The Data Sources that Power the ICT Portal

ICT Portal

In a previous article on the Government Satellite Report, we sat down with SES Space & Defense’s Senior Vice President of Engineering, Nitin Bhat, to examine the different components of the Information & Communications Technology (ICT) Portal and break down the situational awareness and operational health benefits the solution provides to the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DoD) SATCOM networks and space assets.

In the second part of our conversation, Nitin discusses how the ICT Portal is powered by a multitude of DoD data sources, and dissects exactly where that data comes from, how it’s delivered to the portal, and what innovative capabilities and features can be performed leveraging that data.

Here is what he had to say:

GSR: Where does the data that powers the ICT Portal come from? Can you talk a bit about the data sources, as well as how the data is delivered to the ICT Portal?

Nitin Bhat: When we look at a customer’s needs, they’re typically global in nature. Their needs do not stem from a geographic standpoint and are not constrained to a specific location. A lot of the customers we serve have locations all across the globe. They will usually need to have something up and running in a certain amount of time.

From a satellite standpoint, we would start with user terminals. User terminal is a very broad definition, as it could encompass laptops, phones, video devices, satellite modems, antennas, etc. User terminals could include a whole host of devices that could be typically found at the tactical edge. Those user terminals are all sources of data for us to gather. Then we can analyze problems and map everything out for customers.

The user terminals then typically talk to satellites. And the satellites – no matter if they are in GEO, MEO, or LEO orbits – all become sources of data for us to ensure that they are healthy and functioning properly. From there the data, voice, or video comes down to teleports. And this teleport becomes another data source. There could be power devices or huge antennas there. There could also be customer infrastructure there that carries the traffic from the satellite standpoint. All of that – again –  becomes another set of data sources.

From there, typically the data travels to the public Internet, government gateways, or to a data center where it then goes to the cloud. But for us, everything is viewed as a point for collecting data. If it touches the customer’s network in some fashion, we collect all that data.

“Capacity management is another feature. Satellites do not have unlimited resources or capacity to provide data. We need to manage the capacity in the right way.” -Nitin Bhat

Data might also travel through a terrestrial network as it goes from point A to point B. SES Space & Defense has its own global terrestrial network, the Global Communications Network (GCN). The GCN meets certain security standards from a government standpoint. That also becomes a data source.

GSR: Once data is fed into the ICT Portal, what are some of the features and capabilities the portal can perform with that data?

Nitin Bhat: Broadly, the ICT Portal can be viewed as something really useful for our own operation center and for our customers. And the uses don’t necessarily need to be different. Some could overlap for both.

A basic feature of the ICT Portal could be as simple as a ticketing system, where you let the customer open their own tickets by logging into the portal, avoiding the need to call a 1-800 number to alert people to a problem. We may want to create tickets on our own because we are proactively monitoring a customer network. When we see something that doesn’t seem right on the single pane of glass, we can auto-generate a ticket and start looking into it.

Another example would be troubleshooting aids. When we see something go red, we might say, “Hey, what happened? Did we get any alarms? Did we get any up-down status from these devices that we were monitoring?” It helps someone who’s troubleshooting. Customers now have these aids to examine and decipher where the problem could have stemmed from.

The third feature is reporting. Reporting is where you’re relaying to the customer, “The network has been up this month for 30 days. It has been up for 99.9 percent of the time.” This enables us to show the customer that we are meeting the obligations from an SLA standpoint. The network is indeed performing the way that it has been designed and is behaving correctly.

It’s also useful for the customer to know how their devices are configured and what parameters are set. From a management perspective, if a device isn’t operating properly, a customer can pinpoint that device, open a return merchandise authorization (RMA), and return that hardware. The ICT Portal will be able to relay the hardware’s serial number, and how it malfunctioned, and assist the customer with the logistics piece of it.

Capacity management is another feature. Satellites do not have unlimited resources or capacity to provide data. We need to manage the capacity in the right way. That becomes another feature where we can tell the customer how much capacity they’re using today – at this moment in time – to accomplish what they’re trying to do from either voice, video, or data.

“Decision makers can also leverage the ICT Portal to predict future trends and proactively plan and allocate resources, budgets, and time to whatever capabilities they are planning for.” -Nitin Bhat

Spectrum monitoring is another feature. Blue-on-blue or red-on-blue interactions can cause spectrum interference. Customers need to know whether that’s impacting their communications or data transfer on their satellites. We need to monitor the spectrum on the satellites, and the ICT Portal allows you to do that.

GSR: In terms of the military, what benefits does the ICT Portal deliver to key decision-makers during warfighting or other critical missions?

Nitin Bhat: It depends on the audience because each government stakeholder might want a different view of what’s going on. Some may be interested to see whether there have been any adversarial attempts to jam communications, and they might want that piece of data. However, a person who is running the program may simply want to know if the delivery of services is occurring on time and at the right level of uptime that they wanted.

Someone who oversees running the network might want to be able to access troubleshooting tickets to improve certain network functions in the future. Someone at a very high level may want to know how AI applications and processes could be integrated into the network, to enable automated and smart functionalities.

Decision makers can also leverage the ICT Portal to predict future trends and proactively plan and allocate resources, budgets, and time to whatever capabilities they are planning for. The ICT Portal pairs perfectly with the DoD’s mission to construct a resilient space architecture, due to its ability to determine whether multi-orbit or multi-constellation solutions would be better utilized for specific missions.

To learn more about the ICT Portal, click HERE.

To read part one of our conversation with Nitin, click HERE.

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