SD-WAN + Satellites: Showcasing What’s Possible

By Jean-Philippe Gillet, Vice President and General Manager, Networks

Our team recently returned from MEF19 in Los Angeles. For those who aren’t familiar with the MEF organization, it was founded in 2001 as the Metro Ethernet Forum, an international nonprofit industry consortium interested in the interoperability of connectivity services. Originally dedicated to carrier Ethernet networks and services, the global organization today is much broader in scope; its 200+ member companies are comprised of service providers, incumbent local exchange carriers, network equipment vendors, and others.

Current MEF 3.0 standards are designed to enable agile, assured, and orchestrated communications services across a global ecosystem of automated networks. The organization’s annual event, the MEF 3.0 Proof of Concept Showcase, is where carriers and technology providers present groundbreaking demonstrations in a variety of areas, such as artificial intelligence/machine learning, blockchain, and SD-WAN.

So why did Intelsat attend? After all, MEF is not the typical conference that springs to mind when you think of satellites. But then Intelsat is not your typical satellite company. We went for one simple reason: to showcase how satellites will play an important role in the networks of tomorrow. To help bring to life what’s possible, we — along with our partners — presented our Proof-of-Concept (POC), “SD-WAN over Satellite Access.” We were one of 15 teams, and the only satellite-services provider to present.

The SD-WAN over Satellite Access Proof of Concept demonstration at MEF19.

Our partners included SD-WAN vendors 128 Networks and Nuage Networks (a Nokia company); terrestrial service provider CMC Networks; SD-WAN CPE vendor Kontron; software and services providers Infovista and Cloudify; and business/network consulting company GDX.

There is a strong business case for pairing SD-WAN with satellites. One of the greatest benefits of SD-WAN technology is it simplifies the implementation and management of enterprise networks. With the promise of lower costs, more flexibility, better network performance, and enhanced security, the technology has seen tremendous growth in recent years. Most reports suggest that virtually every enterprise will leverage some form of SD-WAN solution in the coming years.

Additionally, SD-WAN has exposed a new audience to what Intelsat services can bring to an enterprise. For example, with SD-WAN, customers and service providers can more easily blend satellite reach and reliability benefits into existing or new enterprise networks. Instead of having dedicated VSAT networks that are separate from the rest of the enterprise WAN network, or satellite being used only for site backup or connectivity-of-last-resort in remote areas, the addition of satellite to an enterprise network can enhance an overall network solution.

Explaining the benefits of the SD-WAN over Satellite Proof of Concept service at MEF19.

We see a number of compelling reasons why satellite-based SD-WAN implementations make good business sense:

  • Global reach that enables connectivity in locations where alternatives are not available, unreliable, or are too expensive
  • Quick time-to-deploy to almost anywhere on the globe, reducing the time to bring up new sites
  • Improved site resiliency and immunity to local fiber cuts and terrestrial outages
  • Always-on capacity providing an additional layer of connectivity, especially for applications with broadcast requirements
  • Unique to satellite-based service, the ability to share capacity across multiple locations in the same region and distribute capacity as application and site needs dictate

And we aren’t the only ones who see the combined value of SD-WAN and Intelsat services. Our “SD-WAN over Satellite” MEF proof-of-concept won the “MEF 3.0 Service Implementation” award, an honor that goes to teams that demonstrate the most compelling and comprehensive standards-aligned MEF 3.0 service. 

Representatives from Intelsat and its partner organizations accept the MEF 3.0 award.

Along with our partners, Intelsat showed how MEF 3.0 “lifecycle service orchestration” standards can enable customers to implement and manage remote site connectivity across different network providers, different network types (terrestrial and space), and different SD-WAN technology vendors ― all through a single user portal. While POCs are often conceptual, ours illustrated actual functionality between operators. It also demonstrated how Intelsat can seamlessly integrate with the larger terrestrial connectivity ecosystem, showcasing the benefits of satellite connectivity in a way that customers might not have realized or even considered as a possibility. 

The future of enterprise and global communications will integrate space and terrestrial networks into a broader ecosystem. By partnering with others in the larger SD-WAN marketplace, Intelsat is demonstrating how we are continuing to innovate, expanding beyond satellite capacity and platforms. By participating in MEF19, Intelsat is showing what’s possible: that satellite-based services can be an integral part of the solution for enterprise needs.

Interested in learning more, contact us.