Beacon Award winner Fusion Broadband advances its SD-WAN service

By | 5 minute read | September 17, 2020

Data management is a crucial component of running a modern organization. For years, companies have labored under expensive, inflexible legacy networks that limit their ability to innovate and expand. Now, software-defined networking is bringing new levels of service to companies at lower costs.

Australian software-defined wide-area networking (SD-WAN) company Fusion Broadband was an early pioneer of next-generation networking technology that gives clients new levels of control over their data and voice communications. Its partnership with IBM has given it access to high-performance global network infrastructure, providing a platform for global expansion. The collaboration also earned it the 2020 Beacon Award for Outstanding Infrastructure Services Solution.

The benefits of SD-WAN
Legacy wide-area network equipment runs on network controller hardware that carriers must configure manually to change services for their customers. Fusion’s SD-WAN service transfers that control to software running on commodity hardware that can be configured at scale from a central point. This approach allows customers manage their own network behavior and access policies. They can bond network connections together to give them unparalleled performance and reliability at regional offices and branches, without tying themselves to a single Internet service provider. Fusion’s SD-WAN service begins with a single piece of equipment that customers install at their offices. This routes their traffic to Fusion’s network controllers using whichever “last-mile” network the customer chooses. The controllers use the same customized Linux software that runs on the client-side equipment to manage network configuration for hundreds of customer profiles.

Migrating the physical network
Fusion Broadband ran these software-configurable services on its own network, served by five points of presence (POPs). It began working with IBM in 2012, using IBM data centers for a presence in Hong Kong and as a backup for its existing POP in Sydney.

Eventually, Fusion’s home-spun network began reaching its limits.

“We were starting to hit capacity constraints on our existing environment,” recalls managing director Jason Maude, adding that building and managing physical networks isn’t the company’s core business. Fusion’s real business value lies in the software-defined service that runs on top of the physical network.

Maude turned to IBM for help. “We’d used IBM for years with zero issues. The relationship had allowed us to sleep easily at night,” he says. Rather than investing more in rack space, servers, and network management to keep up with growing demand, it decided to offload the physical networking to IBM entirely.

In the new arrangement, Fusion Broadband would use IBM’s 100Gbps global backbone for almost all of its networking, enabling it to terminate at IBM POPs anywhere it chose. The company became an IBM Business Partner in early 2018, spending six weeks preparing its network in the IBM data center. It worked with IBM to ensure that all the systems were configured correctly and rehearsed the switch-over process.

In early June, Fusion Broadband flipped the switch, transitioning all the traffic to IBM’s network at once. IBM handled the influx of network traffic flawlessly.

A new era of flexibility
The new network gave Fusion Broadband all the capacity it needed to support a rapidly growing business, explains Maude. “Moving our network completely to an IBM network was really neat because it removed our constraints completely,” he says. “We just turn the knobs and get more capacity.”

IBM’s infrastructure also offers elastic computing power that gives Fusion all the computing power that it needs. This is ideal for a company offering software-defined networking services that enable companies to control their networks using commodity computing power.

Now, instead of tunneling over the public Internet, Fusion Broadband’s traffic routes over IBM’s private backbone. This helps improve performance because IBM controls the backbone, eliminating congestion. It also means that the SD-WAN provider can spin up access for its clients quickly, accelerating their time to market.

Banking on a better network
One example is an Australian bank, which Fusion Broadband signed as a client in 2018. The bank had been using an expensive multiprotocol label switching network for wide-area connectivity that was unreliable and burdened it with outages. It was also inflexible, with no capacity for dynamic bandwidth allocation.

Fusion piloted a couple of sites for the bank, which impressed the bank so that they quickly asked for a larger-scale deployment across over 55 sites. Fusion rolled out the extra coverage on the bank’s schedule, dedicating a router and a redundant POP to bank traffic.

Running traffic over a private software-defined network slashed the bank’s network operation costs by two thirds while increasing its network performance five-fold. It folded different network requirements into a software-defined resilient network design.

IBM’s fast, high-capacity network enables Fusion Broadband to offer software-defined services that make its clients’ networks more reliable, giving them peace of mind. It enables Fusion Broadband to route its clients’ traffic dynamically, creating seamless fail-overs should one connection go offline or become congested.

“I know for a fact that other providers don’t have the speed of fail-over,” says Maude.

Dynamic routing also gives Fusion unprecedented real-time control over its traffic.

“If we need to move customers to different nodes, spin up new customers, change customer IP addresses, or create different clusters, we can do that mid-application flow,” he says.

Expanding globally
Fusion is now capitalizing on these domestic successes by using IBM’s global backbone capabilities to expand his business overseas. One company, vCloud, a provider of virtual desktop integration environments in Australia, switched to the IBM-powered SD-WAN to increase its service reliability and once realized, began their global expansion into Asia.

By using Fusion’s Multi-Tenant Global SD-WAN, vCloud have now replicated their business into other geographies, all interconnected by IBM’s 100 Gbps backbone. Fusion also dramatically increased vCloud’s service reliability, virtually eliminating service dropouts which had been common on the customer side. It has effectively given vCloud visibility and control over their customers last mile connectivity, which was a game changer, bringing features like bandwidth aggregation and near-instant same static-IP failover capability.

“There are not many carriers that I can talk to that touch anywhere in America, the UK, Asia and Australia,” Maude says. “That enables our business to run globally.”

The company expanded into South Africa in mid-2019 and set up a UK office in June 2020. From there, it plans to tackle continental Europe and North America.

New business opportunities with IBM partners
Fusion’s partnership with IBM will be instrumental in this expansion. Beyond providing the global network that Fusion Broadband needs, IBM also brings a rich collection of potential clients in the form of its many partners around the world. Those partners need world-class connection capabilities, Maude explains.

“Those partners’ customers want secure, robust, reliable access, with control and routing back into IBM’s infrastructure. We can now enable them to do that.”

IBM’s relationship with Fusion Broadband, therefore, spans both the technical and commercial realms. IBM’s communications network gives the company a platform for world-class service. Its business ecosystems give it a chance to expand its business everywhere.

Learn more about how other Beacon Award winners are changing the world through their solutions.