Interview with FusionLayer: Making Network Automation a Reality
We are glad you to perform our interview with FusionLayer, a company based in Helsinki, Finland. With their help you will be able to automate the workflow, unleash network agility and power digital transformation. We took the opportunity to get to know more about them, their history, specific of workflow and future plans of co-founders by interviewing them.
- Please tell us about the founders of your company and the mission of the company.
FusionLayer, Inc. (Nixu Software 2002-2014) started its life as an independent company in December 2014 as a spin-out from Nixu Corporation. The spin-out coincided with Nixu’s initial public offering on the Helsinki Stock Exchange. Nixu Software, one of the group companies, had a product focus that did not align with the cyber security service story. As a result, the owners decided to do a reverse merger before the IPO.
Juha Holkkola who currently serves as our Chief Technologist and as one of the board members was responsible for leading Nixu Software through this transition. As part of kicking off the operations, the reverse merged company was named FusionLayer to reflect its separate brand identity from Nixu and also to provide a name that is descriptive of what we do.
The idea for the name FusionLayer happened one Sunday morning. With a cloud of foam on the face and a fusion razor in hand, Juha coincidently shaved out the company name. His original idea was close and was actually cloud fusion layer. However, this was trimmed to FusionLayer before the name was officially registered.
- What is the uniqueness about your company/product/services?
Based on Juha’s vision, FusionLayer pulls together an environment where you need agility and the ability to have the islands of different systems like Cisco, Juniper, VMWare, HP, Microsoft Nokia, RedHat, Arista, f5 etc, all tied up together to provide automation (see what you have and manage where needed). A happy marriage between IP Provisioning and a Configuration Management Database (CMDB).
The FusionLayer is very important when automating networking because the traditional CMDBs do not know anything about the network structure, and the traditional IP Address Management (IPAM) solutions are completely oblivious about anything other than subnets and IP addresses. Yet there logically needs to be a single system for all the network-related information, so that orchestrators like Ansible can obtain the parameters it needs to automate the configuration of systems like Cisco, F5, Red Hat, VMware and others. As solutions like Ansible gain momentum, this idea seems quite obvious.
With that being said, the development of a solution that can do all this is no small feat. For us, the great thing is that Juha realized the need for a solution such as this already some 4-5 years ago, so we had ample time to develop the solution from scratch and also address the IPR side of things. Overall, it took us years and millions of dollars to develop the FusionLayer Infinity solution, but that seems to have paid off as we have secured patents in for example the United States, Japan and China, and have both service providers and enterprise customers that have deployed FusionLayer as part of their transformation projects.
- What main tech issues did you face during the development of your product/services?
When developing software solutions from scratch that take tens of man-years to build, there are always challenges. For us, the biggest challenges were related to solution specifications. During the earlier stages of development, it was very easy for product managers to make implicit assumptions that were not necessarily understood by the developers. In addition, the communication challenges were then amplified by the agile development methodologies, which typically require much less planning in comparison with the traditional waterfall methodology.
Another challenge was that we used new architectures that were novel at the time. For example, there were not many developers experienced with hybrid database architectures involving both NoSQL and SQL. Nor were there people who would have had wealth of experience developing against third-party APIs such as the ones from SDN providers. So, instead of relying on Google and community experience, we had to figure a lot of this stuff out by ourselves.
- What model did you choose: in-house team of developers, outsourcing of the whole development process, hiring remote dedicated developers?
Most of the development was carried out in-house. Our reason for doing things this way was two-fold. First, and foremost as a software company we wanted to make sure that we know and understand all the ins and outs of the solution. Second, although there is now an increasing number of software developers who are familiar with the technologies we used, at the time it would have been next to impossible to find software development partners with suitable competences.
- What criteria were crucial for your company while choosing developers/vendors for your product development?
The main selection criteria we had was mostly related to the ability to pick up new technologies and solving problems for the first time. As the majority of software developers are experienced only on the highest layers of our architecture stack, we have always been geared towards individuals who have a combination of deep technology savvy and some domain expertise in our space.
- What regions is your business/services/products oriented at?
FusionLayer Infinity is primarily targeted at larger organizations that have made digital transformation a strategic priority, and are working on implementing next-generation business infrastructure based on automation. The split of customers we have right now is almost even between service providers and enterprises. Geographically speaking they are split over four continents and for us this is quite natural because we see ourselves as a global company, with partners and activities in more than 20 countries around the world.
- Can your customers expect any new changes/features and releases in your product/services?
Yes, absolutely. One of the key tenets of our solutions is that we bring in new features on regular basis. Our general policy is to make new minor and intermediate release three times each year, and to introduce a new major version once every three years. While part of this process is related to bringing security updates and bug fixes to our customers, our customers enjoy a steady stream of new features and functionalities.
In fact, we take great pride in active dialogue with our customers. Once a FusionLayer product has reached a certain maturity level, more than 50% of the new features we introduce have first been initiated as Request for Enhancement (RFE) by one of our customers. After a RFE has been deemed beneficial for our existing and future customers, it is very likely we will address the request in our subsequent product release.