A Fortinet wide area network has strengthened security and delivered improved performance and reliability at integrated logistics provider Fliway.
The cost of branch connectivity has also been slashed while new sites can be added to the network in minutes.
Fliway, which specialises in moving unusual goods and “non-palletised” stock, relied on a combination of technologies and vendors to manage, maintain and monitor connectivity.
However, a mix of multiprotocol label switching (MPLS), internet and assorted hardware brought with it potential security risks while network engineers were spending excessive time dealing with connectivity challenges. Scaling and modifying the existing solutions was also increasingly cost-prohibitive.
With a team of over 450 people and a New Zealand footprint of 13 branch locations and six warehouses, Fliway's legacy managed wide area network (WAN) was interfering with the flow of business.
Having any system unavailable was unacceptable for a logistics company with trucks always on the road around the country, group CIO Kevin Rowland said.
"Doing that effectively depends on a highly reliable IT infrastructure, including essential links between every branch and head office," he said.
As well as multiple fixed sites Fliway also regularly had to add new ones, some temporary with others becoming permanent.
When Fliway became part of NZ Post after acquisition in 2022, Rowland saw an opportunity to exit the company's managed WAN contract and establish modern inter-office connectivity for stability, speed and failover.
“We wanted an improvement to the operator experience, and of course, we wanted every depot to stay up all the time,” he said.
Testing the market, Fliway narrowed down from six potential vendors to two, separated in the end by cultural alignment.
"We needed to establish if we could work not only with the solution, but also the people providing it," Rowland said.
It helped that Fliway already had some experience with Fortinet as a user of its commercial firewall and secure VPN solutions.
“We were already on this route and we have found a support partner we could work with," Rowland said.
Fortinet partner Cello worked to deliver the project which saw a high-performance backbone deployed with FortiGate Next-Generation Firewalls (NGFWs) to provide visibility down to the application at each site.
At the edge of each branch network, Fortinet Secure SD-WAN provided high-performance routing and robust firewall protection through FortiGate.
Small branches resilience is boosted by coupling their edge devices with FortiExtender cellular gateways for failover to 4G links. Large sites, meanwhile, have carrier-diverse, high-capacity fibre access and use clusters of high-availability FortiGate NGFWs for resilience.
Fliway also deployed additional security elements including FortiManager for automation-driven, centralised device management, FortiAuthenticator for user authentication and access control, and the FortiAnalyzer log management, analytics and reporting platform.
While the background work in the datacentre took some months, Rowland said, rolling out new branches takes very little time and effort.
Issues with broken supply chains in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic demanded the establishment of new depots on the fly as customers brought in diverse cargoes in unusual volumes.
"In one instance, we got told of stock moving in on a Thursday afternoon," Rowland said. "We contacted Cello, our managed security services provider, to provide 4G connectivity in there, and it was up and running overnight."
Disestablishing the setup was easy too.
When permanently deployed, the solution predominantly relies on fibre links with 4G failover built-in.
“Simply put, it doesn’t fail," Rowland said. "If anything happens to the fibre, it just rolls over to the 4G, so the depots stay up."
Cello's network operations centre had twice identified issues, alerted Fliway and resolved it before any interruption to service.
"When we need to speak to engineers, we get people who know what they are doing, rather than following a script.”
Given the benefits, perhaps the most astonishing result was a significant reduction in cost.
"Fliway’s bills have been reduced by more than 50 per cent while delivering all-around improved performance and reliability," Rowland said.
In 2020, Fortinet also worked with Spark to deliver a massive school network refresh project for N4L.