Opt For A Mix Of Technologies For Cost-effective Connectivity

Updated: Oct 15 2003, 05:30am hrs
The world of enterprise networking is undergoing radical change. Enterprise-wide networks are not just about connectivity but more about applications that drive productivity, cost-savings and efficiency across enterprise.

Today, it is no longer effective to just connect the regional/main branches to each other and let the remaining branches run offline. To achieve maximum cost/performance metrics, many businesses and government entities use a combination of technologies, especially when large numbers of remote sites are involved.

Enterprises today find that a mix of satellite and terrestrial network options prove to be complementary to enable seamless connectivity, applications delivery as well as value-added services such as easy remote access, business continuity and content delivery. Satellite and terrestrial networks are both viable alternatives for the deployment of broadband services, but in the Internet Protocol (IP)-based world of telecommunications, it does not have to be an either-or decision. For organisations with national or regional communications needs for many locations, satellites offer a solution that perform consistently virtually anywhere and can be deployed rapidly.

For users who need to distribute digital content or data files simultaneously to remote sites, IP multicasting via satellite is considerably more cost-effective than adding bandwidth to a traditional wide-area data network.

Organisations with mission-critical applications are also using broadband satellite to back up local frame relay service connections to their national networks. Satellite offers a back-up solution that is diverse and typically costs far less than redundant landline facilities.

It is no longer a matter of choosing between satellite and land-based alternatives; rather it is thinking about how the two technologies can complement each other. Network planning and design are undergoing a paradigm shift. A decade ago, corporate networking pioneers in various industries began combining satellite and terrestrial communications technologies to optimise performance and provide maximum return on their communications investments.

Increased Market Acceptance
This trend continues to accelerate dramatically. In fact, the number of businesses using satellite as a component in communications networks increased more than 500 per cent from 1990 to 2000, according to Comsys, a specialised consultancy company centred on the satellite industry. At the same time, satellite costs have declined dramatically. On-premise small terminals have declined in price by over 80 per cent from their introduction in the mid-1980s. Meanwhile, transmission capabilities have been enhanced, reliability has increased, and integration with applications and landline connections is seamless.

Benefits of Mixed Network for Enterprises

This complementary and secure network configuration allows an organisation to easily connect remote locations directly to its corporate local area network (LAN) and to determine which applications better utilise terrestrial services and which are more effectively transmitted by satellite. The satellite component is an overlay that integrates with and complements the terrestrial IP network infrastructure.

Savings on Cost & Time
Dramatic cost and time savings are also realised by multicasting and streaming content via satellite rather than using existing unicast connections, such as with frame relay. One large Fortune 500 company saved more than $6 million in just the first eight months of satellite multicasting and streaming content, according to Northern Sky Research.

Satellite Multicasting For Rapid Content Delivery

For organisations that need to deliver the same data to a large number of sites, IP multicasting makes it possible to upload information to all sites simultaneously. Its tailor-made for distributing software upgrades, bug fixes, marketing information, training videos, and other rich media files.

The benefits are substantial.Multicasting can reduce the time needed to upload files to stores or properties and alleviate bottlenecks created by polling windows. The congestion control inherent to multicasting automatically adapts to bandwidth loads on the network. It allows multicast sessions to allocate bandwidth without causing network congestion or conflicts with TCP traffic, according to Frost & Sullivan.

Backup For Cost-Effective Network Redundancy
Satellite services are being combined with terrestrial systems for backup of mission-critical network applications and operations, such as revenue and inventory systems. This configuration allows enterprises to re-route critical information from their data centres to satellite systems.

The convergence of satellite and land-based technologies and the associated shift in network planning are the result of widespread adoption of IP. This has created an opportunity for communications executives to think about the network versus yesterdays attitude of coping with multiple disparate networks.

The author is president & CEO, Hughes Escorts Communications Limited