, Customization, and Responsiveness to the Military

For the past several years, the Department of Defense (DoD) has been focused on its goal of standing up a resilient space architecture for the U.S. military. One key component of resiliency in space is being able to monitor the operational health of a SATCOM network and maintain real-time, end-to-end situational awareness of all assets the DoD currently deploys in the domain.

SES Space & Defense recently launched its Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Portal, an advanced capability that enables transparency into all facets of the DoD’s networks and facilitates seamless management and operations of the military’s terrestrial and space assets – all on a single pane of glass.

To learn more about the different components of the ICT Portal, as well as the benefits and capabilities it delivers to its customers, the Government Satellite Report sat down with Nitin Bhat, Senior Vice President of Engineering at SES Space & Defense.

Government Satellite Report (GSR): For readers who may not be familiar, what is the ICT Portal?

Nitin Bhat: When we were first conceptualizing the ICT Portal, SES Space & Defense set out to build something that could help our own Network Operation Center (NOC) and manage all our customers. But we also wanted to develop a capability that could help our customers manage their service level agreements (SLA), get the reports that they wanted, and see how they were performing – from one single place.

That led to the development of the ICT Portal. We call it a single pane of glass because we want one place for users to go. From there, customers can navigate through menus and sub-menus based on a user’s access level and get their job done.

GSR: What benefits does the ICT Portal deliver to its customers?

Nitin Bhat: The first benefit is transparency. Often a customer might call in with an issue and need to know how the problem started, who was responsible, and what was done to troubleshoot it. But if customers have access to a tool where they can investigate the health of the network for themselves on a daily basis, it provides them with a level of transparency where they can see exactly what’s going on. Is the network behaving in accordance with what the customer signed up for, from an SLA standpoint?

“You should not have an architecture where you cannot scale or store data where you can’t analyze it. We set out to ensure that [the ICT Portal] is scalable.” -Nitin Bhat

Customization is another benefit. Each user may have a different set of requirements when using the ICT Portal. If you are a program manager, you might want to look at a specific view. If you’re an engineer or a NOC technician, you might just want to be able to look at tickets, open them, close them, and monitor them. If you were in a contract, you may want to look at the reports to make sure that we are meeting our obligations every month. The ICT Portal enables different sets of users to log in with their own needs and look at what is relevant to them. The ability to customize is a massive benefit.

The third one, which I think is a big advantage for us as a company, is being able to respond to customers quickly and resolve their challenges as fast as possible. And if we can internally accomplish that, by knowing exactly what’s going on within each part of the network, we can quickly expedite the problem resolution. That’s a big benefit to us, which eventually the customer gets to take advantage of.

GSR: You mentioned that the ICT Portal is a web interface that is on a single pane of glass, but what are the actual design elements that drive the Portal? How is it structured?

Nitin Bhat: Software drives a lot of what we do today. But 10 to 20 years ago, there were different approaches to how people would get access to data. In the old days with Windows or other platforms, there was a tendency to design software packages that were not modular, couldn’t scale, and were not necessarily secure.

When we set out to design the ICT Portal, we wanted to break everything down and ensure that anything we design meets certain standards, because you don’t want it to be something unique to just your company. The ICT Portal is an open standards platform. It’s modular so you can build and add components to it. It’s also scalable because you’re collecting more and more data. You should not have an architecture where you cannot scale or store data where you can’t analyze it. We set out to ensure that it’s scalable.

“We wanted to make sure security was built from the ground up on all aspects of the design so that the final product was secure.” -Nitin Bhat

For it to be scalable, it has to be on the cloud, and it has to be modular. It must follow an IT service management model where each problem set is defined differently. You can add or detract from it, like incident management, problem management, change management, asset management, and so on.

Finally, the ICT Portal is designed to be secure. From a security standpoint, it is secure in terms of the software code itself and where you store data. It is also secured with authentication mechanisms to ensure that only the right users can log in with the proper access. The ICT Portal also meets some of the government security standards, in terms of the cloud, the risk management framework, and making sure the data is transported securely.

In essence, we wanted to make sure security was built from the ground up on all aspects of the design so that the final product was secure.

Be sure to check back for part two of our conversation with Nitin, where he examines the data sources that power the ICT Portal’s capabilities and features.

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