Cirrus News

Redundancy: worth investing in?

If there's anything that reinforces the need for redundancy for every business serious about its risk management, it's a fibre cut.

Fibre is usually fast and reliable. But last week’s fibre cut near NextDC’s Sydney data centre shows the dangers of depending on it. 
 
A worker with a borer broke through a duct carrying fibre from all the major carriers - Telstra, Optus - and more.
 
This was not just your plain old garden variety 'backhoe through fibre cable' issue. Those breakages create localised problems. This accident was on another scale altogether.
 
The cable can get wound around the drill bit of a borer - without the operator realising. The operator keeps on drilling. More and more cable gets wound in. You can see where we're going with this. Kilometres of fibre becomes damaged in this way. Of course any copper in the same duct gets damaged too.
 
In last week's case, all of the major carriers were hit by the accident with the borer. Why? Because they all use the same ducts.
 
If your business depends on fibre for any of your operational systems, it’s essential to have a backup solution that doesn’t share a single point of failure. Fixed wireless is the only business-grade telecommunications technology that keeps out of those ducts. 
 
Redundancy is not a luxury. It's an essential risk-management tool that every business needs to invest in.
 
Dr Eric Heyde, CEO
 

Fixed wireless: the importance of sites

Arthur C Clarke famously said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. Not too many years ago, the concept of pointing an antenna into the air and receiving hundreds or even thousands of megabits per second of data would have seemed like magic.

Of course like any good magic, there is a trick – and for fixed wireless, that trick lies in the placement of transmission sites.

In the communications world, all technologies are based on the simple fundamental concept of a signal-to-noise ratio.

If the noise is higher than the signal, then a communications receiver can’t identify what is signal and what is noise. No information can be passed.

But if the signal is sufficiently greater than the noise, then your link is in business.

In simple terms, the higher the signal-to-noise ratio—or the higher the signal when compared to noise—the greater the scope for putting more and more complex information into the signal.

The Shannon-Hartley theorem describes the maximum amount of information that can be stuffed down a communications channel based on a certain signal-to-noise ratio.

But in any case, a higher signal-to-noise ratio is a good thing. In the wireless world, it means that you can push more information over your links and that they will work reliably.

Ensuring a high signal to noise ratio can be done by increasing the signal, decreasing the noise, or preferably a combination of the two. There is some scope to achieve this through the use of antennas. A large antenna focusses power in one direction, increasing the signal. At the same time, it listens in a tight beam on the same direction, reducing the noise from any locations not in that beam.

The best solution, however, is through the placement of transmission sites.This is particularly important when using class-licensed frequencies that are shared and can be used by others.

Most CBD areas have tall buildings, sometimes hundreds of metres high. They are visible for tens of kilometres away. You might think that these are ideal transmission sites for wireless communications, because they ‘see’ so much. And indeed, there is often a lot of wireless equipment there because there is often high demand for communications services at that location.

But as a rule, they’re not much good for wireless communications.

Why? The signal-to-noise ratio.

Links over a significant distance will have a weaker signal. And there’s a lot of wireless noise in a CBD.

The key to a good wireless service is making links short so that the signal is strong. Ideally, transmission sites will be separated from other wireless users, keeping noise low.

Cirrus Communications actively deploys sites in locations that meet these criteria. It uses licensed spectrum in noisy locations.

If you are looking at a fixed wireless service, ask your provider how many sites they have. That will give you an idea whether they’re serious about quality.

100/100 ten days in: what's the view ahead like?

Ten days have passed since the latest Cirrus product was launched. So how is CirrusX doing, and what does its reception tell us about the market for business-grade wireless services in Australia right now? 
 
CirrusX is a 100/100 Mbps service for business, backed by premium SLAs. It comes with built-in redundancy, something that's pretty much unique in the Australian context.   
 
Ten days in it's clear that we're hitting a real sweet spot. 
 
Partners are finding the price point compelling. Businesses that might previously have purchased a 10 Mbps service now want to scale up to the 100 Mbps for not much more in terms of outlay. 
 
But apart from the price, it's the redundancy that seems to be generating significant interest. Businesses are really responding to the fact that CirrusX comes with built-in last-mile redundancy as standard. 
 
This sends a very clear message. 
 
Businesses are very aware that equipment does fail. That's just the nature of hardware. So the way to achieve super-high availability is through redundancy.   
 
For Cirrus, this new product is the beginning of us pushing redundancy all the way to the edge. It's given a drive to push redundant architecture for all our services in the longer term. 
 
CirrusX is deployed across our national network, but it's not universally available. To meet demand, we have earmarked a significant number of sites for short-term expansion. 
 
The first ten days of CirrusX confirms that while 100 Mbps is at the higher end of services today, it's pretty clear that within 1-2 years, capacity of these dimensions will be much more mainstream. 
 
For this reason, it is interesting to reflect that most businesses will find their needs change dramatically within the time period of a standard telco contact, which is 2-3 years. 
 
The impulse of many businesses to purchase premium internet and layer 2 services that will see them through the next three years with plenty of room to grow is a wise risk-management strategy. 
 
- Eric Heyde, CEO