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INPUT: Tools Of The Trade
Implementing Multi-Level Systems With Visionic

This tutorial will present various methods of how to connect several Visionic stations into one single system and how to monitor and control such in the simplest manner possible.

In the past several years, nearly every satellite and broadcast system in use has been monitored and controlled from a dedicated, typically PC-based, M&C system. A number of Visionic stations have been deployed, controlling a range of equipment in the receiving, production and output stages of the signal path.

As the complexity grows, the NOC operators were presented with a growing number of systems or “screens”, as they’re popularly called. In order to prevent overload of information, a system needs to be designed to offer the NOC operator the ability to monitor and control several systems, all from a central (NOC) location. Additionally, there could be several NOC stations installed; each of them should provide a complete view of all systems on the network.

How to implement such a system? As with most engineering challenges, there are several ways and architectures to enable the implementation these goals.

Each of these systems is fully autonomous and tracks its own devices and functions. Installed individually, the system provides in-depth functions for complete overview and control of the system. After installing several such systems, there is the need to manage them from a central location.

The second scenario covers usage of SNG vehicles and VSAT stations, how to connect the arrays of these stations to the central operational center, and the deployment of GUI workstations.

Visionic Client & Server Overview
The Visionic GUI client communicates with the Visionic server using a TCP/IP connection. The communication is based on the SOAP / HTTP messaging protocol (standard web protocol) on the server’s port 6062. The server also notifies clients about changes in the system by sending UDP messages to subscribed clients.
In order to establish the connection between the Visionic client and the server, it is required that the TCP/IP port is open on the server’s side and that the client does not block UDP messages sent from the server.

Typical Network Scenarios
There are several typical examples of how Visionic can be connected into a multi-level monitoring and controlling system...:
  • Flat / one-level systems (small to medium installations)
  • Manager with direct access (medium installations, one LAN)
  • Manager with proxy (medium to large installations, fleet deployment, multiple LANs)
Each of these architectures has its strong and weak points. The following table can help you decide which architecture you can employ.

Flat Systems
“Flat” systems are the simplest remote Visionic installations. Here are a few typical examples of the Visionic communication. In this case, there will be only one level of stations, controlled from a central location. Each system has its own independent GUI client running on the NOC computer:

This network scenario is named peer-to-peer, flat, or one-level system. This architecture is good for smaller installations as it is relatively simple to install, understand, and offers good performance on corporate, fixed networks and is a good selection for smaller corporate installations with 1 to 10 different systems.

The disadvantage of this architecture is that NOC PC clients start to experience significant loads after 8 to 10 clients run in parallel. Also, the operator screen can become somewhat cluttered with all of these clients running in parallel. However, the user must run all remote GUIs continuously to remain informed about any changes in the system. Thus, this model does not scale well. Also, it is difficult for remote users, who might be connected via slow VPN lines, to receive an overview of all stations in the system. This model requires a constant, fixed connection between NOC PC and Visionic servers, making it unsuitable for SNG and flyaway stations. This architecture happens to be the easiest to realize — the system engineer installsl all remote GUI programs on all NOC PCs — no additional configuration steps are required.

How To Implement Flat Systems
On the remote NOC PCs, install appropriate Visionic


files for appropriate projects.

Direct Access Manager
The second scenario uses a dedicated Visionic server to collect information about Visionic stations. This is called a two-level system, or Manager-Of-Managers (MoM). The special Visionic system (another runtime system) is used to poll different Visionic systems (A, B, and C in this case). The polling is done in a similar method as is accomplished with other Visionic devices, this time using a TCP/IP network connection to other Visionic servers. The Manager station is running a separated Visionic project, depicting remote stations (possibly on a geographical map or something similar) The Manager system (which is also a regular Visionic Server) polls remote stations (A/B/C) and extracts the most important information from them (such as any alarms in the system, and so on). Each remote station (A/B/C) is recognized as one “device” in the Manager’s station.

The worker servers (A/B/C) do not require a permanent connection to the Manager; when connection is established. They will be polled, but if the connection is interrupted, Visionic Manager System will report a timeout condition for a particular system. In these systems, the Manager polls the worker systems (A/B/C) and provides high-level information about monitored systems. The Manager’s information includes:
  • Alarm monitoring on the remote systems
  • Polling of the most important values from each server
  • Always aware of the status of all Visionic stations, including the network status, operational status, etc.
This summary information is displayed on the main screen on the NOC PC where the operator typically sees all of the connected systems. Each box on the screen represents a single station and each box is color coded according to the status of the station.

When the operator clicks on the NOC main screen, the Visionic will attempt to open a full GUI of the station in question — much like a web browser opening a new page. In this architecture, the NOC PC will attempt to establish a direct connection with the particular Visionic station. In such an example, the network flow of information looks like this:
This architecture’s assets are:
  • Scalable for internal LAN applications
  • Allows overview of the complete system
  • Suitable for 10+ remote stations
  • Suitable, but not perfect, for Visionic stations that are connected via satellite links
The price to pay is increased complexity in one more Visionic system (Visionic Manager System is a proper Visionic server). The system can be improved for situations when worker systems (A/B/C) are located on a WAN or satellite network.

How To Implement Direct Manager Systems
Here is the short list outlining steps required to make the direct manager system:
  • Create the schematic for the Visionic Manager station. Use “Visionic Remote Stations” stencil from the Visionic Extension stencil for this job
  • Install the Visionic Manager System Visionic server
  • On each NOC PC install the remote GUI for the Visionic Manager System
  • On each NOC PC install the copy of the remote GUI for each remote Visionic station (A/B/C)
This implementation, similar to all of the others that follow, requires a separate Visionic Runtime service for the Direct-Manager server.

SNMP-Based Systems
In some installations, it is required to provide data from the stations (A/B/C) to third party systems, using SNMP protocol. Such examples include providing telemetry data for the TTC systems; providing QoS data such as Eb/No, EIRP, and similar for measurements and billing purposes, or for integration into IT management system such as HP OpenView™. For these systems, it is required each Visionic station provides SNMP functionality. This is implemented with Visionic SNMP Agent. The network diagram follows... The Visionic SNMP Agent enables external managers and third party systems to obtain data about devices monitored by Visionic. Moreover, the Visionic SNMP Agent allows managers to control devices using SNMP protocol; the Visionic “transforms” SNMP requests into commands specific to the device. Thus, even devices that are connected via serial line can be seen by SNMP using Visionic SNMP Agent. The Visionic SNMP Agent uses standard Windows Management Service (SNMP Service) to expose its own MIB. Upon starting, the Agent will automatically generate the MIB for the Visionic project that currently runs on the server.
The SNMP Agent will also send traps to the destinations set up in the SNMP Agent configuration. The traps will be sent when:
  • New alarm appears in the system
  • User acknowledges the alarm
  • Alarm is cleared by the device
The positive point of such architecture is standardization: the MIB file is produced automatically from the running Visionic server and can be imported into any other SNMP manager – Visionic included.

The traditionally negative element with all SNMP-based systems is the complexity of the SNMP installation. First, Windows must be set up to support SNMP Service — this is an optional part of Windows XP and Vista, although such is standard on Windows servers. Then, Visionic SNMP Agent must be installed (once only). After that, the administrator must configure Windows SNMP service and provide:
  • Security information – which stations can access SNMP protocol
  • Community names (SNMP passwords) for read and write access
  • List of trap destinations
  • Start the SNMP service
These steps must be provided once for all SNMP agents on the network. Secondly, note SNMP itself cannot provide GUI of the system; the SNMP provides the data about the system. The existing SNMP managers are typically network-oriented and not suitable for drawing telecommunication transmission or reception networks. Therefore, it is often useful to install remote Visionic GUI workstation for easier command and detailed reporting of the system.

The SNMP is most often used as a tool to get the data to the external, third party system. Optionally there might be a Visionic Manager system (or proxy) that provides visualization and GUIs for the remote NOC stations.

Sending Traps Only
In some systems, it is not required to have full SNMP functionality — sending the traps in case of alarms would be sufficient.

In such a case, the Visionic SNMP Agent and Windows SNMP Service can be omitted from the installation. Instead, the system engineer should open the local GUI and in the Alarm Center Options window and then specify the IP addresses or names for the trap destinations. When the system is set up in this way, the Visionic will still send the traps (to the designated destinations), but it is not required to have SNMP Agent or Service installed. Such a system only provides traps and does not provide any kind of MIB.

Visionic As SNMP Manager
The Visionic client naturally includes the capabilities of the SNMP manager. In other words, the Visionic system can be used to manage other systems using SNMP protocol. Thus, it is possible to monitor a Visionic station using purely SNMP protocol. The advantages of such system are:
  • Reliance on standard technology – SNMP
  • Detailed status of all Visionic stations
It is possible to exchange the remote Visionic stations with other, SNMP-compatible stations (possibly from other manufacturers) with minimal re-engineering of the system.

The variant of this architecture can be used to present the status of a device that resides on a remote server — this can be done using SNMP as the main protocol. If device A resides on Server A, we can visualize and control such devices from station B/server B using SNMP protocol. An additional advantage of such a system is that it provides a way to interface with other, SNMP-compliant systems. These include Scopus NMS-4000, Sci-At ROSA, nCompass and others. These systems can be visualized via the Visionic server and, in several cases, the control of such systems is also possible.

How To Implement SNMP-Based System
Here are the basic steps to install SNMP-based agent on a remote Visionic station:
Install Windows XP/Vista “Windows Management Pack” — this will install Windows SNMP Service
  • Install Visionic SNMP Agent from the Visionic CDROM
  • Configure Windows SNMP Service on each remote station. Enter the trap destinations, community strings and access rights
  • Set up the individual project ID for each remote station in the project (see SNMP Agent documentation)
  • On the Visionic Manager System, create a Visionic project having Generic SNMP Devices for each remote station
  • Import MIBs from remote stations and create appropriate SNMP template(s)
Visionic Proxy
The Visionic Proxy is a service that transforms one computer (typically Visionic Manager Server) into a proxy of the various Visionic stations. This means that the remote Visionic stations are connected only with the Visionic Master Station and the networks can be disconnected.
This system allows several advantages compared to the previous options — and none of the drawbacks:
  • Easy to set up – same as Direct Access Manager
  • Scales very well, >150 remote stations per one proxy
  • Eliminates excessive network connections toward remote stations
  • Easy to set up and manage compared to SNMP
  • Suitable for both permanent and temporary, ad-hoc networks such as GSM, satellite and 3G connections
When connection to the remote server is established, the Visionic Proxy emulates standard Visionic clients. Simultaneously, it offers the same information to all NOC clients. This way, the NOC clients listen only for information coming from the proxy server. What is also interesting is that this solution can scale extremely well. Every central Proxy server can also be “stacked” up and provide global or specialized proxy servers for the different networks. The Proxy service on the Management server ensures that:
  • NOC clients connect only to the Proxy server; not to the remote stations
  • The Proxy server polls and receives notifications from the remote systems
  • The Proxy server exposes each station as one device and can be “stacked up” to provide multi-level hierarchy of the stations
This architecture is the recommended way for implementing scalable Visionic installations. Please note that these installations can stack up and provide multi-level control systems, covering huge amounts of devices and huge networks. Each Proxy server exposes one Visionic remote station as a device. The parameters of such devices can be set up by the engineer; and they often include the most important service, or station, data (EIRP levels, ACU position, modem parameters and similar). The SNMP can be “piggy-backed” at any stage of such systems so the upper-level or IT management system can obtain data about the stations connected on the lower levels. The SNMP Agents can be installed on either remote Visionic stations, or on the Visionic Proxy itself, further minimizing the load on the remote stations.

How To Implement Proxy Systems
The installation of the proxy systems is virtually identical to the installation of the remote Visionic Manager stations. These include:
  • Create the schematic for the Visionic Manager station. Use “Visionic Remote Stations” stencil from the Visionic Extension stencil for this job
  • Install the Visionic Manager System Visionic server
  • Install Visionic Proxy Service from the Visionic CDROM
  • On each NOC PC install the remote GUI for the Visionic Manager System
  • On each NOC PC install the copy of the remote GUI for each remote Visionic station (A/B/C)
This implementation, like all the others that follow, requires a separate Visionic Runtime service for the Direct-Manager server.

Typical Scenarios Here is one typical scenario that examines how to implement the monitoring and managing of a SNG fleet with 20 SNG vans. This same scenario covers also remote VSAT or GSM tower stations.

These vans are monitored and controlled from a central Earth station. The Earth station has a NOC that dispatches commands and receives contributions from one or more SNG vans. The system overview is shown Figure 7.

The SNG stations are all equipped with a laptop computer or ABEL2004, running the Visionic Frontline license. The Visionic server software polls the equipment of the van (such as modems, encoders, BUCs, IRDs, amplifiers, and so on) as well as the van internal data (battery monitor, various contact closures). Because of this, the system has real-time knowledge about the systems and all parameters. When the connection is established, these changes are transferred to the remote Visionic (master) Earth station. This ensures minimal bandwidth usage between NOC operators and actual equipment.

Despite the initial investment in the additional hardware and software (Visionic Frontline, computer, making Visionic projects, and connecting all devices), it provides superb cost savings in terms of the used bandwidth compared to the alternative polling over satellite link. At the same time, Visionic software provides GUI for the van operator, allowing the operator to configure the van from a single location. More importantly, the operator can simply load a predefined configuration and set up the transmission and reception parameters of the complete satellite system.

It is important to know that the SNG station establishes either TCP/IP connection with the remote Earth station. This is the ideal and most commonly used system. As an alternative, the SNG van can be set up to establish VPN communication though an auxiliary satellite channel on the modem, which is connected via serial port to the ABEL 2004 / laptop running Visionic software. As the second alternative, Visionic can establish the TCP/IP connection using a public GSM or 3G network, which is a suitable alternative (in terms of the bandwidth) for smaller systems such as this.

The central Visionic station (Visionic Server at the Earth Station / shelter) monitors and controls, simultanesouly, both the Tx/Rx equipment of the station as well as the connections to the currently connected vans on the network. Using proxy service ensures NOC operators do not cause any excessive satellite traffic, and that the communication between vans and the NOC is managed from the central location.

Study Case: TT&C System
Visionic is quite suitable for monitoring and controlling up and down links for the TT&C communication with the satellite. In such situations, the third party satellite control systems (EPOCH and similar) require up-to-date, precise and fresh data about the telemetry: the current antenna position, beacon signal and selected polarization parameters.

Such systems might also be interested in the Tx parameters, such as output power, EIRP, and similar systems. The typical system also includes a backup station on a separate location. The overall architecture of such a system looks like Figure 8. In such a system, there might be two viable alternatives of how to obtain telemetry data. The first is a simple XML file; each Visionic system can produce a simple and comprehensive XML file that shows the real-time values of all devices.The second is using a Visionic SNMP Agent and obtaining the data via SNMP protocol.

To export the data from the Visionic station for monitoring purposes requires download of the XML document from the address:


This URL will “spit out” the current data about all monitored devices in the system.

Typical Scenario: Systems At Multiple Locations
Here’s an Earth station with 5 to 30+ Visionic stations. Each of these stations is used to monitor and control certain sections of the transmission path. These include:
  • Uplink stations
  • Downlink stations
  • Routing systems and matrices
Each of these systems is controlled using one Visionic server. One Visionic server can be used to control 100 to 200 devices; depending on the selected hardware for the Visionic server (the bigger the iron, the better), polling speeds, and network availability. It is also worth noting that more Visionic servers in this scenario allow systems to grow more easily and to avoid single-point failure as much as possible. The overall architecture of this system is shown above.

This system allows the NOC operator to control any station from the single screen in the NOC. If the proxy server is down, the system can still be monitored and operated by connecting NOC stations directly to the Visionic systems (transforming it into the flat system). One Visionic Proxy server can be used to monitor and control 100-200 remote Visionic stations at the same time, depending on the hardware, network and the polling speeds.

If locations are geographically spread, it is recommended to have Visionic servers at each location, for the same reasons that SNG vehicles should contain Visionic software. In this typical scenario, Visionic systems are connected to the proxy server using high-speed, internal / copper or WAN / FO network with very low latency and sufficient bandwidth (>= 10Mbps).

The operator in NOC normally has an overview of the entire station. On the top-level screen, each system is represented as a color-coded box. Inside the box (Visionic Dashboard) the operator sees the most prominent parameters of the station, such as Az/El/Pol, Eb/No of the modems and similar. Clicking the box opens the dialog where the user either starts the remote Visionic client (connected via proxy to the appropriate system), or assumes remote control (using VNC or remote desktop) as well as performs other service tasks.

Several options for connecting remote Visionic stations have been examined and a number of typical Visionic installations presented. These can be used as a guideline for installing the real-world, production Visionic systems.