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SES, Microsoft link for virtualised Cloud

September 14, 2022

By Chris Forrester

SES and Microsoft have extended their existing agreement and which will see a new initiative designed to make the satellite industry more responsive to evolving customer needs through cloud-native service delivery architectures that are more open, virtualised and programmable.

Called the Satellite Communications Virtualisation Programme, the effort will focus on creating fully-virtualised satcom ground network through a broader industry ecosystem delivering everything from software-defined radios and customer edge terminals to new virtual network functions and edge cloud applications.

Both SES and Microsoft say they believe the first fully virtualised ground network will serve as an industry blueprint to align cloud and satellite network architectures and accelerate the delivery of new value-added services to customers.

“A virtualised ground network will also further harness the capability and flexibility of next-generation constellations to seamlessly combine the power of the cloud and space to benefit enterprise, government, telecom, airline, energy and other customers,” read a joint statement.

As a first step, SES and Microsoft expect to issue a request for proposal in Q4 2022 for the first cohort of programme participants to seed this new industry ecosystem.

“The Satellite Communications Virtualisation Program is designed to address a key challenge as customers increasingly look to space connectivity to extend their access to the cloud. The customer edge for satellite ground networks are often in remote locations, making it costly and complex to upgrade modems, edge terminals and other proprietary hardware. With open, standardised hardware and features programmable and upgradable via software, the satellite ground networks will simply be an extension of cloud-native networks,” added the statement.

The key benefits of the Satellite Communications Virtualisation Programme include:

• Accelerated adoption of standards – By replacing today’s hardware (e.g. customer edge terminals, modem platforms) with standardised and non-proprietary hardware, updates can be done remotely, hence achieving greater operational efficiency

• Service agility – Virtualised environments will drive more dynamic and responsive services, such as network slicing with variable classes of service per application, and result in more resilient and rapidly deployed networks

• Value-added services – New and additional virtual network functions (VNFs) and edge cloud applications can be introduced quickly to address evolving customer needs quickly.

“For some years now, networks in the telco terrestrial world have been leveraging virtualisation and cloud-native architectural templates to maximise flexibility, programmability, automation, delivering true customer value. We are excited to work with Microsoft to spearhead this approach in the satcom world. This will promote standardised hardware and additional flexibility to add new services and capabilities at the customer edge via simple software updates – a gamechanger for the industry,” said John-Paul Hemingway, Chief Strategy and Product Officer at SES.

The Satellite Communications Virtualisation Programme extends the long-term partnership between SES and Microsoft that is focused on seamless connectivity between space and the cloud, including Microsoft planning deploying O3b and O3b mPOWER at Azure Network locations for network resiliency, SES co-locating five of its O3b mPOWER gateways at or near Azure data centres to provide one-hop connectivity services, SES as the founding medium earth orbit (MEO) satellite connectivity partner for Azure Orbital and an Azure ExpressRoute for satellite partner, and SES as the first satellite operator to implement Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP) using network function virtualisation (NFV) technology on Azure.

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