InterGlobix leads the convergence charge

18 February 2019 | Natalie Bannerman

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Most good news comes at the start of the year but for InterGlobix, it was the end of 2018 that brought a string of new announcements for the company.

Aside from a number of media partnerships with the likes of Total Telecom and BroadGroup, the company also joined SubOptic Association, a global trade organisation for the subsea industry.

“We get involved in subsea cable landing projects where the subsea operators are looking at, not just a standalone cable landing station but a colocation site where there is the opportunity to build that subsea ecosystem,” explains Vinay Nagpal, president, InterGlobix. “SubOptic is very well established industry association that is also very well regarded.”

According to Nagpal the purpose behind joining is to better serve InterGlobix customers and “be a part of those best practices”.

For those not in the know InterGlobix focusses on the convergence of data centres, terrestrial and subsea fibre. As a company that plays across so many different areas of connectivity, I was curious to know Nagpal’s thoughts on the longstanding debate between data centre over cable landing station for subsea cables. 

Unsurprisingly, Nagpal says that it is largely location-specific given what the attributes are at a specific location or geography.

“It all depends on the availability of land, the existing colocation ecosystem there, terrestrial fibre operators in the region, internet exchanges in the area, cloud on-ramps, is this enough content available to generate enough eyeballs and eyeball networks,” says Nagpal. “You of course won’t have all these ingredients everywhere, but the more you have the better.”

But the biggest trend he sees over the next five years or so, is the growing convergence between subsea, fibre and data centre.

“It’s not going to happen overnight, I’ve seen it start to happen as I work with all three subsections of the industry,” he continues. “There are numerous synergies and advantages to be gained from this convergence, even just looking at it from subsea perspective where landing into a data centre that has connectivity to numerous terrestrial fibre routes.”

Along with that convergence, he has also noticed that InterGlobix customers want a number of different demands centred on flexibility and integration. Nagpal says they want a seamless handoff between multiple networks, between different types of networks as well as the transition between subsea and terrestrial networks.

“They’re looking for flexible contractual terms,” adds Nagpal. “Whether it’s from a fibre standpoint, IRUs or leasing options they are looking for more flexibility. Exuberant cross connect fees are also a big concern for customers.”

For its part, InterGlobix is helping to ensure that its customers have the right infrastructure in place and “augmenting that with the best practices”.

Like many in the sector, Nagpal has also noticed a surge of data coming from the east, particularly India, posing a big opportunity for further development.

“If you look at the opportunity in the Indian subcontinent with the new terrestrial fibre infrastructure in place, you hear, almost on a weekly basis, about new data centres entering the Indian market and it’s a tough market to break into,” he says.

One of the few infrastructure spaces Nagpal doesn’t play in is tower, but he too sees the growing business opportunities there particularly with the deployment of 5G so near at hand.

“If you look at the edge data centre – I think the definition of edge today is what cloud was five years ago – everyone has a different definition based on their vantage point. Tower and mobile backhaul, edge kind of plays in that realm as well – we’re not that actively involved in that segment but particularly with 5G coming out and more mobiles being used to access the internet, they will be a huge strain on mobile backhaul as our phones will have faster throughput than our home internet connections.”

Despite the 5G is a mobile technology, Nagpal understands the impact it will have on the subsea cable market.

“At the end of the day the data still resides somewhere, its physical infrastructure – that is somewhere in a data centre and that data needs to be routed and travel from one place to another. So any advances that are going to happen in the mobile space will have a ripple effect on subsea and on terrestrial fibre because ultimately you need that end-to-end connectivity.”

A former executive at DuPont Fabros, Nagpal has seen first-hand how the data demand of the content players has shaped the industry.

Reminiscing about that time Nagpal says, “They [OTTs] were driving a significant amount of fibre requirement to our data centre, between our data centres and from our data centres to another data centre in the region.”

He also notes that from the days of 864  strand cable, now you have manufacturers working on 6912 strands, “what that means is you have a whole lot of fibre packed into these cables and hyperscalers are driving a lot of that demand.”

While we already know about OTTs entering into the subsea space as owner operators, its their terrestrial activities that peak my interest.

“I also believe the OTTs will continue acquiring terrestrial fibre capacity, you don’t generally hear about it as much in comparison to say their subsea acquisitions but the terrestrial fibre is generally speaking leased fibre that the subsea guys are leasing from a metro backhaul.”

2019 is set to be just as busy for InterGlobix as was the last quarter of 2018. The company will continue to focus on helping its customers capitalise on the convergence through things like centralised meet-me-rooms, path panels deployed and cross-connect management infrastructure.

“From an edge deployment perspective we would be very interested into looking at modular edge data centre companies and how we can augment their services to capitalise on the centralised meet me room, cross connects architecture,” he says.