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Resilient Networking: Delivering Mission-Critical Connectivity with Reliability and Resilience
A Hughes Tech Focus

For several years, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has been calling for SATCOM flexibility and interoperability.

Indeed, in 2017, DoD tapped Hughes for a study to help assess the ideal hybrid SATCOM architecture and how diverse systems can work together. Hughes, based on experience with satellite networking for critical infrastructure operations, recommended  that  DoD  pursue  a  SATCOM  strategy that supports interoperability for wideband government applications  to  enhance  communications  infrastructure and reduce acquisition and operations costs.

Now, just three years later, DoD has the key to unlocking the resilient networking they need to deliver on their missions,  regardless   of  service  provider,  equipment manufacturer  and  geography.  What’s  more,  operators of critical infrastructure worldwide can now implement modern, resilient solutions.

Introducing the Hughes Terminal Management Agent (TMA)

Hughes TMA makes networking resilient. Agnostic with   regard   to   provider   and   manufacturer, TMA automates  functions  that used to require lengthy  and often dangerous  field visits. Based on DoD standards for  modem  and  terminal  interfaces,   which  Hughes helped design, TMA delivers the ultimate in SATCOM flexibility,  ensuring  resilient  networking  for land,  aero and maritime communications.

Hughes Terminal Management Agent

Based on an Artificial Intelligence (AI) rules engine, the Terminal Management Agent (TMA) from Hughes is a ground-breaking,   custom-developed  software  feature within a satellite terminal that interconnects seamlessly with various satellite modems, regardless of manufacturer or satellite system.

Powering  the   ultimate   in  SATCOM  flexibility,  TMA overrides stove-piped systems to enable user access to diverse platforms from a single terminal — ensuring the reliability and expediency that are essential for defense resilient networking.

Resiliency — Two Orders of Magnitude Improvement in Decision Making

TMA is a transformational software technology, inspired by the industry-leading  commercial  SD-WAN  product from Hughes, and augmented  with an AI rules-engine for  flexible   adaptation   for  defense   needs.   Instead of  manual  reconfigurations   which  can  require  hours and days of coordination,  TMA can orchestrate  within seconds and minutes.

TMA  can  command  terminal  modems  and  antennas automatically   based  on  mission  needs  specified  as executable   policies   that   cover:   spectrum   priority, spectrum availability, waveforms, networks and operational environments.

With a small software footprint, TMA can be hosted on a  terminal  computer  Virtual  Machine  (VM)  or  a  small dongle. The software can send and receive RF, device, and cyber monitoring data to and from a management system and is compatible with modern, open enterprise management architectures.

Management and Control — Compatible with Modern Enterprise Approach

TMA is fully compatible with modern  enterprise management and control architectures and can interact with the GNOC over an intermittent channel. TMA autonomously orchestrates various resources, based on mission/service planning policies from the GNOC, to achieve service efficiency, priority and assurance objectives.

With  local  decision-making,  TMA benefits from the GNOC’s global guidance in the use of specific satellites, service providers, and resource pools.

TMA also collects and provides useful situational awareness data for RF, equipment and cybersecurity for data analytics and machine learning for future policy refinement.

Cybersecurity — Plug-in Modules for IPS/IDS

TMA uses a Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) Intrusion Prevention/Intrusion    Detection    (IPS/IPD)    software appliance  that  monitors  traffic  transported  by  each terminal modem via the common Layer 2/Layer 3 packet switch under TMA control.

The  IPS/IDS  software  appliances  provide  packet-level policing, filtering, and control in both directions (from and  to the user network) under guidance from Global Network Operations Center (GNOC)-based policies.

Anti-Jamming — Rapid Switchovers

With threats to critical communications networks on the rise around the world, TMA adapts to evolving landscapes and  brings security measures to the network edge for both monitoring and rapid orchestration.

TMA  fortifies  terminals  against  localized  jamming  by enabling automated and rapid switching among different modems, satellites, and services.

Situational Awareness — Data for Machine Learning and Data Analytics

TMA  monitors  various  terminal  components,  collects data and forwards it to the GNOC for global optimization based on data mining and analytics, including:

• Health monitoring of various terminal components and functions
• Signal and noise measurements to assess purposeful and accidental RF interference
• User traffic data rates, packet loss and delays
• Cybersecurity incidents and malware activities

How a rules-engine monitors terminal state and uses rules in decision making:

Bandwidth and Cost — Benefit from HTS Satellites

TMA  allows  critical  application  domains  to  leverage highly  cost-effective  High-Throughput  Satellite  (HTS) services which can coexist (with the use of an HTS modem providing managed service in a TMA-equipped terminal) with other mission specific modems and service providers.

Terminal Modernization — Highest Returns with Simple Software Upgrade

The military typically uses different types of terminals for aeronautical,  land,  and  marine  applications.  Equipped with   auto-pointing   —   and,   often,   auto-tracking  — antennas, these terminals can be modernized easily and cost-effectively with TMA to roam automatically across multiple  service  providers,  by  using  their  respective modems—and leveraging HTS services.

Some examples of these rules include:

AI Rules Engine – Autonomous Decision Making at Edge

Using  an  AI  rules  engine,  TMA  provides autonomous decisions based on performance, cybersecurity and fault data from terminal components and surrounding conditions.

Covering  areas  such  as  terminal  state  determination, cybersecurity-related   sensing,   jamming   assessment, satellite  handover,  and  modem  handover,  executable rules formulate knowledge and parametric reasoning that traditionally field engineers have used for any terminal reconfiguration.

To continuously refine the rules, the GNOC processes situational awareness data from the TMA, using pattern recognition,   data   analytics,   and   machine   learning techniques. The TMA can execute these rules even with an intermittent terminal management channel (either in- band or out of band).

TMA will be enhanced to control multiple antennas for concurrent use across services in order to manage load-balancing  and  traffic  prioritization  objectives  and support Non-Geostationary Satellite Orbits (NGSO), including both Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) and Low Earth Orbit (LEO) constellations.

A fully digital design with Field Processing Gate Arrays (FPGA)  will  support  multiple  modem  waveforms  with reduced Size, Weight and Power (SWaP). The Hughes Terminal Management Agent is ready today for aero and terrestrial applications.

The author of this Tech Focus feature is Rick Lober, the Vice President and General Manager of the Defense and Intelligence Systems Division at Hughes Network Systems,LLC. He can be reached at www.linkedin.com/in/ricklober/?_l=en_US.

Rick leads the companys Defense and Intelligence System Division (DISD) in serving U.S. and allied defense and intelligence organizations worldwide with advanced SATCOM solutions, including fixed VSAT and Mobilesat systems, network management, ground and airborne communications on the move and classified programs.

Under his leadership, the Defense team has won programs such as: SATCOM for the General Atomics Predator UAV; mission management for the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Commands Protected Tactical Enterprise Systems (PTES) and Enterprise Management and Control (EMC) program; the application of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) techniques for the U.S. Armys Narrowband SATCOM Network; and specialized terminal development for the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM).

From his early days as a design engineer, Mr. Lober brings more than 25 years of experience with COTS and full MIL communications and intelligence programs.

Having earned a Bachelors Degree and Master of Science Degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Illinois, Urbana, Mr. Lober is a member of Eta Kappa Nu, Tau Beta Pi, TEC, IEEE, AFCEA, AUSA, AAAA, AUVSi and the Society of Satellite Professionals International (SSPI) and holds a patent on cellular communications for emergency response.