DoD networks Amazon's off-grid DCs using SES's new MEO sats


To keep the US military connected to the cloud, satellite communications business SES has revealed it will provide high-speed satellite communications to Amazon's recently unveiled modular datacenters.

Developed under the Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability (JWCC), Amazon's miniaturized datacenters cram racks of AWS Outposts or AWS Snow Family devices, as well as all the networking, cooling, and power distribution equipment needed to make them work, into a standard shipping container. 

But while these datacenters put Amazon cloud resources in close proximity to assets, connecting back to the broader cloud remains a challenge, particularly in disconnected, disrupted, intermittent, or limited (DDIL) environments  — you know, places where the military tends to operate.

SES has promised to bridge this gap using its network of medium-earth-orbit (MEO) and geosynchronous (GEO) satellites.

SES's network differs from others, like Starlink or Amazon's emerging Project Kuiper, in that it doesn't rely on thousands of satellites screaming around low-earth orbit to maintain reliable communications. Instead, SES has opted to use fewer satellites operating at higher altitudes — namely MEO and GEO — which, at the expense of higher latency, allows them to cover larger territories.

Today, the company's satellites are capable of delivering relatively modest bandwidths, but with the completion of the company's O3b mPOWER satellite constellation, SES claims it will soon be able to deliver multi-gigabit connectivity and relatively low latencies in as little as one hop to customers.

Late last year, Boeing delivered a pair of these satellites, each of which is bristling with 5,000 redirectable beams. SES plans to bring the remainder of the O3b mPOWER constellation, which totals 11 satellites, online sometime in Q3.

This isn't the first time SES and Amazon have joined forces, however. The two companies entered into a partnership back in 2021 to provide low latency connectivity for AWS customers operating in remote parts of the world.

Use of satellite communications for connecting edge compute to the cloud is by no means a new concept either. Microsoft has previously announced contracts with Starlink and SES to connect its own modular datacenters to the cloud, as part of Azure Space. The program targets companies operating beyond the reach of terrestrial networks — like oil, gas, and mining operations. ®

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