In a previous post on the GovSat Report, we looked at how SATCOM and COMSATCOM services are essential in disaster response and recovery situations. Ultimately, in scenarios where a natural disaster, terrorist attack or other emergency has occurred, existing communications may simply not be available.
These same SATCOM and COMSATCOM services are essential for military personnel in theater, where terrestrial networks and cellular infrastructure simply isn’t available.
However, there is a problem when it comes to utilizing mobile, portable COMSATCOM and SATCOM kits in these situations. The latency from satellite connections reduce the speed of communication and even lead to some IP capabilities being throttled back. This results in first responders and warfighters that are getting connectivity that is just a fraction of the throughput and capacity that the federal government is paying for.
Luckily, there’s an answer to this challenge, in the form of acceleration hardware and software solutions. To learn more about how these solutions work, we sat down to interview Jack Waters, the CEO of a company that makes some of the most advanced acceleration solutions on the market today – XipLink.
During our discussion, Jack discussed the reasons why the military and other federal agencies have embraced acceleration, and the advanced capabilities that accelerators are enabling out in the field. Here is what Jack had to say:
GovSat Report: Can you tell our readers about XipLink and its technologies? What do XipLink’s solutions do? How would you describe the difference between a satellite connection utilizing XipLink and one that doesn’t utilize XipLink?
Jack Waters: At our core, XipLink is a TCP acceleration company. Without utilizing TCP acceleration, COMSATCOM users would get about 30-35 percent throughput on a satellite link. So, if a government decision maker contracts for a satellite connection with a particular throughput and capacity, they may only receive 35 percent of that speed due to a number of different reasons.
Utilizing TCP acceleration solutions – such as those provided by XipLink – that 35 percent can be bumped up to 95 percent. This has become so important that most satellite modems today have accelerators built in.
XipLink’s solutions offer another important feature for the federal government user. Most government’s data is encrypted prior to transmission so even built-in acceleration in the modem can’t “see” the traffic. This means that the government user needs to accelerate data traffic at their facility prior to encryption and transmission. XipLink and others offer standalone or virtual accelerator solutions that can be utilized for this purpose.
In addition to acceleration, XipLink’s solutions can also add optimization – functions such as data compression, header compression and link balancing/bonding. All of these are value-adds on top of acceleration that can deliver more data throughput than the link capacity allows. The link balancing/bonding features allow more diversity, capacity and up-time by enabling two or more physical links to be logically combined into a single logical link.
Ultimately, optimization is the amalgamation of acceleration, compression, link balancing and other data reductions into one service. Stated another way, TCP acceleration fills the pipe efficiently and optimization allows you to exceed capacity of the pipe.
GovSat Report: What are the use cases for XipLink’s solutions in the federal government? How do XipLink’s technologies help the federal government get the most out of its COMSATCOM investment?
Jack Waters: One use of our solutions is in theater with special operations forces. They need communications kits in small, lightweight form factors – the smaller and more mobile their equipment, the better. We’ve been able to incorporate acceleration solutions into their terminals as software – eliminating the need to carry extra hardware.
Mobile communications for the warfighter is by far the number one use of our solutions. Communications have moved to IP (Internet Protocol), and it’s essential that IP communications solutions are portable, with high speed and capacity. Users don’t want to lose capacity just because they’re mobile. XipLink allows them to achieve the highest capacity they can on the mobile link.
Another application for the federal government is disaster recovery and backup. In these situations, they need another connection in case the primary link goes bad or isn’t available. In the military, they’ll have a three prong or four prong hierarchy of connectivity to ensure they’re always connected. XipLink and satellites serve to provide that backup and emergency connectivity.
GovSat Report: What role does SATCOM play in disaster response and recovery? How can XipLink’s solutions – in conjunction with COMSATCOM services – help keep first responders connected? What kind of capabilities does the combination of COMSATCOM services and XipLink’s solutions deliver to first responders?
Jack Waters: Our technologies are used widely across first response and disaster response organizations.
In the past, emergency organizations primarily utilized one or two analog radio channels for low quality voice communications only. With significantly more bandwidth available today and the intrinsic need to utilize Internet protocols for high-quality combined Voice/Video/Data the first responder community has adopted satellite connectivity for essential communications. In this case accelerators and optimizers provide additional bandwidth capacity, keeping operating costs reasonable as well as prioritizing critical communications over less essential traffic on the network.
In this situation, you can get a combination of today’s video and data at speeds close to what people are used to in the office, coupled with high quality voice.
The ability to create a Wi-Fi hotspot also expedites communications and makes set-up easier. It’s something people are used to. It doesn’t take a special effort to connect the devices anymore – which used to take hours. Things are easier to connect, which enables faster communication.
GovSat Report: How can the combination of COMSATCOM services and XipLink technologies benefit the military in theater? What kinds of data and what capabilities can a COMSATCOM connection with XipLink bring to the warfighter in theater?
Jack Waters: There’s obviously going to be many similarities for why and how first responders and military personnel use these technologies. However, the main difference between the first responder and military is physical size.
First responders have trucks and vehicles that have their equipment mounted inside them, much like they would be in a datacenter. For the military, there’s more of a need for mobile, lightweight, more easily transported solutions that are quickly deployable and capable of being carried by the warfighter. In many cases, they need accelerators as software that’s installed on a device.
Ultimately, the functionality is the same – delivering voice, data and video to the forward operating base at the highest possible capacity.
Throughput and capacity is especially important for the military. The GEOINT, mapping and logistics applications that they use – applications capable of tracking enemy combatants, or locating where friendly alliance troops are located – require significantly higher speeds and bandwidth. It’s essential to have a quality, high bandwidth connection if you want a more connected, informed warfighter in theater.
• To find learn more about bandwidth accelerators, click here.
• Stay tuned for our XipLink Video which will be released next month. Subscribe for the alert via the subscription box on the top right.