What is Data Visualization?

Denis SutherlandDealing with the Data Deluge
By Denis Sutherland

As everybody in the Satellite industry knows it’s not the signal that’s important, but the signal-to-noise ratio. But surprisingly this also applies to digital data storage as well as to analog transmission of waveforms.

The difference is the source of the “noise,” in a data storage environment noise is irrelevant data.   A small amount of noise may come from “natural” sources such as mistakes in data transmission and storage devices, which are still analog at their core.  But the vast majority of noise in databases is valid but useful or routine information. These include warnings, events, and routine messages…this is the data deluge.

The signal in digital data storage is the interesting information that you are trying indentify.  You may know it’s there, or like SETI you may just be searching in vain for “something” interesting. One example maybe a remote with a decline in RF performance, due to slow growth of foliage, this will eventually lead to an outage.

Would it not be better to see this signal in all the data noise before the outage?

Do you have problems identifying important warning signs amongst the busy routine activity?  

One solution is to turn volumes of data and information into clear, concise and informative graphics to uncover new insights. Thinking graphically helps find connections or correlations that would have been impossible to discover otherwise, or taken us much longer to do so.

Examples: detailed reports from SatManage

How can you figure out what is going on when a large event takes down a significant part of your network?

SatManage visualizations can drastically reduce outage time and fault resolution by providing an operator with a unique and comprehensive view of what is happening on a network. This has enormous benefits to service availability and reduced running costs.

After further inspection it can be seen that the event only impacts one network.  The cause was found to be that one line card failed and the remotes re-balanced across, but extra congestion caused excess latency.  SatManage allowed the service provider to quickly identify this.

What happens if we plot remote circuits on the Y axis, and time on the X axis with Downstream SNR in Blue, light blue is good, dark blue bad and Orange 0!

Then along comes 20 inches of snow! We’ll see something like this, a real capture:

It can be crazy in NOC at this time, so to be able to see the big picture is important, but details are also important. Look carefully and you will see some remotes did not drop out.

The Signal Analyzer uses a color-coded display of the sites’ signal quality over an extended time period that shows even the slightest degradation in performance. A network engineer can quickly hone in on problem areas with the ability to distinguish between site, regional or hub issues and whether the root cause is weather, hardware failure, solar interference, and subsidence or dish misalignment:

Even untrained users can quickly identify the regional problems (columns of dark) and site/circuit specific degradation (rows of darkening). One of the most obvious patterns seen in Signal Analyzer is the atmospheric attenuation or “rain fade.”

If you notice this screen capture, you will soon see you can begin to predict the future:

Data Visualization is extremely powerful and is becoming more and more popular, and is used for a variety of applications. Check out these examples:

It can be very informative and beautiful but the real value is presenting a complex set of data in a simple-to-understand format that allows you to quickly indentify patterns and correlated events. This allows you to work a lot faster and more efficiently in a NOC.


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