Cloud Connectivity From Space: Perspectives from IBM Think 2019

Ewald Schrap
Cloud Connectivity From Space: Perspectives from IBM Think 2019

Why are cloud providers looking to space? There’s one major reason – reach. While the demand for cloud services continues to accelerate, the Earth has no shortage of rural and remote areas where access to cloud services is either non-existent or severely limited.

But this is changing. Next-generation satellites like our O3b medium earth orbit (MEO) constellation are helping cloud providers like IBM Cloud bring high-speed, low-latency cloud connectivity to the world’s hard-to-reach places.

In fact, we often say, if our satellite-enabled connectivity had a superpower, it would be “reach.”  

In February, as IBM’s first and only certified satellite-based Cloud Direct Link Service Provider, SES Networks participated at IBM Think 2019, where I talked with business and technology leaders who wanted to learn more about the impact of that reach. These leaders represented many different sectors, so it was extremely gratifying to be able to highlight our ability to “cloudify” enterprises in any industry. More importantly, we’re helping them to connect and “cloudify” difficult, previously “unconnectable” locations like mines and oil rigs, as well as moving assets like cruise liners or rail transport – not in the future, but today!

“Cloudifying” enterprises in energy, transportation and government

Energy, transportation and government were three sectors that came up repeatedly in my conversations at the show. We talked about how fast, reliable cloud connectivity can enable real-time analysis of sensor data in the cloud to rapidly identify whether windmill turbine blades need emergency repair or maintenance after a storm. We discussed how U.S. railways can achieve more efficient maintenance operations with real-time tracking of status updates and location for trains in remote regions. I also explained how government agencies are using mobile military assets conducting Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions frequently acquiring very large quantities of image or radar data, which need to be transmitted to a distant ground facility.

Also, certain industries like oil and gas, and the energy sector in general, are highly sensitive to cloud security. I presented on the topic, “Network Connectivity, Performance and Security” at the show, covering how our work with the VMware and Dell teams at IBM offers customers the unique combination of global cloud connectivity coupled with the ability to reap the benefits of their Dell EMC infrastructure and the security of the VMware platform.

Satellite-based cloud connectivity and emerging applications

Attendees expressed a lot of curiosity about the role satellite-based cloud connectivity will play in emerging applications like AI and blockchain. And the reality is, the promise of these applications will only be fulfilled if all remote sites are linked via fast, reliable connectivity.

For example, in order for AI to work effectively, it must be possible to move data around – and lots of it. By connecting remote sites in real-time with robust connectivity – whether that’s a factory on land, or an airplane or a floating production and storage offloading (FPSO) unit – companies can drive completely different AI outcomes than would have been possible otherwise. The same is true for blockchain technology. It makes logistics operations easier, slicker, and more reliable and secure, but without high-performance connectivity across sites, it simply won’t work effectively. Distributed connectivity will be central to driving both short-term and long-term value from these new applications.

Today the combination of our O3b’s fibre-equivalent performance and massive geographic reach means the system can deliver high-performance data solutions across the globe. And with our next-generation O3b mPOWER constellation, we’re looking forward to continuing our satellite-based cloud connectivity journey to transform businesses and empower end users around the world.

At IBM Think, we heard raw excitement from enterprise leaders about the ability to connect and “cloudify” their entire business – from space! It was so rewarding to see their expressions as they realized this global reach – covering land, sea and air – “could change our entire business.”