ITA Spotlight: InterOptic
Saturday, February 24, 2018
Posted by: Gary Hotze
Tim Dixon, CEO, InterOptic, @GetInterconnect
The future of IT networking is going to shock you! Agility, speed and interoperability are now table stakes for data centers and IT networks charged with meeting increasing bandwidth and scaling requirements. Optical data interconnect -- the critical hardware needed to move all these 1s and 0s to their destinations at light speed -- is at the center of this flurry and will become the crucial link between brilliance and darkness in an ever-connected world.
In 25 words or less, what is InterOptic all about?
InterOptic solves data interconnect challenges for mission-critical IT networks and data centers that must keep pace with increasing bandwidth, interoperability and complexity demands.
What problem do you solve and how do you address it better than the competition?
The accelerated rate of technological advances has created an unyielding demand for more data to be delivered more rapidly and to more locations. Our business model is simple. Provide superior data interconnect products at 30-50% less than the large OEM manufacturers and leverage our expertise in optics to provide specialized pre- and post- sales support including consulting on optical network architecture. Even though the premise is simple, the execution is decidedly not. There is a lot of optimization that goes into the programming of our products to ensure that the performance is at or above the levels of OEMs. We have also taken steps to design our global supply for maximum efficiency. By sourcing high-quality providers and negotiating for volume discounts, we can carve out more savings to pass on to our customers. We recognize there are plenty of gray market alternatives out there and some people are only going to buy the cheapest optics they can find and get comfortable replacing failing parts. We've always thought there is a better way which is why strategically, we strive to differentiate our product lines to stand out on both technical merits, customer support and overall value.
How did you get started?
We recognized early on that there was a shortage of optical expertise in the transceiver market. Large manufacturers look at optical interconnect as a profit-driving add-on to more significant equipment purchases. A fundamental lack of understanding of the technical specifications and industry applications coupled with a profit motive created a void that could be perfectly filled by our heritage and background. The big brands are not going to dedicate resources to go deep on a single product line that is not at the center of their business, nor are they going to fulfill requests for products outside their brand. They are also not in a hurry to shave profits by abandoning these overpriced SKUs either. The result is that customers on the other end of the transaction wind up with overpriced products from siloed organizations sold to them by people with only surface knowledge optical interconnect. As an independent and brand-agnostic provider, InterOptic is uniquely suited to fill the growing data center optics need.
How has your company culture evolved as InterOptic has grown?
When we founded what is now InterOptic, the company was a point solution delivering low-cost, brand-equivalent fiber optic transceivers. More than ten years and many thousands of customers later, we remain focused on data interconnect challenges facing large enterprises and government institutions. Our culture has evolved to support this mission, and we've attracted a team of specialists to support our growth. Each senior member of our team has more than 20 years of optical engineering experience and can serve as an adjacent center-of-excellence for our growing roster of Fortune 500 clients.
What are your primary goals for InterOptic?
We spend a good deal of time educating our customers on the macro trends that will impact their businesses. Whether it's the move to 5G mobile network, genuinely ubiquitous IoT, protecting cyber assets, or personalization characterized by data-driven advertising, the common thread is the increased demand that will be placed on the IT network. Speed, uptime, reliability, agility and transport efficiency will all be required. When we meet with CIOs and IT leaders, we discuss the infrastructure requirements that are necessitated by these trends. Many times, the discussion ventures outside of data interconnect because our clients understand the importance of a holistic and strategic approach to IT infrastructure planning. Often, a natural outcome of these strategic discussions is the aid we provide to specify the design of complex optical networks through pre-sales engineering support. Given current data center projections and the demands that put the physical and computational infrastructure in jeopardy, the future of IT networking will push the boundaries of dimensional space across the volume, time and frequency. We look forward to innovating our product line right alongside these advances.
Where do you see InterOptic in two years? Five? Ten?
Because members of our team were instrumental in deploying the large optical networks that serve as today's global telecommunications and data backbone, we have a unique vantage point. You could say we've built the past and can see the future. We expect there will continue to be significant growth in the current ecosystem where large enterprises are optimizing their data interconnect to support bandwidth and interoperability demands of their business. But we also expect growth in these new ecosystems where innovation is happening at the software level, and IT infrastructure is no longer beholden to single-stack architectures. Network engineers can build or buy high-quality hardware components from wherever they want across multiple platforms, at better prices and with a better time to service. This newfound freedom also comes with cost advantages which are welcome news for IT departments that are always being challenged to do more with less. It's an exciting time to be focused on data interconnect, and we are thrilled to be a part of what could very well be the Golden Age of innovation in IT networking.
What's the No. 1 thing on your to-do list?
The item at the top of my long to-do list remains the same - help more businesses drive millions of dollars in cost out of their IT networks without changing the configuration of their systems. I do this in many ways - by supporting our team of experts in the field; by identifying key market drivers that are changing the face of IT networking; and by doing what I can to evangelize the InterOptic story far and wide.
In your opinion, what are some of the pros and cons of being an Illinois business?
Being centrally located has many advantages regarding travel and serving a concentration of large enterprise customers and prospects. That said, we also grapple with the same challenges other Illinois businesses face such as high taxes and competition for talent coming out of our esteemed universities.
What are the biggest challenges you face as you scale your business?
One of the most enduring challenges our company continues to face is the prevalence of misinformation in the market about transceiver support in standard OEM contracts. It is not unusual to encounter IT teams that have been misled to think they will void their warranty should they specify third-party hardware; this is just not true. There are well-established precedents in both the automotive and computer memory market to support plug-and-play data interconnect and optics without risk to warranties. Consider the way you buy memory for your computer or a new air filter for your car - these do not need to be purchased from the original manufacturer. In fact, in the case of warranties, standard OEM service contracts don't even cover optics. If they did, it would be far too cost prohibitive to implement in even a modestly sized network. Overcoming these long-held misbeliefs often delays more strategic conversations about how to best design an optical network for high performance and scale.
This one is all you. Anything else you want to tell us?
The most significant opportunity for companies to improve network performance is to consult optical engineering experts at the initial design stage so they can offer best practices to prevent bit errors and retransmissions before exponential growth hits. And this is only going to get more complicated. To learn more about the future of optics, listen to this podcast, here, or visit our website.