Rick Mur, GNX: A new form of connectivity

TechForge recently caught up with GNX’s CTO and co-founder, Rick Mur, to discuss how organisations around the world are dealing with the latest connectivity challenges. 

Can you tell us a little bit about GNX?

GNX is a global connectivity provider, which means that we provide enterprises with any type of data connectivity solution anywhere in the world. That ranges from Internet access at office buildings, to more advanced point-to-point solutions between data centres and business sites, and also integration into different cloud providers.

What do you think makes GNX unique?

The key value adds that we bring, or the key elements in our unique offering are that we provide, for the first time in this market, a full self-service platform for sourcing and managing your global connectivity. This means that anyone dealing with enterprise connectivity, or needing to source internet services for their offices or their factories, can now do it themselves – of course, with the GNX team available for any questions or support needed along the process. 

Just like a payment provider deals with all banks and credit card companies, for example, we handle all the communication and contracts with all the different internet providers in the world. And we make sure that customers have a single way and a single platform to access all of those resources. 

Another thing that we strive for is to be truly transparent and honest about what’s out there in the market. So, via our platform, we give customers access to key data to inform their decision-making process, including pricing from competing vendors, availability, SLAs, lead times, etc. Just like a site for booking hotels or searching flights. It’s just as easy to get an internet connection anywhere in the world.

What are the latest technology trends that you’ve seen developing this year?

Not exactly new, but still ongoing, is the transition to Internet-based networks for enterprise connectivity. In the past, this would be done using private infrastructure so companies would have dedicated connections into their buildings, and also to connect to their branch offices, for example, with a private network. That is changing, because the internet is becoming more reliable, much more available, and is more cost-effective than a private connection, especially for business branches. 

Now, there are solutions that you can put on these sites, called SD-WAN or SASE. But with these solutions, you still need a proper infrastructure underneath or what we typically call ‘underlay’. The promise of an SD-WAN vendor is just about putting the box in, connecting a few internet links, and they’ll make sure that it works. But if you put it on bad internet connections, you still end up with a bad connection. So, for us, it’s really about ‘what’s the quality that we can deliver on which site?’

That’s the technology advantage on the one hand. Another important trend is that many more resources that used to be hosted inside office buildings at companies are now moving elsewhere into the cloud or into other areas of infrastructure. How to get there is usually an overlooked element in the network design. In the end, the cloud is a place where you still need to connect – in the right way with the right performance. That’s key for our customers to understand. 

There’s also the issue of security. Are you complying with all kinds of security policies? Security is, of course, very important and it should always be a top priority. So making sure that your vendors are providing a secure infrastructure and making sure they handle your data correctly is key. 

And maybe a final one is regulatory issues. For example, some countries don’t have an open market like others, which means that for global companies it’s harder to comply with a lot of regulations. We can help customers overcome those limitations, ensuring they can achieve the connectivity they need at their sites while complying with local rules. 

What are the biggest challenges for organisations when it comes to global connectivity?

I think it’s primarily understanding what’s out there. If you’re in your own local region, if you’re located in London, or if you’re located in the Netherlands, you know a little bit about the local market when it comes to internet connections. If you’re an IT administrator in the Netherlands, for example, and you need to open up an office in Poland, you have no idea who to call. Who am I going to call and what’s available? I can google it but you can get lost in a maze of terminology that’s not consistent with regards to solutions. And you have no idea how to measure the performance of it. There are typically no reviews on the Internet providers online, especially not for enterprise connectivity. 

We tried to break through the barrier, making it simpler and much more transparent for users to understand what’s out there in a consistent way that is equally comparable to all kinds of areas in the world. So I would say that’s the biggest challenge that I would face being an IT administrator now. It’s just the maze of complex solutions that’s out there. 

What advice would you give to organisations that are trying to create their global connectivity strategy? And how can companies choose between the different cloud providers?

My advice would be to try and find an honest answer from these providers. Like I said, our market is dominated by terminology that’s not consistent. So if you buy a solution from vendor X and vendor Y and you start comparing it, you will hardly get an apples-to-apples comparison.

So it’s important to understand what the solution is. Challenge what’s out there and challenge your existing vendors about what they can offer, and how transparent they are in providing an honest answer to you. That is key to understanding enterprise network design, and making sure that you make use of all the available options, rather than going for the largest one or the dominant player. You can go to McDonald’s for a decent hamburger but it’s probably not the best option in the city. But you know them so it’s not a surprise when you get it. And that can be the same with internet connectivity. But don’t you want to have the best burger? It may be even cheaper and much better.

You’ll be giving a talk at TechEx North America this year, during which you’ll share some customer success stories. Could you give us a little taster by sharing one of them with us now?

Well, there’s a wide portfolio to choose from. One is a project that we’ve worked on with a large manufacturing company, which has factories and offices all around the world. They are hosting cloud resources in different cloud regions, so they have a region in Europe and another in North America. And they also have a large asset in China. The problem with cloud providers in China is that they usually do not have a licence to go cross-border when it comes to connectivity. That requires a separate licence in China. 

So we have built a solution using a number of our partners. And we’ve integrated that fully. Customers can now connect the different cloud regions with the one in China. It’s independent of the cloud provider in that sense. We can connect anyone to anyone. And we handed the project off completely virtual, so customers only need to order a link on one end. They copy and paste what’s called a ‘service key’ and we connect them to their cloud resources in China or anywhere else. 

We do that with proper latency, and we’ve sold that solution quite a lot already for multiple customers. But, specifically, this customer was very happy with it because they had no way to connect to their cloud resources in China, or it was very complicated. 

There’s another project we’ve worked on, which is a bit more typical. It’s a company that was managed by a very small team of engineers but they had to manage connectivity in 16 different countries. And that is exactly the key problem that we’re trying to solve. The team does not have the time to onboard and manage all of these different providers. It’s just too much hassle to go through all the procurement and project stages. And who do I get an invoice from? And where does the service live? And how do we handle support? Who do I call for which service? We really simplified their network by sourcing it from multiple different connectivity partners. Giving the best solution that was available on their sites.

But, for them, it’s just a single number that they call, and they’re very happy with us because we understand their needs much better. Now they can focus on adding value to their end users.

What can you tell us about your plans for the year ahead?

Today, our self-service platform is focused on sourcing and managing internet access. That’s the self-service area that we have activated. But, like I said, we also do cloud integrations and we also sell point-to-point connections. 

We’re going to release those elements to be fully self-service, self-quoting, self-ordering and self-supporting on the platform in the next 12 months. That’s going to be an exciting change, to fully bring our entire portfolio to a self-service platform for the first time ever in the global connectivity market.

On June 5, 2024, at Cyber Security & Cloud Congress North America, Rick Mur will give a presentation, titled ‘Cloud Connectivity at Global Scale – challenges and strategies for seamless global connectivity’. To get all the details, visit: www.cybersecuritycloudexpo.com

To find out more about GNX, visit www.gnx.net.

Tags: cloud providers, connectivity, Data Centres, GNX