A few years back, as the 1st cloud transformation got underway, it was envisioned as having an impact on par with the Industrial Revolution; transforming and organizations, large and small. The result is a radical change in how businesses operate, go to market, develop products, plan technology refreshes, and monetize data. Businesses that have embraced a cloud transformation have clear competitive advantages in terms of brand equity, operational efficiencies, product/services time to market; along with analytics capabilities to optimize marketing strategies and customer quality of experience.
Although, in its infancy, the same transformation is emerging for commercial space where cloud infrastructures and services are anticipated for extending the global reach of businesses; providing a new level of cybersecurity, and supporting government and military national security strategies. The first steps in this transformation is the concept of satellites and constellations evolving into interoperable, software-defined, IP networks supported by the emergence of an integrated ecosystem from space qualified components to flight services.
An ecosystem that provides rapid time to market, software-defined satellites, flexible satellite assembly lines and cost-competitive launch services is necessary. Can a common bus be developed so that satellite manufacturing can evolve into an assembly line process? Can software-defined satellites extend the useful life, thus lowering the lifecycle costs, by enabling feature enhancements and new application support? Will a fully integrated ecosystem drive down the cost of satellite manufacturing and launch services? Can blockchain-based supply chain management drive cost efficiencies, component sourcing security and time to market? Can the market evolve where satellites become disposable in support of technology refresh? The market innovators throughout the supply chain are emerging to support the transformation and address these questions.
The emergence of a space-based cloud infrastructure is driven by the demand for data and an organization’s actionable plans. Whether monetizing, analyzing, operationalizing; data is a high value, mission critical strategic asset that commercial, government, military organizations need to collect, analyze and distribute in the most efficient and real-time manner while protecting it with the strongest security capabilities possible. Space-based cloud services has the potential, not possible on Earth, to address this increasing and evolving demand.
A critical challenge for space-based cloud services will be to ensure the security of data whether at rest or in motion, the protection of a satellite’s operation and control from malicious actors, and the resiliency of the satellite cloud infrastructure to recover from malicious acts. While there is confidence in existing technologies and techniques, along with the emergence of new technologies such as quantum key distribution, a next-generation level of robustness is necessary given the relative isolation from direct human intervention to mitigate or resolve any events.
A joint vision of IBM and Cloud Constellation Corporation is the anticipated benefits and demand for edge computing resources in space, extending Cloud on Earth to Edge in Space which will support a broad range of machine/deep learning solutions in LEO, MEO, GEO and eventually deep space. Basically, a Platform as a Service for artificial intelligence (machine/deep learning) and Blockchain as a Service offerings in space. Additionally, Blockchain based solutions will optimize the entire Supply Chain, from the component level, subsystem suppliers, satellite manufacturers, launch service providers, launch control centers, satellite operations centers to ground stations. Take a look at this recent article on how “IBM Blockchain can Transform the Supply Chain Industry for Space Tech”. Data Exchange platforms can further emerge where multiple parties can use SpaceBelt™ DSaaS to securely trade data and algorithms based on Blockchain. We anticipate there will be demand from both government and commercial organizations for taking the intelligence to satellites for generating actionable insights for businesses and governments. Creating a network of resources in space, IBM cloud services can be hosted on the SpaceBelt™ satellite network (a constellation of 10 LEO satellites), leveraging the global earth-space connectivity and secure data storage capabilities of the SpaceBelt™ Data Security as a Service (DSaaS) cloud service. Cloud Constellation Corporation sees this capability as a natural extension of our planned SpaceBelt™ DSaaS cloud services. IBM as well envisions a range of machine/deep learning and blockchain applications that can leverage the SpaceBelt™ resources in space: global connectivity, data storage and edge computing. Operating as a cloud Platform as a Service (PaaS) offering, the on-satellite resources would be a multi-tenant platform supporting both government and commercial customers who require IBM machine/deep learning and blockchain services for both space-based as well as global earth-based applications. Alternatively, a customer can have dedicated single-tenant satellites.
The competitive landscape for space-based cloud services is taking shape, and ultimately it will come down to time to market, service feature differentiation and security as the market-based natural selection process takes place. Just as we’ve experienced on Earth!