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June 2018

How a “Beautiful Mind” of Location & Connectivity Intelligence Enables Network Buying Decisions

How a “Beautiful Mind” of Location & Connectivity Intelligence Enables Network Buying Decisions

Did you see the 2001 film “A Beautiful Mind”?  It starred Russell Crowe as John Nash, a brilliant, but mentally-disturbed mathematician who won the Nobel Prize.

Well, as it turns out, Nash’s field of research was “game theory”, is quite relevant to network decision-making.

Nash rose to fame by poking holes in the conventional wisdom of 1950s theorists who said business contests are mere “zero-sum games” where one party wins, and another loses.  Nash showed that real-life business decisions are far more fluid.  For instance, while a player will fight to protect its niche, it also seeks out “win/win” deals where coopetition is a factor.

Now Nash’s theories aside, it doesn‘t take a mathematician to know that when you lack sufficient intelligence, your decisions are going to be far less than optimal.

Yet as I scan at the networking and telecom wholesale scene, I see a business that is connectivity rich and network intelligence poor.

Sure: network-asset intelligence exists, but the information is either 1) proprietary information a network provider closely guards; or 2) free information that hasn‘t been compiled in useful or consistent way so people can use in buying decisions.

Yet there are two companies out there today who are actively supplying the precious network asset/location intelligence that people are looking for:

  • Connect2Fiber provides market intelligence that helps wholesalers buy or sell network assets, particular on the North American access side, in office buildings and other enterprise locations; and,
  • Inflect’s Global Marketplace delivers a free and neutral view of the enterprise and network provider connections inside thousands of data centers around the world.

Well, I met Mike Nguyen, CEO of Inflect, at the ITW show in Chicago where he explained his business model and gave me a quick demo of the Inflect on-line tool.

Dan Baker, Research Director, TRI: Mike, I scanned the database at Inflect.com and it’s cool to explore.  The maps add a nice touch.  In fact, you can learn a lot about the network market just by playing around with the tool.

Mike Nguyen: Thanks, Dan.  We like to say that Inflect enables buyers and sellers to connect and transact in the most friction-free way possible.

I’ve been in the industry for 15 or 16 years now and working in San Francisco, I can tell you there are a hundreds of tech startups who are eager to get their hands on this network intelligence.

People waste a ton of time trying to figure out where to go, who to interact with, who owns what, how to connect within countries — whatever it is.

Buying the right infrastructure has always been the biggest struggle in building and delivering internet applications efficiently.  So this is our mission: to enable people to quickly gain access to the infrastructure they need so they can innovate faster and better.

It’s easy to see why your database could become an industry standard because each of the data center providers has its own way of displaying their data.

Yes, most of the available marketplaces are from individual service providers focused on selling their slice of the internet.  For instance, Equinix has an on-line marketplace and so does Digital Realty.

Each player is focused on showing its own ecosystem, not the entire holistic — and accurate — view of the global marketplace of data center interconnections.

Accuracy and keeping the database up to date is a never ending challenge.  We spend a lot of time making sure that we aggregate primary source data directly from service providers.

We have over 70 service providers participating in our platform today from big players like Digital Realty, CenturyLink, and Equinix down to the boutique players of the world.  We collect data from many sources and today we have data on 4,000 to 5,000 data centers.

The list of participating providers continues to grow as providers hear about us, often through word of mouth.

And I imagine you also are sourcing from compiled databases too.

That’s correct.  Some of our data comes from carrier on-net lists so we get data about parties we’re not even directly engaged with.  Other data comes from trusted industry sources like the popular PeeringDB database.

PeeringDB is a community driven database built by and for network operators.  It houses information on 40,000+ networks.

We have a partnership with PeeringDB where we help them keep their data center locations data up to date and accurate.

For the buyer, what are the main advantages of using Inflect versus the PeeringDB database?

PeeringDB is great and will continue to be a trusted resource for the peering community as it is purely focused on enabling peering.  Inflect is a different global resource: we help people find and procure network, internet exchange and colocation services.  In the future Inflect will be much more.  We view PeeringDB as a vital partner and are doing everything we can to contribute back to the community.

How are application developers and companies using your tool?

A good example is our client Twilio.  Twilio is an API driven voice/SMS platform provider.  They use Inflect to build out their PoPs, which enable their Twilio Interconnect platform.  They, like others, use Inflect to find the right data centers and networks that fit their requirements around the world.

For example, if a user needs to connect in Chicago, they can search Inflect and see we have info on 67 data centers there.  Additionally if they need a direct connection to AWS, they can further drill down and see the three data centers that connect to AWS in Chicago.

From there they can explore the ecosystem and see all the different networks available at each data center.

The more detailed information we get from a provider the better their solutions will show and be searchable in Inflect.

Inflect facilitates direct conversations with the provider when, and only when, a user is ready.  This is when any sales engagements start.

Service Providers know when they get connected to an Inflect user it’s a pre-qualified opportunity since the user has already narrowed down what they are looking for and initiated the request to be connected.

I see, so it’s a big time saver.  And how does Inflect make money on the platform?

Service providers pay us commissions for customers we deliver.  This is a standard channel agreement most companies have.

Additionally we’re providing a SaaS product to service providers to help enable their current sales channels.  Providers upload and manage their data in our platform.  We give their sales professionals access to up-to-date data on theirs and related third party products and services through a version of our user interface.

An added benefit is this data shows up in our Global Marketplace, driving more opportunities back to them. .

It’s a great service, Mike.  Good luck with your building process.  The more network intelligence the better.

Thanks, Dan.  We certainly agree and are doing our part to provide the most accurate, impartial data available.

Copyright 2018 Top Operator Journal

 

About the Experts

Mike Nguyen

Mike Nguyen

Mike Nguyen is CEO of Inflect, Inc., a San Francisco-based startup that is making the buying and selling of internet infrastructure frictionless.  Mike has 15 years of experience in internet infrastructure consulting, successfully helping companies such as Facebook, Twitter and Twilio procure their infrastructure and grow.  He saw the light and went all-in on building the online platform everyone wants and needs.   Contact Mike via

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