Private cloud, public cloud, it doesn’t matter – cloud computing effectively combines computing with a broad grid of data communications.
The grid is mostly supplied by the global Internet, provided you have a reliable connection to the Internet.
And that is the catch – you need reliable data links from all business locations to the core in the cloud.
While the default connectivity option would be MPLS, we highlight why the latest satellite networks are rapidly presenting attractive alternatives, especially now that new developments by SpaceX and other MEO constellations are changing the references.
If the default connectivity option is MPLS, and it works, why change?
There are two very clear reasons network architects are looking for an alternative – the cost of the MPLS services, and connectivity availability.
As the implementation of cloud services grows so does the need to connect all business operations, at all locations and at all times – and MPLS is expensive and not available everywhere.
… satellite is slow, expensive and has a latency problem… or at least this is the common perception.
This was mostly true about 10 years ago, and since then, a lot of things has changed.
The satellite industry has gone through massive innovation and developments, and new constellations have been developed, including the new Starlink services from SpaceX, the new high throughput satellites from Intelsat as well as the innovative mPower solutions from SES.
These have all contributed to a massive shift in the performance-price metrics of satellite services.
Today satellite services offers a host of new features with even 1Gbps over satellite links demonstrated and the average connectivity now being over 10Mbps.
Equipment costs have also decreased while new and improved communication protocols developed, all of which now unlocks various network architecture options including access services for cloud computing.
The myth that satellite is slow, expensive and has a latency problem is well and truly a thing of the past.
So why use satellite?
Satellite access circuits is not a competing technology; it is an alternative solution.
This means that if you can get fibre or microwave links then rather use these options.
Satellite services are for when you need to design your network beyond the limitations of fixed infrastructure or can’t work with variable GB billing.
Cloud services are about connecting the edge to the core, and there are really no better options than satellite to connect edge business premises to the core.
Satellite does that effectively with a simple single hop and is not exposed to any terrestrial power or infrastructure damage risks.
Satellite particularly offers the following attractive features for a cloud access network;
- Reliability – At typical network core uptime of 99,95% this is by far the most attractive option to leverage satellite in a network design.
- Core Back-up – Leveraging this high reliability and combining it with different cost models means you can implement pay-per-use back-up links for fibre circuits. For example, the Twoobii service from Q-KON, operated on the Intelsat Flex global platform, can readily provide links up to 20Mbps from low-cost small 1.2m equipment terminals.
- Anywhere Always-on – Platforms like Twoobii, which operates on HTS satellites, provide service literally anywhere in Africa to connect even the most remote IoT deployment, roaming business operation, or remote industrial campus. Services are always on and operate independent of any wider environmental issues such as load-shedding or telco infrastructure damage.
- Cost – Yes, cost is actually a reason to use satellite. With price points of R50/GB which is similar to LTE services, and costing models that benefit from multicast deployments, the current generation satellite networks can actually improve business models and enable deployments previously not possible.
Even Microsoft has adopted Satellite
According to a DataCentre Knowledge article published in 2019, Microsoft has integrated Azure ExpressRoute with satellite connections from Intelsat, SES, and Viasat.
It did this with a range of orbital locations to cover different geographies (and different price points) using medium and geostationary earth orbits (MEO and GEO) at multiple latitudes.
Planned low earth orbit satellites will improve signal strength and bring latency down to 10ms, the company predicted.
Latency, even today for the GEO constellations, tends to be satellite technology’s Achilles heel due to the large but constant single-hop delay of a quarter of a second.
Auspiciously, the majority of applications offered via SaaS are not real-time but rather capabilities that rely upon servers and databases.
Since most of the latency is due to processing and database look-up, satellite delay can be rendered secondary to the overall user experience.
The latest developments in new satellite constellations linked to the native advantages of satellite technology offer an attractive and compelling case for cloud access.
Network architects now have a powerful option to develop high-reliability access networks that can reach all business operations while minimising cost and improving performance.