Hughes' managed services strategy coming into focus

Hughes Network Systems announced the Virtual Field Office Server for the far-flung posts of federal agencies

The managed services aspect of Hughes Network Systems' entrance into the federal acquisition market is starting to come into focus.

On Jan. 10, Hughes announced that it is releasing a virtualized server for what officials called the field office of the future. According to a press release, the Hughes Virtualized Field Office Server enables agencies to easily host multiple critical applications on a single managed platform. The new platform supports both centralized or cloud service applications and those that must reside at field offices to satisfy high availability and performance requirements.

“Rather than just put together a collection of third-party servers and with the advent of virtual machine software, which has come a long way in the last couple of years, we can deploy a highly reliable, flexible platform and use virtual machine software so that customers do not have to deploy all that hardware,” said Bill Corr, senior director of solutions consulting at Hughes. “It gives them a single point of interface so that they can deploy their network and get more cost out of the network that is already there than is now available through [local-area network] optimization. So now you can squeeze more information through that DSL pipe.”

The servers offer flexibility to field offices that want to run various applications through a single server, such as video streaming and rich media training applications, wide-area network optimization, video surveillance and interactive digital signage.


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The release of the new server builds on an announcement Hughes made in December about managed broadband services for government field offices and agencies through the company’s satellite communications or DSL services. Satellite communication cannot compete well on a broad scale with terrestrial-based networks, but officials said there is a distinct opportunity at the field-office level of agencies and enterprises.

“These services may or may not play at the data center or headquarters, but this has all been about delivering terrific service out to the field offices of government,” said Tony Bardo, assistant vice president of government solutions at Hughes. “On the enterprise side, the sky is the limit. The enterprise size sort of dwarfs what we can do in government, but the other side of that is that the government is a big number, big enough to have [gotten] my attention.”

Hughes Enterprise Solutions manages 140,000 end sites in its commercial sector and is the third largest supplier of IP virtual private networks between landline and satellite links, behind Verizon and AT&T.

The new server offering is a product of the company’s acquisition of Helius, a business-class data operating solutions company, in 2008. Hughes' aim is to become a primary player in T1 — or last mile — broadband services to federal field offices. Officials believe the server can help round out their offerings in this regard. It has the ability to operate in the absence of Hughes network solutions and can work well with applications being run through any type of network router that an office might be using. There are other options in the federal and public markets for LAN optimization, but experts say Hughes is in a unique position because of its status as a frontline satellite provider. Hughes officials said they hope that selling the server separately with the ability to manage other types of networks will draw agencies and field offices to the company's managed broadband plan.

“Federal IT managers are running so lean, handling more than they can handle,” said Warren Suss, president of Suss Consulting, in discussing the announcement of Hughes' managed broadband services in December 2010. “The government is looking for more managed services, and this fulfills that requirement.”

The next step for Hughes in rolling out its managed services to the federal market will be to offer a voice-over-IP service. The business-grade enterprise VOIP package, built on the company's ActiveQoS technology, was announced Jan. 10. The product is expected to be available for federal purchase in the near future.

The Hughes server will be available soon, first through the General Services Administration schedule and later through other modes of federal acquisition. The cost will be about $1,500.

“It is certainly complementary to what we have been trying to sell, which is, of course, long-distance, enterprise-grade networks for enterprise and government customers, ostensibly for data services,” Bardo said.

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The servers offer flexibility to field offices that want to run various applications through a single server, such as video streaming and rich media training applications, wide-area network optimization, video surveillance and interactive digital signage.

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