September 14, 2023

Microsoft and ST Engineering iDirect Collaboration on The Path To Virtualization

Microsoft Azure Virtualization

The next generation of satellite communication systems will demand fundamental cloud capabilities to enable satellite operators to maximize their strategic investments.

Cloud deployment allows satellite operators to build out large scale networks in less time and with less capex-investment. A virtualized ground segment enables greater orchestration of service delivery with network resources and business systems. And when this is built on shared networking standards, it will transform the economics and engagement models of satellite operators and major network operators so they can expand the accessibility of satellite communications around the world.

That’s why over one year ago ST Engineering iDirect started to collaborate with Microsoft Azure Space on driving the adoption of virtualization and cloud to enable the digital transformation of the ground segment.

Through our development, we set out to virtualize key aspects of our modem and baseband ground segment to enable our satcom solutions to run in Azure. For that, we have been working on the abstraction of the software functionality from the hardware to allow for the processing to run in the cloud while leveraging the Azure software radio tools.

Over the last 12 months we have successfully demonstrated two key milestones of deploying a virtualized iDirect modem on Azure.

  • In late 2022 we showcased the demodulation capability of an iDirect virtualized high-speed SCPC modem running as containerized software on a COTS server located on Azure. It was also the first time we demonstrated how this virtualized modem is receiving high-speed traffic via a digital interface instead of the traditional analog L-band interface, furthering our innovation with the DIFI standard. This is important because once virtualized modems are in the cloud, we need to make sure they can easily interoperate with the other components through standard interfaces.
  • In May 2023 we showcased the virtualization of the modulator capability of the modem to run on Azure. That marked our proof of concept of fully virtualizing a satellite modem.

Next, we plan to migrate our network processing functions to the cloud. We want to prove that satellite network architectures can be built with commercial off-the-shelf components that leverage the cloud to its fullest potential.

Hear from Sef Senhaji, Senior Director Business Development at ST Engineering iDirect
and Paul Tilghman, Senior Director Connectivity with Microsoft Azure Space
on the strategic importance of these milestones.

Through this collaboration with Azure Space we are focused on bringing the satellite communications industry one step closer towards virtualization and enabling our customers to build multi-orbit strategies on a cloud-based, multi-access technology platform.

At ST Engineering iDirect, we are committed to standards-based innovation and collaborating with technology leaders like Microsoft. This has been at the core of our market vision from day one and is the foundation of our next-generation platform technology.