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Offshore file transfer

signiantThe inability to move personal communications effectively could prove to be a threat to morale and the ability to manage large numbers of personnel working on ships and ashore.

Michael Darer

Somewhere on the coast of South America, hidden under deck on a gavia schooner sailboat from the early twentieth century, lies a twenty-first century solution to an ancient problem: military morale.

The world's third-largest sailboat and a Royal Spanish training ship, the Juan Sebastián de Elcano features four masts that reach nearly 160 feet in the air, support 21 massive sails, and an enterprise-grade accelerated file transfer solution. In a novel merger of sea and sky, the Spanish multinational telecommunications company, Telefónica, implemented Signiant software to improve morale, safety and communication between ships and outposts. The Juan Sebastián de Elcano was only the first of more than a dozen ships on which Signiant embarked.

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Elena Andrés, head of marketing and business development at Telefónica, highlighted the challenges faced by the Spanish Ministry of Defence that led to this development.

"There were several problems. One was the lack of connectivity in several important places. The second was security issues compounded by a lack of connectivity. In addition, we wanted to improve the well-being of the troops and military working in those places, in part by allowing them to consume content as if they were at home," Andrés said.

To achieve these goals, Telefónica needed to find a media file transfer solution that could prove reliable, even when connectivity was not ideal. They needed something that offered speed, security, flexibility and reliability even in the most challenging network conditions.

Adoption Manager + Agents
When Telefónica first approached Signiant to implement its solutions for the Spanish Ministry of Defense, they made clear the seriousness of the challenge. The Spanish Defense Ministry found that the transfer of files, entertainment videos and other personal communications between naval bases and ships proved problematic. The ministry employed many different technological solutions in various places, and the inconsistency between the tools affected morale and safety alike.

Juggling this technology package was challenging enough on land, but even more so for those at sea. As a result, it was essential for the Ministry of Defense to find a single vendor that could optimize its technology stack. Fortunately, Signiant was perfect for the job. Not only did Manager + Agents make it possible to move all the content in question, but since Manager + Agents would be a part of a larger technology stack, the power and flexibility of the tool ensured that the Royal Navy would not. Once again it finds itself struggling to integrate solutions that were antagonistic to each other and its goals.

But the problem was more than just a lack of consistency and efficiency. The struggles faced by naval operations were compounded by understandable problems with connectivity conditions for ships outside the port. If file transfers were discarded between a base and ships, and they often did, that could damage productivity and disrupt important workflows. Even the inability to move personal communications effectively could prove a threat to morale and the ability to manage large numbers of personnel working on ships and ashore.

The challenges that Spain's Ministry of Defense was trying to solve were the same as those of any film, broadcast or VOD company: how do they move numerous large digital assets that are incredibly valuable, with speed and reliability, over long distances and between multiple parties? In this case, there were challenging network conditions with high security requirements. Although what moved may have been education for personal growth (such as language courses) or important personal communications rather than game constructs or TELEVISION diaries, the end game remained the same: important content that reaches its destination in the most efficient way possible that Telefónica took advantage of. Signiant Manager + Agents in a novel application.

"One of the most important issues of this project is trying to manage bandwidth all the time, especially on ships," said Jaime Vidal López, project manager at Telefónica. "We have to use very small bandwidth to share not only media files, but also communications. On top of that, it has all the apps that staff want to use, like YouTube, which takes up even more bandwidth."

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Starting with land-based installations in countries, the first of which in Koulikoro, Mali, the Ministry of Defense and Telefónica quickly saw the effectiveness of Signiant's Manager + Agents and moved to deploy it on ships, starting with Elcano's Juan Sebastián.

"The content is provided by Telefónica – including entertainment such as movies, series, programs, etc. – and the Ministry of Defense," Andrés continued, explaining the workflow. "For VOD content, everything is sent to the Telefónica Data Center, and from there, using Signiant and the network, we send all this content to each location, whether land or sea, so that it can be consumed at each base from the soldiers' devices, through the new OTT platform that we configured as part of this project."

No files lost at sea
Signiant's technology takes those bandwidth challenges and moves content efficiently through narrow pipes and high congestion. For Telefónica and Spain's Ministry of Defense, Manager + Agents solved those challenges despite complex security and networking challenges in limited and arduous environments. The proof was in the main purpose of the goal: to provide its military personnel with personal and entertaining content to boost morale.

"The solution is effective and the end users are very happy. They understand it as an improvement in their well-being. And because it's used in so many different places, [that] makes users and the state happy," Lopez explained.

In part, this is due to Signiant's monitoring capabilities and the power of the checkpoint reset feature. Military locations don't always have the ideal connectivity; that means transfers can be disrupted as connectivity fluctuates based on the ever-increasing range of factors affecting vessels. Signiant's ability to not only quickly report when connectivity is interrupted, but to automatically restart transfers from the breakpoint, saves time and frustration.

Telefónica and Signiant prove that excellent file transfer is necessary everywhere. Telefónica has already deployed Signiant in no less than 27 locations: 11 on land and 18 on individual ships.

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Telefónica's challenges are solved by Signiant in the global media supply chain: media transfers in a challenging network environment. Moving large amounts of high-value content between global locations, across a wide variety of storage types and network conditions with speed, reliability, and security is a constant in M&E, no matter the conditions. By land or sea, Signiant software is trusted to move petabytes of high-value content every day around the world.

Richard Santa, RAVT
Author: Richard Santa, RAVT
Periodista de la Universidad de Antioquia (2010), con experiencia en temas sobre tecnología y economía. Editor de las revistas TVyVideo+Radio y AVI Latinoamérica. Coordinador académico de TecnoTelevisión&Radio.

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