CASE STUDY:

Mirantis Helps Inmarsat Build Its Next-Generation Communications Network

Inmarsat’s I-6 F1 satellite in orbit. (Credit: Inmarsat)

Founded in 1979, Inmarsat is the world leader in global mobile satellite communications. The company owns and operates the world’s most diverse global portfolio of mobile telecommunications satellite networks, which connect customers on 160,000 vessels, 17,000 aircraft and in thousands of other remote and challenging locations to save lives as well as sustain business and mission critical applications.

Company

  • World leader in global, mobile satellite communications

  • London, UK headquarters

  • 1,800 employees

Communications Network of the Future

To meet evolving connectivity needs in the mobility market, Inmarsat is building ORCHESTRA, a first-of-its-kind communications network that seamlessly integrates geosynchronous (GEO) satellites, low earth orbit (LEO) satellites and terrestrial 5G into one harmonious, high-performance solution. ORCHESTRA involves the largest ever transformation of Inmarsat’s world-class services, and will enable groundbreaking new services in new places for global mobility customers in maritime, aviation, government and enterprise markets.

As Inmarsat scales up its infrastructure for ORCHESTRA, the company initiated a project to virtualize the majority of its telco infrastructure, which has been historically based on dedicated hardware appliances. Inmarsat’s end state goal is a fully cloud-based virtualized network, which not only increases its operational efficiency through automation, but also optimizes its overall total cost of ownership (TCO). Adoption of telco cloud paves the way for the hosting of other network elements, such as the Radio Access Network elements and additional legacy network infrastructure.

Inmarsat’s end state goal is a fully cloud-based virtualized network, which not only increases its operational efficiency through automation, but also optimizes its overall total cost of ownership (TCO).

As the company launches more satellites and increases its capacity over the coming years, it is simplifying its network and reducing its overall global footprint to achieve greener networks, by centralizing and sharing computing capacity and network functions. This enables both improved scalability and consistency of the service, enhancing the value Inmarsat adds to its customer, irrespective of the satellite, terrestrial 5G and LEO services connecting the vessel, aircraft or any other platform.

Replacing Dedicated Physical Appliances

Over the past 40 years, Inmarsat has built out a large global network and accumulated thousands of physical network appliances in the process. Besides creating vendor lock-in, these purpose-built physical appliances are also costly to deploy and challenging to manage. Thus, like most telco operators, Inmarsat was keen to start deploying virtualized network functions (VNFs). Inmarsat’s first VNFs were deployed with Kernel-based Virtual Machines (KVM) and bare metal, which required repetitious manual deployment, configuration and operations. To improve the lifecycle management of the various network functions being virtualized further, OpenStack was selected.

While the company was already employing public and private clouds, the recent maturity of high performing telco cloud technologies allowed Inmarsat to take advantage of the inherent telco features, such as carrier-grade throughput performance and impeccable uptime. Inmarsat provides critical safety services, especially to the maritime and aviation sectors, therefore outages are unacceptable.

From Proof of Concept to Development Environment

Inmarsat began a solicitation process, eventually arriving at a short list of three OpenStack vendors, including Mirantis. The company started a four-month Proof of Concept to test drive each solution, and Mirantis was chosen from this process.

Alongside the commercial and technical aspects, it was the willingness of Mirantis to prioritize and follow through with customer requirements that saw its Telco Cloud chosen as the preferred solution.

Mirantis Telco Cloud is based on Mirantis OpenStack for Kubernetes, which greatly simplifies OpenStack deployment and operations by bringing the resilience, configurability and upgradability of Kubernetes. Mirantis OpenStack for Kubernetes is part of a complete hybrid/ multi-cloud solution that makes it easy for telcos to deploy, manage and monitor infrastructure for both VMs and containers from a single platform. It is available through fully managed services or a “co-pilot” approach to deployment and operations.

Alongside the commercial and technical aspects, it was the willingness of Mirantis to prioritize and follow through with customer requirements that saw its Telco Cloud chosen as the preferred solution.

Mirantis Telco Cloud includes specific deployment profiles for telecommunications use cases, such as network functions virtualization (NFV) and edge computing. For edge computing, Mirantis Telco Cloud helps overcome specific compute and storage challenges, and provides deployment profiles for core and edge data centers and edge devices.

After Inmarsat awarded Mirantis the contract, the next step was an Architecture Design Assessment. The Architecture Design Assessment showed that Mirantis understood Inmarsat’s objectives. The Mirantis team was very responsive and answered impromptu questions as needed, with direct communications channels to the appropriate Mirantis teams.

After the assessment, Mirantis OpenStack for Kubernetes was deployed into Inmarsat’s development environment, and the work of onboarding various telco workloads ensued. The workloads included data plane intensive applications – among these include virtual routers, packet core, firewalls and deep packet inspection.

Preliminary Results

Although Inmarsat is still in the stages of onboarding applications, it has experienced positive results already in terms of cloud agility, density, performance and reliability. Thanks to the new Mirantis OpenStack for Kubernetes platform, Inmarsat was able to perform upgrades to the Telco Cloud infrastructure software without negatively impacting active NFV workloads.

The company will roll out all of the anticipated telco clouds to cover all of its centralized data centers globally by the end of 2022.

Unifying Diverse Satellite Communications

As Inmarsat prepares to launch its groundbreaking ORCHESTRA communications network, Mirantis Telco Cloud will assist the company to provide one overarching platform to unify a vast portfolio of services for maritime, aviation, government and enterprise. These include in-flight services and air traffic management for commercial airlines, vessel monitoring for fishing fleets, remote management of oil drills, real-time defense communications, and many more.

With ORCHESTRA, all of Inmarsat’s GEO, LEO and terrestrial 5G services will be anchored to data centers running Mirantis Telco Cloud. The idea is to share a lot of the virtualized network services across all offerings so that a customer has the same look and feel and experience, no matter which service, or groups of services, is providing the ubiquitous connectivity.

Challenge

  • Scale up infrastructure with a fully cloud-based, virtualized network

  • Increase operational efficiency through automation

  • Optimize Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)

Solutions

  • Mirantis Telco Cloud, based on Mirantis OpenStack for Kubernetes with NFV deployment profile

  • OpenStack services, including Architecture Design Assessment

Results

  • Improved scalability of GEO, LEO and terrestrial 5G services

  • Ubiquitous connectivity with a consistent user experience across all offerings

  • Ability to upgrade infrastructure without negatively impacting active NFV workloads

Additional Case Studies