You Want Money for a Data Center Buildout?

Yield to Cloud A couple years ago I attended several “fast pitch” competitions and events for entrepreneurs in Southern California, all designed to give startups a chance to “pitch” their ideas in about 60 seconds to a panel of representatives from the local investment community.  Similar to television’s “Shark Tank,” most of the ideas pitches were harshly critiqued, with the real intent of assisting participating entrepreneurs in developing a better story for approaching investors and markets.

While very few of the pitches received a strong, positive response, I recall one young guy who really set the panel back a step in awe.  The product was related to biotech, and the panel provided a very strong, positive response to the pitch.

Wishing to dig a bit deeper, one of the panel members asked the guy how much money he was looking for in an investment, and how he’d use the money.

“$5 million he responded,” with a resounding wave of nods from the panel.  “I’d use around $3 million for staffing, getting the office started, and product development.”  Another round of positive expressions.  “And then we’d spend around $2 million setting up in a data center with servers, telecoms, and storage systems.”

This time the panel looked as if they’d just taken a crisp slap to the face.  After a moment of collection, the panel spokesman launched into a dress down of the entrepreneur stating “I really like the product, and think you vision is solid.  However, with a greater then 95% chance of your company going bust within the first year, I have no desire to be stuck with $2 million worth of obsolete computer hardware, and potentially contract liabilities once you shut down your data center.  You’ve got to use your head and look at going to Amazon for your data center capacity and forget this data center idea.”

Now it was the entire audience’s turn to take a pause.

In the past IT managers really placed buying and controlling their own hardware, in their own facility, as a high priority – with no room for compromise.  For perceptions of security, a desire for personal control, or simply a concern that outsourcing would limit their own career potential, sever closets and small data centers were a common characteristic of most small offices.

At some point a need to have proximity to Internet or communication exchange points, or simple limitations on local facility capacity started forcing a migration of enterprise data centers into commercial colocation.  For the most part, IT managers still owned and controlled any hardware outsourced into the colocation facility, and most agreed that in general colocation facilities offered higher uptime, fewer service disruptions, and good performance, in particular for eCommerce sites.

Now we are at a new IT architecture crossroads.  Is there really any good reason for a startup, medium, or even large enterprise to continue operating their own data center, or even their own hardware within a colocation facility?  Certainly if the average CFO or business unit manager had their choice, the local data center would be decommissioned and shut down as quickly as possible.  The CAPEX investment, carrying hardware on the books for years of depreciation, lack of business agility, and dangers of business continuity and disaster recovery costs force the question of “why don’t we just rent IT capacity from a cloud service provider?”

Many still question the security of public clouds, many still question the compliance issues related to outsourcing, and many still simply do not want to give up their “soon-to-be-redundant” data center jobs.

Of course it is clear most large cloud computing companies have much better resources available to manage security than a small company, and have made great advances in compliance certifications (mostly due to the US government acknowledging the role of cloud computing and changing regulations to accommodate those changes).  If we look at the US Government’s FedRAMP certification program as an example, security, compliance, and management controls are now a standard – open for all organizations to study and adopt as appropriate.

So we get back to the original question, what would justify a company in continuing to develop data centers, when a virtual data center (as the first small step in adopting a cloud computing architecture) will provide better flexibility, agility, security, performance, and lower cost than operating a local of colocated IT physical infrastructure?  Sure, exceptions exist, including some specialized interfaces on hardware to support mining, health care, or other very specialized activities.  However if you re not in the computer or switch manufacturing business – can you really continue justifying CAPEX expenditures on IT?

IT is quickly becoming a utility.  As a business we do not plan to build roads, build water distribution, or build our own power generation plants.  Compute, telecom, and storage resources are becoming a utility, and IT managers (and data center / colocation companies) need to do a comprehensive review of their business and strategy, and find a way to exploit this technology reality, rather than allow it to pass us by.

Burbank’s Bexel Brings Media and Event Production Services to the World

NOTE:  This story was originally published at myBurbank.com by the author.

Bexel Equipment Preparation RoomBexel is a very unique company.  From an unimposing facility near the Burbank Airport, Bexel sends broadcast video and audio equipment all over the United States, and around the world, covering events ranging from the Super Bowl to the inauguration.

Started in 1981 by a local entrepreneur, David Trudeau, Bexel now has operations in Burbank, Dallas, Atlanta, Washington D.C., Secaucus, and Sao Paolo.  Bexel was acquired by Vitec, a British company in 1991, but continues to call Burbank home.

My Burbank’s Innovators and Entrepreneurs had an opportunity to visit with Greg Bragg, Associate Director of Network Rentals and Tom Dikinson, Chief Technology Officer to learn a bit of Bexel’s vision, operations, and leadership in media production systems.

A stroll through Bexel’s facility is like attending a technology seminar in media innovation.  You enter a room is for staging audio and video equipment for an event deployment someplace around the world, the next room is receiving equipment from a previous deployment, another room is busy maintaining and calibrating equipment for either return to the warehouse, or preparation for a specific customer requirement.

“Our mission statement is to elevate the quality of the media production experience” advised Dikinson. “Customer service is one of our core values, and we look for people who are customer-focused, with high integrity to ensure we meet the expectation of our customers.”

A glance through Bexel’s client list and recent accomplishments certainly shows the market has great confidence in Bexel’s ability to deliver.  Whether it is supporting the US Open Golf Tourney, ESPN, the Olympics, or E! Entertainment, Bexel has a presence in just about every event, sporting or other, that ends up on television.  And indeed, all points throughout the world.

Greg Bragg from BexelBragg notes that “Bexel is definitely a services-based organization.  Our emphasis is on customer service, integrity, and delivery.”

Dikinson added “We do consulting for some of our customers, like ESPN and Fox, where we work with them to understand their needs, and how to best achieve what they want to do.  Then we package products together and build kits that are easy for us to deploy to them, as well as easy for the customer to deploy at the venue within their own schedule to meet their requirements.”

Bexel is committed to Burbank, and Dikinson continues “Burbank is a very business-friendly city.”  Not only for the approach to licensing and taxes, but “the fact we are central to the entertainment industry.”  Bragg agrees, adding “other areas like Hollywood are just too congested.  We’re also close to the Burbank Airport making it a really good location.”

Another benefit for Bexel is the dominance of operations and production decision makers in the area.  According to Bragg while New York may have a lot of corporate business function, the Los Angeles area runs the production side of the entertainment industry.  Bragg emphasizes “the people you need to meet regarding a show or production are here.”

Bexel, and the parent company Vitec, are committed to both corporate responsibility, as well as community and social responsibility.

For example, Bexel University is an internal program, providing training to employees on new technology, or to bring employees up to skill levels required to function in their jobs.  Bexel strive to promote from within, with Bragg being a good example.

“I started out with Bexel at 20 years old, working a driver delivering equipment around the area” recalled Bragg.  From there he worked his way up through the company as an office assistant, quality control supervisor, audio technician, and finally into sales with a great position as Associate Director of Equipment Rentals – the bread and butter of Bexel.

In addition to developing and promoting from within, Bexel also heavily recruits from local film institutes and academies, further supporting the community, ordering talented young people great opportu8nities in this dynamic company.

Bragg reflected “we do appreciate being able to provide opportunities for our employees.  Most of the employees have gained experience through working in several different areas within the company, and the senior leadership has a much broader experience than other companies.”

Bexel’s also shows their commitment to the Burbank community through programs supporting the Burbank Police and Fire Service Day with monitors so they can display slide shows, or assisting Jordan Middle School, and just about every elementary school, as well as PTAs with equipment loaners for their carnivals, as well as programs such as BEST, which provides local students an opportunity to be exposed to different parts of the industry, from technical jobs to administrative.

Bragg emphasized “I took the BEST program very seriously, holding kids accountable for their work, while providing them a very healthy learning experience!”

While Bexel has a traditional community service culture, their approach to social responsibility is fully backed by Vitec, which provides a lot of support for local programs.  Bragg explained “we can’t always give money to local programs, but we can certainly provide knowledge and experience to the local community.”

In a world using phrases like “Think Global – Act Local,” it is refreshing to see a company such as Bexel which can actually deliver on their vision, offering a truly global service to the entertainment and video production community.

You can learn more about Bexel at their website www.bexel.com

Protecting Evidence and Property with Robert Giles

“Without evidence, we don’t have a judicial system.”

Law enforcement may be defined as any system by which designated members of society act in an organized manner to promote and enforce adherence to the law by discovering and punishing persons who violate the laws governing that society.

In order to punish violators and offenders, law enforcement needs to collect and maintain facts and evidence.  Failure to do so correctly may result in the release of a guilty person, or possibly worse the arrest and incarceration of an innocent person.

Robert Giles, past President and a current Boardmember of the International Association for Property and Evidence, Inc. (IAPE), is on a mission.  That mission is to ensure law enforcement offices and citizens have the knowledge, procedures, and recommendations to ensure evidence and property is correctly managed, ensuring that evidence is available to all within the judicial system.

“How can we tell some people they are not doing something right if we are not also telling them what is the right thing to do?”

Ultimately the objective is to manage and protect the evidence available to convict the criminal, and release the innocent, if warranted, as quickly as possible.

Burbank N Beyond’s Innovators and Entrepreneurs caught up with Giles on Thursday, following a Property and Evidence Management course IAPE held in Burbank.

Burbank N Beyond: Tell us a bit of your background, how did you get into the training and standards business?

Robert Giles from IAPERobert Giles: Well. I am a retired 32 year Lieutenant with the Burbank Police.  My colleague (in IAPE) Joe Latta, who was instrumental in starting this venture, was also a police lieutenant who retired a few years senior to me.

In 1997 it was a very small operation.  The woman who started it (IAPE), Robin Trench, very tragically contracted cancer and passed away.  She had been in contact with Joe Latta and me.  We had been teaching property and evidence classes through the state Police Officer Standard and Training (POST).

In that vein Joe had the vision, wisdom, and forethought that this could propel property and evidence into a visible endeavor.

We formed a new board and set up our own bylaws and how we wanted to operate.  And as a small incorporated business we had to have board officers.  We wanted to do everything right, so we tapped other knowledgeable persons who we knew to be qualified to be on the board.

We had a lot of roots here in Burbank, however our organization has now grown nationwide, and to Canada.

IAPE is a non-profit research and education organization, dedicated and committed to provide education and training pertaining to all aspects of the handling, storage, maintenance and disposal of law enforcement held property and evidence. The knowledge is provided free of charge on our website, but we charge for the management training and other related materials to cover our costs.

We have trained persons form the US, Canada, Trinidad, China, and we are expanding to other locations.

Burbank N Beyond:  Why Burbank?  What role can Burbank play in the global property and evidence management field?

Robert Giles: Burbank is among the larger agencies nationwide, however when you compare us to the major cities we are kind of a flyspeck.  Thus we know there are more than one way to do it (the job of managing and maintaining property and evidence).  In Burbank we knew there was one way to do it, and it worked real well for our size agency, and we tried to pass that along (to other agencies).

You know there are lots of different ways to do things, and some ways work even better than what we do.  And we have grown along with our exposure to the way others may do the same function. So historically that’s how we got to where we are.

The IAPE Board of Directors is charged with the duties of advancing the scope of knowledge and enhancing professionalism within the field of property and evidence management. To help achieve this goal, the IAPE has adopted professional standards in a number of important property and evidence handling procedures.

Adhering to these standards should assure any agency that reasonable steps have been taken to obtain a secure and efficient property and evidence management system. Not adhering to these recommended standards will increase the likelihood of problems associated with the operation of the unit. (IAPE.Org)

Giles went on to discuss some of the IAPE activities, as well as recent cases involving mismanagement of evidence, as well as even mentioning recent cases where law enforcement officers and custodians had tampered with, stolen, or rendered evidence unusable.  In these cases the guilty may go free, or even worse, the innocent may be held for a crime they did not commit.

Robert Giles: When events like this happen it makes all law enforcement officers look bad.   We want to make sure we are doing our bit to make sure the law enforcement agencies have in place internal controls that prevent that sort of thing from happening, or would at least detect that it has happened.

“Even within the United States there is a great disparity between law enforcement agencies, and how they store, manage, and process evidence.”

Robert Giles:  We’re in a situation right now here we might go around the country and find a small room that is just overflowing with old evidence.  The people (law enforcement agencies) are scared to get rid of anything because new laws are being passed left and right saying you have to keep certain categories of evidence for “X” number of years, or keep evidence collected in homicides forever.

Some states might say as long as you have a prisoner in custody you must maintain the evidence, or as long as the person is alive who has been accused you need to keep the evidence (that was used to convict them).

There are a lot of well-meaning legislators who have passed terrible laws.  We’d like to see some common sense brought into some of those laws.

Burbank N Beyond:  What made you decide to stay active, rather than simply enjoy retirement?

Robert Giles:  I wanted to stay involved and apply all the officer knowledge and experience I had (to this cause), and stay productive in the law enforcement field.  You know I really enjoyed my job over the years.

Ten years later I am still involved, periodically going to different locations across the nation to put on a class (IAPE certifications and general knowledge).  We are able to conduct training across the country and serve other law enforcement agencies throughout the country and help them out so they can get their act together (in reference to evidence handling and management).

There are very few resources out there in the field of property and evidence management.  There are maybe 3 or 4 instructors nationwide, and none of them have the resources available that we have, such as access to our standards, and the strength of the organization we have behind us.

They may only have resources such as a book to refer to, and do not have access to a 4500 member organization like IAPE behind them (for support).  They have not taught 400 classes over the past 15 years, or access to about the 10,000 people we’ve taught.

IAPE has become the “gold standard” for how to manage property and evidence.

Burbank N Beyond:  It is 2012, approaching 2013, why is it today after so many years, why it is law enforcement still has trouble with evidence management?

Robert Giles:  Does the medical field have issues with doctors that are not the highest caliber or have the most integrity?  Do prosecutors often go out and compromise the integrity of the prosecution so they can win a case and go on to bigger and better things (career ambitions)?

Law enforcement is just like any other profession.  We’ve brought people in from the human race, and there are different levels of education, different levels of morality, and those are the exceptions, not the rule.  And you have different parts of the country where entering law enforcement (is a compromise) to low level employment.

So to answer your question of why it has taken law enforcement so long to come up to a higher standard, it is because of too few resources, lack of education, too little attention being given to it (property and evidence management) given to it by the media which often does not do its “watchdog” function.

Many times we find out about corruption from sources other than the media, which surprises me because to me, what you (Burbank N Beyond) are doing right now is wonderful because you are telling people there is a need for law enforcement to watch out for the way they handle their evidence.   If you do not manage your evidence, then your agency is not up to task.

The media should be publicizing this for others to read.

Burbank N Beyond:  Why Burbank?  It is a big country, lots of opportunities to set up shop in any location.  Why Burbank?

Robert Giles:  We did start out in Burbank, but we also spread ourselves out and have members, board members, and contributors from Chico, Minneapolis, Long Island – we are spreading ourselves around the country.

Burbank N Beyond:  You are part of a strong organization today, but when you started with IAPE it was small, and presented you a level of risk.  How do you feel about entrepreneurship in general, or striking out on your own if you are midway through a career, or just starting a career?

Robert Giles:  People coming out of the military have a lot of skills, and are the best and the brightest.  I love it when a well-qualified vet comes in and wants to get trained or certified in property evidence.  The military guys have a lot of experience they can bring to not only law enforcement, but other fields.

You have to be able and willing to move around to find the jobs and opportunities.  You need to stay current in your field, getting professional certifications, learn the standards, and get qualified.

Or if the job market doesn’t meet your needs you have to be willing to strike out on your own.  It is a lot tougher to start your own business than it is to work for somebody else, but that is the answer for a lot of people.

Sometimes you freelance, and sometimes you have to volunteer to get known, and then apply for a job.

Counterintuity – Creative Internet Marketing in Burbank

Pacific-Tier Communications and Burbank N Beyond’s Innovators and Entrepreneurs had an opportunity to visit with Amy Kramer, President and Marketing Whiz, and Lee Wochner, CEO and Counterintuity Offices in Burbank CaliforniaCreative Strategist, at Counterintuity LLC, a Burbank-based agency focusing on Internet marketing.  Amy and Lee discussed a variety of topics ranging from taking the risk with a start up company, to their visions and ideas on Internet marketing and social media, as well as why Burbank is a great place to run a business.

Counterintuity is a full-service marketing agency that has designed, launched and maintained hundreds of custom-built websites, digital marketing strategies, public relations, search engine optimization, social media campaigns, as well as identity and print pieces.

PT-BNB:  It is kind of scary doing a start up when you have worked in a corporate environment your entire life – how did you get started?

Amy:  Back in the late 90s I was working in direct response, in infomercials.  And I was helping a very large product break into the web.  So we were launching eCommerce sites doing email marketing when it was only text, and Lyrist was the only provider.  And so right there at the very cusp of Internet marketing I was there with a budget.

It was a tremendous opportunity.  So after launching that product, then we’re into 2000 and it was really starting to grow, and the opportunities were really awesome.

So I left the cushy direct response gig and decided to break out and do it myself.

The there was an opportunity for Lee and I together to bring this Internet marketing product and series of products to small businesses and organizations.  Because previously it was only available because the cost was so prohibitive.  So we were able to bring it to a wider range of businesses and organizations.

Lee:  Amy and I already had a working relationship and I already knew she was a really smart digital marketer, we work well together, and I think it is a great time to be in business, it is an important time for entrepreneurship, and I think a lot of the problem in the country and in the world will increasingly be solved by entrepreneurial solutions.

And so what we were looking to do was find a way to leverage those sorts of opportunities for smaller businesses rather than lock them out because they don’t have big budget.

PT-BNB:  Are smaller business a focus of the Counterintuity, does it make any difference what size a business is?

Lee:  It really depends on how you define small business.  I think small business as defined by the federal government is 500 employees or fewer.   So people, even in the Small Business Administration think they need to redefine that.

We have clients who do a million dollars a year in revenue, sometimes a little bit less.  And we have clients who do 200 million dollars a year in revenue or more.  About a third of our clients are non-profit or public sector.  So I don’t know if they really fit that profile.

But the commonality among all of our clients is that they are looking to succeed in entrepreneurial ways in response to all of the changes in consumer patterns driven by the Internet.

PT-BNB:  On your website you show three majors areas which include social media, website design, and digital marketing.  You wouldn’t have seen that 10 years ago, with social media being a focal point.  What is the impact of social media?  Why is that important for us to understand?

Lee and Amy at Counterintuity Burbank CaliforniaLee:  So next week we’re doing a presentation for the city as part of “Team Business.”  We’re going to be doing our “Get Connected Social Media Seminar.”

Let me give you the shortest, best answer I can.  Social media is word of mouth marketing done big.  Amy and I both have a background in the theater.  That’s how we met in 1999.  What you find out in the theater is that it doesn’t matter what your ads are, what your reviews are, the primary way to drive business is through “word of mouth.”

Social media presents a suite of tools that allows you to capture word of mouth from all of the people you are connected to and spread it.

Obviously there’s a potential upside and a potential downside to that.  The potential upside is “hey this is really great we really like this,” and the potential downside is “we were really disappointed, we don’t really like this, and forget them.”

There has always been a conversation about you, your product, and your service.  Now you have more opportunity than ever to manage that, and to spread the word, and to turn other people into advocates for you online.

PT-BNB:  What does social media mean for the generation that is just graduating from high school and college, and what role do you play in being able to fulfill their need for having access to social media?

Lee:  What need does the typewriter fill? Or the quill pen?

It’s not a marketing tool, it is a tool.  A basic tool.  It is a communications platform.  It’s a way to connect everybody up, with all of their content.  Some of the content might be “here is a picture of my kid.” And “here is the dinner we had.”  I took a picture of my dinner in San Francisco the other night because it was so interesting, and I built a blog post around it.

And then all these people on Facebook “liked” the picture of my dinner, and said they wished they’d had it.  If that had been my client in San Francisco I would have linked to it.

But see it was my life, and then I could turn it into marketing, but really it’s about the tool.

When people talk about social media marketing, then I say we’re talking about communications.  When you think about it, when you are born the very first thing you do is communicate.  You cry, and then you start to breath.  You are crying to communicate.

Communication is at the heart of who we are.  There is (traditional) scientific research that says we developed more than other primates because we have language, and because we have bigger brains.

The new thinking is we have bigger brains because we developed language, developed synaptic connections, and grew our brain muscles.

So language and communication are at the core of who we are.

I try to talk to people and say “don’t focus on the tool.”  If I give you the three basic ways to think about all the social media tools then you can do anything you want with them.  Don’t get hung up on how seemingly complex there are, and how to use them.

It’s like your car.  I have no idea how the cylinders work.  I just drive it.  That’s how social media should work for you.

Amy:  And when you talk about the next generation, they are just using it (social media) in different ways.  They don’t like talking on the phone as much.  They like texting more.  It’s a small, quick conversation.

Turns out a lot of the kids are not into Facebook.  Some prefer Twitter.  Others right now are really into Instagram.  It is a great way for them to share what they are doing, and what they are involved in.  Visual storytelling.

Again it is sharing information, it all comes down to what’s sharing what is going on in your life and telling that story.  Whether it is for you personally, or whether it is for a brand.

Kids today – email.  Not as big with kids.  They are doing Facebook messaging. They are doing DMs on Twitter.  Just a text.  It is a different way to communicate.  But as Lee was saying, it is just a communication tool, it is just how new social media and new Internet platforms are helping them (young people) communicate.

PT-BNB:  What is the role of blogging?

Amy:  Blogging at its core is journaling.

As marketers, we recommend it for our clients.  And the reason we recommend blogging for clients is it is a way to build credibility and to expand your authority in your industry.

When journalists are looking for folks to interview, where do you go?  You go to LinkedIn to look them up, and generally the next place is their website.  Then if you get to their website and want to look at what they have to say you go to their blog.

Because that gives you a bit of insight into their voice and into their POV (point of view).

The you go “oh, they might be good for this entrepreneurial article that I’m writing.”

So blogging is an entrée into PR.  It is an entrée into getting more coverage, as well as if a client is looking for someone like you it can actually help your search engine optimization, significantly.  Because it can give you opportunities to talk about what you do.

So blogging is good for authority, it is good for search rankings, because the more content, and the more regularly you update your content on your website and your blog, the more highly Google thinks of you.

PT-BNB:  How about video?

Lee:  Massive, huge.  We’ve been doing more and more video for clients and for ourselves, and have been winning awards for it. It (video) has got to be brief, it has got to be interesting, it has got to make a point, and you need to share it.

Put it on Youtube, Tweet out a link, put it on your Facebook, put it on your website, stick it in your blog, repurpose your content, because then people will see it more often.

Amy:  And it has got to be short.  Attention spans are now teeny.  It must play quickly.

Lee:  So if you go to our Youtube page you will see some of the videos we have done.  We’ve been doing client videos and internal videos, and the great thing is you no longer need a massive budget.

Now there are projects we’ve done for very large clients who have a budget, and we can go do what would be called a corporate-looking video.

Then there are ways to do more guerrilla type video.  We did a video recently for Center Theater Group, the Taper, Ahmanson, Kirk Douglass Theater.  I and our video editor went down there and we did 13 setups and shot the whole video in about 4 hours.  Because now the technology is such that you can go do that, be really mobile, really fast.  We wrote the script in advance, went down and shot it, and then it took about a half a day to do the first cut on a laptop.

We sent it to the client, the client asked for a few tweaks, and in just two days we had a complete corporate video for them.

PT-BNB:  Why did you decide to setup shop in Burbank?

Lee:  Burbank is a great place to do business.  Burbank is a tight knit community, it is easy to do business here, and it is easy to become part of the community.

The city has been terrific.  We have personal relationships with all the city council members, the mayor, the city staff…  Whenever we have had an issue or an opportunity they have resolved it very fast.  They have worked with us, and we have nothing but positive things to say about the city.

With regard to the Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber has been a key driver in our business.  They have been so terrific at connecting us up, offering valuable services, and anything we can do with or for the Chamber we will do it.

It is a great place to be, Burbank.

You can learn more about Counterintuity at their website www.counterintuity.com

Burbank Innovators and Entrepreneurs

Burbank is the home of the global entertainment industry, prominent in aviation, and a burgeoning Internet development community.  Burbank Innovators and Entrepreneurs will look at companies and persons based in Burbank making an impact in their industry, with an emphasis on entrepreneurs, and those on the cutting edge of technology, services, and thought leadership.

Innovators and Entrepreneurs will bring personal interviews digging into the motivations, challenges, successes, personalities, with visions of companies and people driving our business community into the future.

If you have a Burbank-based company or recommendation of a company, that is at the cutting edge of your industry, are an innovator, or an entrepreneur, and would like either Pacific-Tier Communications or BurbankNBeyond to highlight the activity, send a note to jsavageau@burbanknbeyond.com.

Traveling the Telecom Highway with GTT’s Scott Charter

A very cold and icy evening in Denver. One of my new data center customers, WBS Connect, was based in Denver under the technical leadership of Scott Charter. Scott gave me a call, and asked if I had the time to get together and meet, since I was in town for some business meetings and he had some ideas I might be interested in.

Several hours later, with staff at the Rialto Café getting annoyed, and my head hitting the data absorption and comprehension threshold all of us experience when talking with people a whole lot smarter than us, I knew I’d met a true visionary.

Ideas. Ideas about technology, about business, about people, and about the world we live in. Beyond the technology, Scott is a guy who genuinely cares about people – an excellent role model for young entrepreneurs.

Pacific-Tier: Today we are talking with Scott Charter, who is with GTT.   Scott, how do you like Hawaii?

Scott Charter from GTT at PTC 2010Scott Charter: Love it. I’ve been here a few times (Hawaii) before, but this is my first time on Oahu.

Pacific-Tier: We’re at the Pacific Telecommunications Council annual meeting. Scott agreed to sit down and talk with us a little bit. Scott, you’ve had some changes professionally – what’s going on?

Scott Charter: December 16th, WBS Connect, my company that I co-founded in 2002 was acquired by GTT. The deal had been brewing a couple months prior (to December), but we announced it December 16th and we’ll call it the end of January when the integration will be complete.

Pacific-Tier: So what does that bring to the business? Aside from obviously the acquisition and things, does that bring any benefits to WBS, your customers, or to the business that didn’t exist before?

Scott Charter: That’s two pointed questions. I’ll start with my customers at WBS Connect. They will continue to receive the same level of service they did from WBS Connect, and now from GTT, with an augmented NOC (Network Operations Center), we are a much larger entity as a publicly traded company. So from a financial perspective it is a much healthier organization that is continuing to grow.

We feel that what we brought to GTT was something they didn’t have, and that was a network. GTT was a switchless, global network integrator, and it was an easy add-on to give them a global Ethernet backbone.

Pacific-Tier: So how about the services WBS Connect was offering? Video services, and different types of value-added services to your network, where do they exist today?

Scott Charter: The growth on where we are on a commodity-based, circuit-based, will only continue to grow as we layer on. We have to be careful though, not to layer too much in at once. We don’t want to have too much culture shock.

So for example, I don’t really see us striking out immediately and driving more video. Conferencing services as a primary add-on for our business customers, as a business product, give till the second or third quarter and we’ll roll back into that.

Immediately we’re talking about going back to all of the GTT customers with more Ethernet. Going into the WBS customer with more off-net circuits that GTT had already done as well.

Slowly, when we get out of that, we’ll go more into managed services. I see us actually going more with other managed services in addition to video, such as managed security. Probably by Q2.

Pacific-Tier: How about WBS Connect, and I hate going back to that, but I will… You were a very open network. You would peer with other networks, you would peer with CDNs (Content Delivery Networks), do you feel that your ability to integrate or work with other companies would be changed by your acquisition (or merger) by GTT?

Global Telecom and TechnologyScott Charter: I’m learning as we’re going, because I am now working with a publicly-traded company. Things are a little bit different than when you are with a privately held, entrepreneurial small organization that is quite dynamic.

We want to bring the dynamic nature of WBS Connect to GTT, however we also have to remember that we have certain parameters that go with a publicly-traded company.

On top of that you also have an organization that really focuses on ensuring they maintain good margin. Now what we’ve done in the past with WBS Connect was that at times we’d take a lower margin deal in order to expand our network, and ultimately grow our value in another way that was not standard “Hey I need to have this much margin.”

I don’t know how much of that we’ll continue to do, but if it doesn’t make sense financially we probably won’t do it moving forward.

Pacific-Tier: So you’ve always been a leader, a thought leader in the industry. There are things changing now such as carrier Ethernet exchanges, Internet exchange points, cloud computing and the integration of CDNs into the network itself. Tell me your visions. What’s happening now? Where will we go into the future that will either support, or change, or direct the future of our business?

Scott Charter: There are so many great things that I see on the horizon right now that all seem to layer back into one another. So when we talk about additional transport services that are required to talk about enhanced cloud. Machine-machine activity, and the way they are going to interact is the future of where hosting goes – for sure.

I mean just standard dedicated servers and things like that are… I don’t want to call them a typewriter of the future, but things are definitely going to evolve. I think that as a WAN operator as part of our business we definitely see the need to connect more and more data centers that have this idea of being able to understand the need for this cloud infrastructure.

And I think you are going to find that you are going to have a global consolidation in certain points around the world that are going to mirror this cloud that is going to happen in let’s call it 10 mega data centers, at least, for computing. And we want to be a part of that.

One of the things I’m really excited about though, is the game-changing effect that I believe that 4G will have on incumbent connectivity in our existing infrastructure. If you’re a LEC (Local Exchange Carrier) with DS3s, OC3s, out to an enterprise base, that’s going to compete in a way with 4G. Call it 18~24 months from now.

I see us steering GTT towards embracing 4G as a part of our WAN business.

Pacific-Tier: Are you going to get into the tower business yourself, or are you going to connect towers?

Scott Charter: Connect towers for sure. You know, continuing to talk about any type of carrier extensions or servicing that wholesale side. But in addition to that I see from a large enterprise side, really seeing us drive more and more into that (4G and connecting via the wholesale business).

Pacific-Tier: With 4G, and LTE – ultimately 4G, does GTT get into the wireless business yourself or are you going to stay in the terrestrial business?

Scott Charter: That’s to be seen. I’m cautious on what I say now on where we’ll be, depending on where we need to be then. When I look forward now – I’m only talking about LTE. No offense to WiMAX, but I feel the real play there is with LTE.

It’s not just North American LTE, it’s global LTE. So seeing the Vodafones, the China wirelesses, and how they’re going to drive global saturation of LTE, let’s call it over the next four years, five years possibly, we’ll want to play there one way or another. I’m not sure how we’ll do it.

Pacific-Tier: So in 18 months what is the difference between terrestrial cable, terrestrial services, and wireless? Is there a difference?

Scott Charter: I’m afraid that spectrum is going to be a too little, people are going to be so excited that we might almost have another iPhone paradox that we see now with AT&T – that their own success with their partnership with Apple has caused some people to believe that the AT&T 3G is completely saturated.

Now there are some people who have some data on it which says that’s not truly the case. But there is enough of a customer backlash that it’s a customer perception that the AT&T network, due to its own success, has lead to its current situation that people are accepting it.

Now, fast forward a couple years and say what happens if we actually eat through all that LTE spectrum that’s out there now that that Verizon and AT&T – let’s just talk that North America’s acquired, wouldn’t that be interesting if that too becomes so saturated that we’re now reverting back to just terrestrial, as we’ve eaten up all the wireless.

Pacific-Tier: Tell me something, domestic or international, where’s your focus?

Scott Charter: 50-50. Let me take that back. (the) Opportunity for growth, 80-20 international. Consistent with where we are today, 50-50. New growth, international.

Pacific-Tier: Why?

Scott Charter: Under-served markets with a much higher profitability margin. It’s much easier to go in and saturate MENA, or LATAM, or parts of Asia than it is to continue to try and compete against incumbents in major markets, Tier 1, Tier 2s, or for that matter try and compete against a Time Warner in a Tier 3.

Pacific-Tier: WBS Connect helped shake up the American Internet industry by bringing affordable bandwidth and high-performance services to people. How do you continue to disrupt Verizon and AT&T and people who would possibly like to hold back development of competitive services in the United States. How do you go about continuing to hit that “borg?”

Scott Charter: By coming to shows like this (PTC) and ITW. You continue to partner up with aggressive companies that are willing to shake up the status quo. If you are working within a fleet of speed boats, if you are not there you are probably in a super-tanker that is probably going to run aground at one point.

That’s a little too much of an analogy…

Pacific-Tier: Let’s talk about your effect on the social or the people part of this business. Do you feel that your new company (GTT) or your old company (WBS Connect), or yourself as an entrepreneur – do you feel you have a responsibility to contribute to the good of the community? Is there any inherent responsibility you have to the community?

Scott Charter: I believe we all do if we want to be good global citizens and good global businessmen. It’s in our best interest to make sure we are doing things more and more efficient.

Power (electricity) is probably a great analogy because we are all working towards a more efficient data center. It’s in our best interest to try and find a means to use off-peak power. We’re involved in something right now that I think is going to shake up data centers worldwide.

And when I talk to people about it I don’t want them to think I’m getting too…, what I really want to say is that I think I have a real opportunity to change what we’re doing in global computing with some colleagues that we’re involved with on power.

Pacific-Tier: Well we hope so, and whether it’s alternative energy using solar or wind, or whether it’s using innovative ideas like fuel cells or co-generation… All of those things are good for the environment and hopefully in the future we’ll be able to reduce our reliance on very energy-inefficient hardware.

Hopefully people like you will put in SSDs using 1% of the power draw as a spindle… But tell us, as we wind down the discussion to a close, again you’ve been a visionary ever since I’ve known you. For several years I’ve looked to you for ideas and thoughts on what’s going to happen to our industry in the future.

Shoot for the stars. Tell us something we don’t know that is going to excite us.

Scott Charter: Well let me follow up on this through energy consumption. To drive the existing grid to use it more efficiently so we don’t have to build new. If we can avoid building new coal-fired power plants in order to generate all this new data, because data centers are gobbling up more power per capita than any other sector in the world right now. I mean it’s amazing.

We’re not getting that many new aluminum smelters out there, but new data centers are coming up and just eating and eating more power.

What if? And we believe we’re on to something that will allow us to not have to go and just massively overbuild our electrical infrastructure in order to accommodate this data center growth. I can’t wait to see where we are in two years with this.

Pacific-Tier: I think it’s exciting too, as a former data center operator I saw the sins of inefficiency time and time again, and I applaud your efforts in trying to correct that problem in our industry.

Any final words for the readers?

Scott Charter: I’m excited where I am going with GTT. I’ve never been a chief marketing officer in a publicly-traded company before. Colleagues of mine have come up joked with me and said “Mr. CMO! What are you going to do?” I laugh. It’s so exciting. Coming here and just trying to drive brand.

Go meet 40 new companies out of Eastern Europe, or go meet Western Africa. Wow!

Pacific-Tier: The industry needs competent evangelists and we warmly welcome your entry into the marketing business. Thank you very much for the time!

You can download the audio/recording of Scott’s interview HERE

Scott Charter has more than 16 years of data telecommunications experience, specializing in data networking. Prior to launching WBS Connect, Scott held management positions with Qwest Communications, Rhythms Netconnections, and Echostar Communications.GTT is Global telecom and Technology http://www.gt-t.net/ 

Trouble at the Telecom and Communicator’s Bar

Have you heard the news? Unemployment is skyrocketing, companies are closing, there’s no investment money for startups, and the sky is falling, the sky is falling? Don’t I know, as the layoff frenzy hit my own Hanging out at the communicator's barhome, that it is a scary economic place to take a swim… Sharks, really hungry sharks, circling with an eye to take every last cent you have been able to hide.

And the outlook remains bleak. The New York Times reports that Europe is suffering in youth unemployment – even more than the US. 42.9% unemployment is Spain, 28% unemployment in Ireland, an EU average of 20.7% Makes California look like the “promised land.”

And, California may actually be the “promised land.” California still attracts the best of global engineering to the Silicon Valley, and the most creative minds in communications and entertainment to Los Angeles. Whether you are a European, Chinese, Indian, or even Canadian, Silicon Valley and LA offer an environment that is unsurpassed around the world. Our universities embrace people from other cultures and countries, and our ability to support entrepreneurs draws not only students, but the best engineers and thought leaders from around the world.

Back at the Communicator’s Bar

There are still tables with discussions reviewing the indignities of being laid off by struggling companies. There are still discussions with the whine of people talking about the “damn foreigners” who are here stealing our jobs. Still “barflys” slopped over the bar worrying about their Audi payments and how their ARM mortgage has put them under water.

Then there are other bars with tables full of Americans, And A scatter shot of foreigners talking about fun stuff. Fun stuff like cloud computing, virtualization, globalization, distributing computing, “the network is the computer,” “the computer is the network,” and how the carriers will return to their roots of providing high quality “big, fat, dumb” telecom pipes. The talk is of how we can finally start putting all this intellectual property that we’ve spent billions n producing Powerpoint slides into reality.

Green is here

Virtualization is here

Data Center outsourcing is here

2010 is a blank whiteboard set up to codify the thought leadership and technology spawned in the waning years of the 200x decade and put it into business plans and CAPEX budgets.

2010 is the year we aggressively deliver Internet-enabled technology to every man, woman, and child in the world who has a desire to live a life beyond killing their own food for dinner. Here is a funny though – if a radical 8 year old in one currently scary country is able to Yahoo chat or Facebook their way into discussions and relationships with kids in California and Beijing, doesn’t it make just a little sense the desire to blow each other up would be diluted, even just a little?

If the guy living next to me is producing a telecom switch that is head and shoulders above what is currently on the market, do I really care if his brain was conceived in Hanoi?

2010 is also the beginning of a true period of globalization. That doesn’t mean out hillbilly friends in Duluth, Minnesota have to quit drinking 3.2 beer and hanging out at setup bars watching Vikings reruns, it means that the hillbilly’s kid can participate in a lecture series online from Stanford or MIT. The kid might eventually invent a pickup truck that runs on pine cones, and a 3.2 beer that is actually palatable.

Embrace 2010

If not for the simple fact you have no other choice, consider all the great ideas being pumped out by companies like 3tera, the Google borg, Microsoft, VM Ware, and all the other companies with tremendous innovative ideas. Never before in our history have some many new intellectual and business tools been put on the shelf at the same time. Never before have we had such good reason to consider implanting those ideas (yes, I am a tree hugger and do believe in global warming).

So, even if you are currently living in a car under a bridge near you former upscale Orange County community – shave, wash your car, take a shower at the beach, and let’s get our depression, anger, tacit knowledge back into the business saddle. The young guys still need our experience to get their feet on the ground, and we need them to ensure we will have social security in the future.

Welcome 2010 – you have taken a long time to arrive

John Savageau, Honolulu

Business and Social Frog Soup – are we ready for the next decade?

Over the past couple years I have written several stories with “frog soup” as a main theme. The idea of being in cold water, and not recognizing the degree by degree Frog soup concerns for the American economyincrease of heat in the water, till at some point we are cooked, is the danger of being a cold-blooded animal. Business may follow a similar course.

In business we can follow the route of “this is the way we’ve always done it, and it works, so there is no reason to change our processes or strategies.” Innovations like virtualization or cloud computing hit the headlines, and many say “it is a cool idea, but we want the security and hands-on confidence of running our own servers and applications.”

In the United States many telecom companies continue to build business cases based on “milking” telephone settlement minutes, bilateral relationships, and controlling telecom “pipes.” Internet service providers (ISPs) continue holding on to traditional peering relationships, holding out for “paid peering,” doing everything possible to attain market advantage based on traffic ratios.

Nothing new, same ideas, different decade.

It is international frog soup.

In Vietnam the government is currently planning to build an entirely new information infrastructure, from the ground up, based on the most cutting edge telecom and data/content infrastructure. Children in Hanoi go to school at 7 a.m., take a quick lunch break, hit the books till around 5 p.m., take another break, and finish their day at study sessions till around 9 p.m.

Concentration – mathematics, physics, and language.

The children are being exposed to Internet-based technologies, combining their tacit experience and knowledge of global interconnected people with a high degree of academic sophistication.

In the United States children go to school for, at most, 6 hours a day, graduating with (on average) little capabilities in math or language – although we do have deep knowledge of metal detectors and how to smoke cigarettes in the restrooms without being caught. In Los Angeles, some locations cannot even hit a 50% graduation rate among high school students.

And oddly enough, we appear to be comfortable with that statistic.

Perhaps our approach to business is following a similar pattern. We become used to approaching our industry, jobs, and relationships on a level of survival, rather than innovation. We may not in some cases even have the intellectual tools to apply existing technology to the potential of functioning in a global economy. Then we are surprised when an immigrant takes our job or business.

Some universities, such as Stanford, aggressively recruit students from foreign countries, as they cannot attract enough qualified student s from the United States to meet their desired academic threshold. And once they graduate from Stanford, they find their way into Silicon Valley startups, with an entrepreneurial spirit that is beyond the scope of many American graduates.

Those startups have the intellectual and entrepreneurial tools to compete in a global economy, using innovative thinking, unbound by traditional processes and relationships, and are driving the center of what used to be America’s center of the global innovation world. Except that it is only based in Silicon Valley, and now represents the center of a global innovative community. Possibly due to the availability of increasingly cheaper American labor?

Frog Soup

Us Americans – we are getting lazy. Innovation to us may mean how we manipulate paper, and has nothing to do with manufacturing and business innovation. We are starting to miss the value of new products, new concepts, and execution of business plans which end up in production of goods for export and domestic use. We believe concentration on services industries will drive our economy into the future, based on products and other commercial goods imported into our country.

Except for the painful fact and reality we do not have a young generation with the intellectual tools to compete with kids in Hanoi who are on a near religious quest to learn.

The temperature is rising, and we as a country and economic factor in the global community is being diluted every day.

Time to put away the video games and get back to work. No more “time outs,” only time to roll up our sleeves and learn, innovate, learn, innovate, and innovate some more. Forget comfort, we are nearly soup.

Mentoring in Vietnam with Ian Bromage

I first met Ian Bromage while he was doing volunteer work teaching ISO9000 theory in Mongolia with the United Nations Volunteers. Having learned he was now working in Vietnam, I was very happy to have an opportunity to meet with him, and talk about his experiences and work since leaving Mongolia. We met in Hanoi at the Hilton Hanoi Opera on 2 December 2009.

Pacific-Tier: Today we have Ian Bromage, Organization Effectiveness Advisor with the Voluntary Services Overseas/VSO, part of the UK government. Hello Ian! How are you doing tonight?

Ian Bromage VSO in Hanoi VietnamIan Bromage: I am fine, thank you, and very much enjoying the evening!

Pacific-Tier: Why don’t you give us a little about your background – how did you get to Hanoi?

Ian Bromage: Well, my background really is in telecoms, I worked for British Telecom for a very long period of time. But a few years back I decided I wanted to do something different, so I went and did some traveling, and then went to work in Mongolia as a small business advisor for the United Nations Volunteers/UNV.

Then I really got the development bug, I went back to the UK and did some further studying, and decided I wanted to go abroad again, and that’s how I ended up in Vietnam, Hanoi, with the Voluntary Service Overseas. And I’m thoroughly enjoying my time here so far.

Pacific-Tier: That’s very interesting. Going from a corporate environment to a volunteer environment, primarily outside of your home country. What is the incentive, and what is the interest to take you outside of your own country, work in developing areas like Mongolia, Vietnam, or emerging economies?

Ian Bromage: Really I guess I’ve always enjoyed traveling, and it’s been a fascination with different cultures – that’s one of the key motivators. And I think you get an entirely different experience working in a country abroad than you get as a tourist. You get to know the people more, you get to know the issues more, and I enjoy working as a volunteer. Both because I quite like the ethos of giving up my time to help others, but also because I do actually just enjoy it.

So being a volunteer isn’t about being a martyr or suffering, or anything like that – it’s nice to have a good experience as well.

Pacific-Tier: That’s great. Having many years with a company like British Telecom, it does give you a lot of organizational expertise, a lot of training, a lot of tacit knowledge and experience that is impossible to get through school. And you’re turning that into a product you can deliver today to your Vietnamese counterparts. How do the Vietnamese themselves respond to your mentoring and direction, are they what you expect?

Ian Bromage: yes, and I certainly enjoy working with them, and alongside them, and I think it is important to emphasize the fact it is working with them, not managing them. I here to help, I am not here to direct their organization.

I think you mentioned the word “tacit knowledge,” and I think that’s the key. I think we forget how ingrained things are in our culture, like meeting deadlines, like planning things in a certain way. Things are done differently here. Some of those things are very good, and some of those things need to change if the organization is going to be effective, if they are going to meet their objectives from both their donors who are giving them their money (if they’re talking of the NGO sector), and more importantly their beneficiaries that they’re trying to help.

Pacific-Tier: That’s very interesting. You mentioned the NGOs, so we’ll drill into that in just a moment. But even with the NGOs, or governmental organizations, you’re starting up a new organization, you are starting up a new way of doing things, that could roughly be parallel to commercial startups, or entrepreneurs… What is the entrepreneurial spirit of the people in Hanoi, are they excited about what you are doing with them?

Ian Bromage: yes, I believe so. I think in general in Hanoi, I think you can see there is a huge entrepreneurial spirit. I mean you look at the streets, and there isn’t a bit of space that hasn’t been turned over to some sort of private enterprise. So that entrepreneurial spirit is definitely there, and in the NGO sector, that (the entrepreneurial spirit) is there too.

There is a lot of competition for resources, a lot of NGOs are operating in the same space. That brings advantages of competition, they have to be effective, do what they do well to survive, which is an ongoing concern. It also brings problems in the fact it causes a lot of fragmentation. Sometimes I think the organizations cloud learn to collaborate with each other better, and to work better together to see the advantages to working towards common goals.

Pacific-Tier: You’ve been primarily in a mentor’s role. Have you learned anything, either Mongolia or Vietnam, have you learned anything (yourself) by being in the countries?

Ian Bromage: To be patient is certainly one of the skills you learn in a developing country. You realize sometimes that people’s values are different from your own. Sometimes you learn the importance of family relationships and familiar are often more important than the relationships at work. I think that is something we could probably learn.

For example, where I work at the moment, everyone sits down to lunch together. They make sure they all have their lunch, then eat together. There’s a lot of conversation, there’s a lot of jokes, that is very different from the environment I come from where so often these days people just grab a sandwich, eat at their desks, get to their work and don’t speak with other people.

Pacific-Tier: We do need to sit back sometimes and understand that we have to balance our lives a little bit as well. So how long do you expect to stay in Vietnam?

Ian Bromage: My assignment is for two years, so it is a very good, long period. I’ve been here for three months so far. I think that two years does allo0w you to develop those relationships and develop trust with people. And as some things take a lot longer you have that time and space that makes you able to put processes and procedures in place and watch those take shape, which you can’t do in a short consultancy where you are just coming in to fix a particular problem.

Pacific-Tier: have you found your calling now, or do you find yourself slipping back into the corporate world at any time in the future?

Ian Bromage: I would like to continue to work in the developing (nation) field. I think there are aspects of the corporate world that I miss, but I think I could find those in the development arena as well. So I don’t see myself going back into the private sector in Western Europe.

Pacific-Tier: It’s a very big world. Mongolia and Vietnam are only two countries. With your experience there’s probably a lot of other places you can go. Will you continue to work with organizations such as the Volunteer Services Overseas, or do you see doing this as a commercial enterprise? What do you see in the future, or are you just living day-to-day now?

Ian Bromage: I would like to do a mix of work, I think, in the future. I would certainly like to continue work with NGOs. I would certainly like to work at, what is termed the grass-roots level. But I would also like to get involved with policy work, and other aspect of work with governments and things. So I’d quite like to develop a range of skills, and have a mix of opportunities to be able to move up and down at different levels and move across in different regions or geographic areas.

But we’ll see. Who knows what the future holds!

Pacific-Tier: We normally talk about entrepreneurship in this series. Working with a lot of young people today in Vietnam, and formerly ion Mongolia, do you have any advice for any UK, or American, or Vietnamese, or any other developing countries where young people are jumping into the market. Do you have any advice for them as entrepreneurs?

Ian Bromage: Well I think the key thing is to always look at fresh approaches to come up with new ideas. And that’s not just in the technical field in terms of inventions and things. It’s to look at new approaches to social problems, look at new techniques, look beyond your world, look at the way other people do things. Try to travel and experience other cultures.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes – I think that’s very key. Everybody makes mistakes. You need to learn from them, and move on. So I think that’s a very important skill for young people to have. Not to be disappointed when things don’t turn out the way they expect them to.

Pacific-Tier: I would agree. I think that taking the risk and moving ahead is probably the best training somebody can get. You can’t pay for the training you get when you make an error, or if you have a failure in our plan, it’s the best training you can get.

Any other final worlds for people who may be listening to you from Hanoi?

Ian Bromage: Well if they are listening from Hanoi, I am thoroughly enjoying my stay here. I think it’s a great place, it’s an exciting place, it’s a fast moving place, I’m really enjoying it and I am looking forward to spending the next couple years here.

If anybody wants to come and visit Hanoi, I would thoroughly recommend it.

Pacific-Tier: Well thank you very much, and I sincerely hope that someday you will be able to take the time and do a few guest blogs for us.

You can listen to the entire audio interview at Pacific Tier

Understanding Global Carrier Ethernet with Mark Fishburn at CENX

I first met Mark Fishburn at the Convergence Technology Council (CTC) in Calabasas, California. Mark was a director in the organization, and had very strong ideas about networking and Ethernet. Going beyond the standard role we all play at professional networking venues, he distinguished himself from the group by presenting a passion for teaching others, and presenting his ideas in language nearly anybody could easily understand. Mark was always easy to find at CTC meetings, as he was the center of the largest groups of people who wanted to hear what he had to say.

Mark is a true innovator, and generates a lot of inspiration among CTC members with his visions and thought leadership in a variety of technology and business-related topics. I met Mark in Tarzana, California, to learn more about his vision related to Carrier Ethernet, as well as to gather some advice for entrepreneurs.

Pacific-Tier: Mark, tell us a little about yourself. How did you come to the San Fernando Valley, and what do you do?

Mark Fishburn CENXMark Fishburn: I worked at US companies for many years when I was in London, and one day I said I could fix a (problem) in the US headquarters, and they said “OK.” So I came across as a corporate officer in a company called Retix. I worked with them for a while, and then started my own company.

So that was my business, a software company, and then back into data communications, and worked for a company called NetCom Systems, which then became a company called Spirent.

Pacific-Tier: You’ve been involved with the Metro Ethernet Forum for quite some time. What interested you about the MEF?

Mark Fishburn: Well it actually goes back some time to my interest in Ethernet, and the world of Ethernet from the very early days. in 1982 I installed my first Ethernet system while working for Xerox, and that was in Paris. it was one of the very first Ethernet installations.

And as a result of that I gathered a great interest in Ethernet. In the old times, working for an Ethernet test-equipment company, we put out on e of the first fiber Ethernet products, and a few years later one of the first copper Gigabit Ethernet products.

And so it went on. I was intimately involved as chairman with the 10 Gigabit Ethernet Alliance, and the Gigabit Ethernet Alliance before that. It became apparent this was all triggered by the definition of fiber Ethernet. It really reached out beyond the boundaries of local area networks to the metro network.

That really paved the way for Ethernet services to be provided by service providers, and not just live inside the LAN. That was really the initial foundation of the Metro Ethernet Forum/MEF.

It was all about, really advancing the adoption of optical-based fiber Ethernet.

Pacific-Tier: I guess that brings us up to your current venture, which is CENX. Can you tell us anything about CENX?

Mark Fishburn: Sure, let me just give you a bit of background, because it is all really very connected.

In the substantiation of the MEF it became clear there were many different technologies that were or could be connected together using the Ethernet as a ghost in the machine.

And thus were born Ethernet services. And in 2004 carrier Ethernet was created and defined by the MEF by providing ubiquitous services worldwide independent of the service providers providing them, and also the equipment it is connected on.

And that really led to development of the need to have global connections between the service providers who are providing these Ethernet carrier services.

Although I say that in a sentence, it actually took about eight years to transpire and it led to a business that in 2009 has become about a $20 million global services revenue.

At this point in time, as these networks have grown, there is a requirement to connect more of them together in a way which preserves the differentiation of the service providers and creates a global (Ethernet) interconnectivity.

That really led to the formation of our company CENX (Carrier Ethernet Neutral Exchange) which was established to created, effectively a service-level interconnect between the service providers worldwide, and negate the enormous cost and pain in making those connections possible.

Pacific-Tier: Excellent. It’s kind of a sketchy economic environment, a tough time for businesses. What drove you to start a new business in this tough economy?

Mark Fishburn: Well, there are some areas that grow in spite of the economic downturn. The areas that grow are those that potentially save cost, or those that are pushing the envelope and generating more revenue.

Carrier Ethernet is such an animal. It (the industry) grew somewhere around 33% last year in America alone. So while the economy is growing people look for significantly more economic ways to effectively use the same old applications, while paving the way for new applications data driving mobile technology.

So, in this economy to do that was both a natural, and almost necessary step to advance this industry. And as such it was pretty natural for those people who realize this to be attracted to our company, to invest in it, and to meet that need.

Just like anything else, if you have a sufficiently difficult problem, and there is a need to solve it, it save money, and helps make money for people, and makes their job easier, then it’s a very compelling case.

Pacific-Tier: You’ve been a director with the Convergence Technology Council of California/CTC here in the San Fernando Valley (Los Angeles) providing thought leadership and help to a lot of people who are members. What advice do you have for people who may be having trouble with their jobs, been laid off, or are young graduates getting ready to enter the workforce – is there hope for entrepreneurs and those getting ready to jump into the technology industry?

Mark Fishburn: I would say absolutely. I think this is a great time to start a new venture. If you look at every great new venture, this has been repeated many times. In all the great companies that were founded – they weren’t founded when the economy was good, they were founded when there were significant problems that gave people an opportunity to really look at the idea that necessity is the mother of invention.

It’s like anything else, there are tremendous opportunities, still driven by technology, or different social climates driving the way people communicate now, rather than the way they did before. So within technology is really an unlimited opportunity for people to look at an issue, or to realize their dream and go for it.

Pacific-Tier: Young people today, they have technology diffused into their education, and into their childhood and youth at a rate that we never had in our middle-aged years. How do you feel about the youth today? Are they going to be able to take this thing that we’ve built and make it better?

Mark Fishburn: I kind of look at it a little differently. I think in a way they are driving it. Because if you look at somebody who is multi-tasking, if you look at the corporate world of maybe a couple years ago, well when you were at work you were at work. When you went home you played.

It’s become so blurred that the distinction between work, collecting information, entertainment, and communications, it is going to happen in a way that is connected 24 hours, and I think that young people today are living in the world of communications – in a way that they communicate with each other, in a way they focus, in a way that they are constantly multi-tasking and moving towards whatever is the next and most convenient way to gather.

So I believe that the youth of today is programmed into this multi-processing environment that they have, and that it’s way (young) people operate, doing multiple things at the same time, is the way of the future, and I believe that people who have been brought up in the world with mobile technology and communications, texting and talking, thinking and playing – all of those at the same time. I think all of those things are the wave of the future.

I think entrepreneurs who connect to that will do well.

Pacific-Tier: That’s very encouring. Thank you today for your counsel, great advice, stories, and great talk!

Mark Fishburn: Sure – can I add one more thing?

Pacific-Tier: Of course!

Mark Fishburn: I would say that one of the things that really led me to doing this was the realization that a lot of people would fear to go into something new like this, or to start a new job. But the alternative is unpalatable. Surviving until you die is no way forward. And I believe that if you are passionate about something that you really have nothing to lose by trying it out.

If you don’t do that, you might regret it forever. So I would say, just go for it.

You can contact Mark at mark@cenx.com

Mark Fishburn, Vice President of Marketing, has more than 35 years experience in marketing, sales, product marketing, systems engineering, and management in the computer and communications industries.
He has been closely associated with Ethernet for most of his career, installing his first system in 1982 while at Xerox, co-authors of the initial Ethernet specification. Industry roles include Chairman of the Board, Metro Ethernet Forum, Chairman of the Board of the 10 Gigabit Ethernet Alliance, and board member of the Gigabit Ethernet alliance and he has been instrumental of the creation of the MEF’s Carrier Ethernet and Global Interconnect strategies.
Prior to joining CENX Mr. Fishburn was President of strategic marketing company MarketWord, in the Carrier Ethernet market. He spent 10 years as VP Technical Strategy and VP Marketing for network test company Spirent Communications, and UK Managing Director and officer for Retix. He won more than 20 industry awards and studied BSc. Special Mathematics at University of London.

Check out the entire Pacific-Tier Communications Innovators and Entrepreneur Series

Navigating the Telecom Supply Chain with Matt Hiles at Mosaic Networx

I first met Matt Hiles while he was director of business development with Looking Glass Networks in Los Angeles. As a customer looking for telecom services, navigating the providers, technologies, and deal structures can be confusing. Matt took the time to explain all aspects of the business, cost structures, and how he would get us a great deal – while still making money for his company. Matt stood out alone from a world of “wheeling and dealing” telecom sales people, unique in providing the customer a level of confidence they were getting the best product, for the best price, with the best service.

Pacific-Tier: Today we have Matt Hiles, managing partner with Mosaic Networx. Hello Matt! So tell us a little about yourself, how did you get into this business?

Matt Hiles: I started in telecommunications right out of college, and I’ve been in the business, in one form or another, since – which is about 20 years. I’ve been in a variety of telecommunications, voice, and service providers. I’ve also spent a period of time in the data center side of the industry as well.

Pacific-Tier: now you are with Mosaic Networx. Can you give a little background on Mosaic. What are you, what do you do, and what type of business problems do you solve?

Matt Hiles: Mosaic Networx is a carrier neutral, data services provider. We provide a supply chain management service primarily for enterprise companies, but secondarily to wholesale providers and telecommunications providers. From a supply chain management perspective we provide a value add in three functional areas which are pricing, procurement, and provisioning.

What we’ve found is that, in the enterprise space, there is a lack, or need in one of those areas. Typically all of those areas. Where enterprise decision-makers and IT managers don’t have the depth and breadth of knowledge of the telecommunications providers and options that are available.

So we price them, then procure them, provision them, and then manage them ongoing on the back end.

Pacific-Tier: Well, that’s pretty cool. So who is your market, who would be your customer?

Matt Hiles: Our customers are small, medium, and we even have several Fortune 500 companies. We have a strong vertical in the financial services market. Specifically we work with the low-latency, high frequency trading guys. We’ve also worked with public wholesale companies who may not have the buying power we have, so we add some pricing value for those types.

Pacific-Tier: I’ve noticed you are based in Long Beach, California. Other people in your company are scattered around the United States, with diverse locations for your primary management team – does that provide you any challenges?

Matt Hiles: I imagine it provides some challenge, although It would be hard to quantify them. We haven’t really seen them. I think where we’ve done an outstanding job in is finding the right people.

We have 18 personnel in the functional areas in the company, whether its finance or operations, or on the sales side as well. So the distributed environment that we have seems to work out just fine.

Would we have a little bit more camaraderie in a common office? Probably.

Pacific-Tier: So it’s rather tough economic time right now. We’ve had kind of a sketchy run over the last year. What motivated you to start up a company in the last year or so and how do you feel about being an entrepreneur in a tough economic environment?

Matt Hiles: So, I suppose that timings everything, right? We didn’t know we would start a company in a tough economic period. But, the economy notwithstanding , I think there is always business. And for innovative entrepreneurs who can go out and create value for customers, provide them an outstanding customer experience, then good or bad times I think you can be successful.

Pacific-Tier: So what advice do you have for other entrepreneurs, graduates who are looking at a tough economy, what advice do you have for other budding visionaries and entrepreneurs?

Matt Hiles: I think you have to have an expertise. It doesn’t make a lot of sense in my mind to venture into an area as an entrepreneur where you don’t have years of background and can consider yourself a subject-matter expert. I think that is (not being a subject-matter expert) a recipe for disappointment.

But somebody who has spent their time in a corporate environment, learning an area, and then able to translate that into, you know, a startup environment, then I’d encourage them to be entrepreneurs, and entrepreneur owners.

Pacific-Tier: That’s great advice. Give a little pitch for you company. Where do we find you?

Matt Hiles: You can find our company at Mosaic Networx, and the domain is mosaicnetworx.com . if you would like to reach us we’d be happy to hear from you.

Pacific-Tier: Thank you very much for the time!

Matt Hiles is Managing Partner and Executive Vice President of Mosaic NetworX, LLC.  Prior to joining Mosaic NetworX, LLC in early 2008, Mr. Hiles was the Director of Business Development at Looking Glass Networks responsible for both Enterprise and Wholesale revenues.  He was also instrumental in the creation and development of asset-based, network infrastructure projects around the country.  Mr. Hiles has an established record of success within the telecommunications and data center industries spanning nearly 20 years.  During his career, he has held executive and leadership positions at Allnet Communications, MFS, WorldCom, Level 3, and DCI Technology Holdings.Matt attended Harvard University in Cambridge, MA, where he earned an ALB degree in Government – US/Soviet Relations.
%d bloggers like this: