Network Monitoring For Satellite Teleconference, Distance Learning, and Media Distribution

Today’s Satellite Systems

Many satellite system projects these days involve satellite uplinks with hundreds or perhaps thousands of receivers in the network receiving content from them. Traditionally, if these networks are monitored, the planners rely on SNMP traps for big troubles and plan for round-robin polling and pinging to determine the health of the receivers and other devices.

Traditional monitoring systems, because of polling speed, within an hour or two NOC (network operations center) personnel can know system status for all devices.  For example:

  • is device alive
  • can I ping it
  • is the receiver on the right channel
  • signal level
  • locked for the transmission
  • error rates

As to the traps, a little secret: many of the devices do not support traps and if they do traps can be lost because they are sent as UDP traffic with no assured delivery. Requirements for today’s professional satellite systems have evolved to the point where NOC personnel need more information and they need it more quickly. Representative are teleconference, distance learning, and media distribution systems.

For these new systems the requirements for monitoring have moved out of a strictly maintenance need to both a maintenance and operational requirement.

Teleconference and distance learning have an almost interactive need for status and data:

1. Is the receiver is on the right channel?

2. Is the feed good? Are error rates low and the signal level high?

3. If the signal is low in Milwaukee, what’s the weather like?

4. Are all of the correct materials downloaded to the receiver?

5. Are keypads and other data entry devices ready?

Media distribution systems for broadcast and digital cinema have many of the same needs and some others:

1. Is there sufficient space on the device to receive the huge files used in these operations?

2. What is the progress of the transfer (it takes a long time to transfer multi-gigabyte files)?

3. Did the digital rights management (DRM) keys arrive?

4. If it is a playout device, did the correct play list arrive?

5. Can we get the playback logs as events play?

6. What about maintenance logs, do we have to SSH into each device and retrieve them manually, or will the system automatically gather and check them for us?

These lists are representative of information the NOC needs to ensure proper operation of the network. First and second generation monitoring systems don’t even begin to broach gathering and reporting the new types of information needed to reliably operate these systems.

Third Generation Network Monitoring

Satellite network monitoring systems must have parallel collection processes in order to have sufficiently fresh data to be of value to the NOC. For many types of operations media content must be tracked. You could argue that media is not part of network monitoring and yet today’s NOC needs this information to ensure proper operation. A new generation of devices are out there delivering media content. Real time, or near real time reporting is needed to insure proper operation of these systems. New ways to visualize the network to go along with these new data sets is also required.

It’s a new game in the network monitoring world: network monitoring software has to move to the next level, including being media-aware, to meet the needs of today’s NOC for information.