If you ever wanted to tweet from the Moon, expect some significant latency issues unless you use these guy's technology.
Blue Coat Systems, a WAN optimisation company, claims it has technology that could significantly speed up data transfers to and from the moon. According to Blue Coat, using ordinary TCP/IP protocols, it would take approximately 5 minutes and 12 seconds to transfer 2.5Mb of data between earth and the moon because of the significant latency involved. By comparison, their technology will allow you to transfer the same file in only 11 seconds.
Of course we have to believe Blue Coat here because they have not actually transferred data to and from the moon and even if they could, there are no astronauts or moon-men to tweet back to them.
According to Steve Schick - Senior Director, Corporate Communications Blue Coat Systems, Inc, Blue Coat used a WAN simulator to approximate the expected latency involved in transmitting data to and from the moon. These figures are not hard to calculate because it is not possible to transmit anything faster than the speed of light. According to Wikipedia, the moon is 1.28 light seconds away from earth which means that under optimal conditions, it would take at least 2.56 seconds for a packet of data to reach the moon and the acknowledgement to come back. Add the inevitable delays caused by the Internet here on earth as well as the processing required to transmit and receive the signals and you could find it takes quite a few seconds to get data to and from the moon slowing data transfers to a mere trickle. Customers of satellite internet will certainly know what we're talking about.
By introducing these latencies in a simulated WAN link, Blue Coat were able to model theoretical data transfers to and from the moon and demonstrate how their system could speed things up. Of more practical application here on earth is using this technology to optimise WAN links particularly over high latency links such as satellite or congested networks.
According to Schick, most WAN optimisation to date has focused on compression of data to transfer files but this does not address the issues of sluggish WAN performance or delays in getting applications to respond. Not surprisingly, Blue Coat’s solutions which rely on object caching, byte caching, protocol optimization and bandwidth management “are likely to result in dramatic increases in speed for accessing [data from space missions] with some of the results [likely to be] far more dramatic than what we have shown in our experiment.”
Now all we need do is wait for someone to actually go to the moon or Mars and set up an Internet Café to see if the Blue Coat solution would work. In the meantime, if they could have a chat to the people at Optus about the data performance on their 3G network, that would be a great help.