The Big Interview

Leading the SDN drive

Jason Mcgee-Abe

07 Jun 2017

Megaport, which is strongly becoming a leader in software-defined networking (SDN), has been around for four years since its founder and chairman, Bevan Slattery, came up with the concept. Slattery – who is also behind Superloop – and his team spent a lot of time at the early stages going through proofs of concept in Australia.

“We were already in 36 markets when I joined, with our presence predominantly in Australia, but also in Hong Kong, Singapore and New Zealand,” CEO Vincent English tells Capacity. He joined the Megaport family in June 2015 as chief financial officer (CFO), six months before the company had completed a share flotation in December 2015 on the Australian Stock Exchange. 

“The purpose of that to expand out globally into North America and then into Europe, which we’ve done,” he says. “My focus was to come up with a business model to further expand Megaport’s reach and at this stage we were in an effective position to take the model global.” 

And boy has it been effective. A plethora of partnerships within the industry have arisen and been enhanced, which includes: the low latency interconnectivity agreement with Aqua Comms on its trans-Atlantic subsea cable, with carrier-neutral Digital Realty as the software behind its cloud-enabled Service Exchange platform.

At the beginning of 2016, English also assumed the role of chief commercial officer, a natural move for the executive who has a heavily operational-based, as well as financially-focused. “It was a natural transition. It made sense with the key drivers of the business at a time when we were building out the network globally.”

Megaport hired a new CFO shortly after that and then English focused very much on the “operations part of the business and expansion, working with partners”. 

It was, again, a natural transition, English says of his most recent appointment into the CEO role, as he has worked across all the different facets of the business. It was also prompted in February 2017 when his predecessor tendered his resignation.

“Today, Megaport is in over 150 locations, they’re managing onboarding many strategic partners and we’re heavily focused still on expanding the network across North America and Europe,” he says.

“We spent a lot of time in 2016 with this outlook and focusing on that. This year we’re very much focused on our partners, our customers and getting our services out as readily as available as possible,” he adds.

Megaport Exchange and global partnerships

Last month, Megaport launched a new global marketplace to better connect technology providers and customers to meet networking needs.

Megaport Exchange, a marketplace hosted on the Megaport portal (megaport.al), was designed to meet the increasing demand for control of connectivity within the enterprise space by creating a data centre and service provider neutral, self-serve marketplace enabling enterprises to access business critical services on demand.

“Megaport Exchange is an example of the commitment by Megaport to continue evolving and adding value for our customers,” says English, pointing out that Megaport built the world’s first SDN-based elastic interconnection platform designed to provide the most secure, seamless, and on-demand way for enterprises, networks, and services to interconnect.

“We’ve added Megaport Exchange to our product suite to enhance the customer experience, enabling them to connect to each other and to partners across our ecosystem,” he adds. 

“We are proud to showcase our providers to the market and continue to be the leader in the networking space. Finding a way to match our powerful ecosystem with our wide customer base was the logical next step for the company and this marketplace aligns perfectly with our vision to make connectivity easy.”

Services can be directly controlled via mobile devices, computers or Megaport’s open API. Megaport connects over 620 customers throughout 150 data centres in 37 cities across 19 countries.

One of the important factors of Megaport’s value proposition is that they integrate into the cloud service providers via API, making the user experience easier and more efficient to use. “Our relationship with Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure were the first two major cloud service providers that came on to our ecosystem and having full integration in place is a big part of the success of Megaport,” the CEO admits. 

“We’re extending our ecosystem with the partners that we have on our platform, such as Oracle, and they are key to us creating a one-stop-shop element, which is effectively pay-as-you-go. It’s really important for us not to just focus on capacity, it’s providing a solution and the outcome is the connection. 

“I see subsea connectivity in the same way that we connect cities on land, it’s the same concept of how it’s consumed. How people are using cloud, maybe it could be a private VPN connection.”

2017-18 focus

He continues: “We look back at 2016 as a year in which we did a lot of heavy lifting. We have more than 50 locations across North America, enhancing the ecosystem. We’re also making sure that we bring in more enterprises in as well. We’ll continue to grow where demand necessitates where we should go.

“We do see more data centre providers who are reaching out to us. You’d expect though given the fact that there are lots of enterprises that want that service and we’re able to fill that gap.”

At the beginning of the year, EdgeConneX announced that it was Megaport’s elastic interconnect fabric in its edge data centres (EDCs) globally, enabling more direct connectivity to leading cloud providers.

As cloud traffic is expected to increase nearly fourfold in the next three years, according to Cisco’s Global Cloud Index, Megaport is rolling out its SDN platform in EDCs across North America and Europe to enhance connectivity at the edge of networks.

At this year’s ITW, Megaport has announced that it has entered into a partnership with Alibaba Cloud, the cloud computing arm of Alibaba Group. The partnership will provide enterprises with direct and scalable access to Alibaba Cloud via the Megaport global SDN.

“Megaport’s extensive global footprint is strengthened by our partnership with Alibaba Cloud,” says English.

“Direct, dedicated access to Alibaba Cloud’s services adds value to our platform. This partnership enables customers globally to directly access services from the leading cloud provider based in China. Partnering with China’s largest public cloud provider aligns with our strategy to enrich our ecosystem and provides greater service options for our customers.”

Cloud adoption is still in its infancy and it’s only going to get more prevalent, he says.“Making connectivity easy and matching this consumption will play a big part of our plans. Maximising these opportunities as demand surges and intensifies over the next 12-18 months is a key opportunity for us, and we’re enhancing our model to be in the right position to capture this.”

It’s not just pure network play, he says; it’s also about the ability to use the pre-built software easily and take away the problem for the user.“It’s an important value proposition, a capability which not many firms in the industry have and are taking advantage of.”

Why announce this at ITW? “We’ve been going to ITW for the last few years and it’s an important forum where we get to meet our partners and operators,” declares English. “It also provides us with a chance to meet new partners who are looking to expand as Megaport expands, particularly in North America and Europe. It’s an intense few days but we get a lot of value from it. It opens up conversations about new business opportunities. It’s a very important conference on our calendar each year.”