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Wiring California with Bob Evans and the Fiber Internet Center

Bob Evans discusses innovation, entrepreneurship, and his views on the telecommunications industry

"The Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Internet Inventions, Bob is a true Silicon Valley entrepreneur, raconteur and original. Bob has combined his technical ingenuity, entrepreneurial ability and team building skills to found successful companies time and again over the past 20 years." (Silicon Valley Business Television)

Bob Evans always has ideas. Ideas to make his work, and the work of others, more useful and efficient, as well as easier. We first met Bob when he asked if it was "OK" he develop a route server for our young Internet Exchange Point (Any2 Exchange), which would allow the small to medium Internet access and content provider community to find Internet peering easier, and help with introductions within the community that would make Internet interconnections a utility – rather than a high priced value-added service. That little utility now drives one of the largest Internet Exchange Points in the world.

We met Bob this week as he was giving a data center tour and professional advice to a delegation from Ramallah, which came to Bob for mentoring based on his extensive background in all things network and Internet.

For the entire audio interview – click HERE

Pacific-Tier: Bob, please tell us a little about yourself, your background, and how you got into this business.

Bob Evans: Well, it was a long time ago, when there was no world wide web. I ran one of the first Veronica Gopher servers. I was teaching grandmothers how to do email, so they could email their kids in college.

At that time colleges had the first ARP connections, TCP/IP started working right, and that was way back when… That's how I got started.

I've got a high school education, dropped out of college, so generally every time I start a business and build it up, sell it to somebody with lots of money and VCs, they (eventually) ask me to leave because I don't have a degree. Then they usually do quite well. I've been doing this a long time.

But when I started the Fiber Internet Center, what happened was, people kind of thought I was crazy, because I had just had a very successful, one of the first cable modem companies in the US, and by starting the Fiber Internet Center/FIC at a time when the "Dot Bomb" occurred everybody thought, you know, "how are you going to make a living doing that?"

The real key was making the deals. Because all of the (network) providers, and the people with fiber and stuff like that, didn't really have a lot of customers. So, they were willing to listen to me and cut me some deals. So that's how I got started with the Fiber Internet Center.

Pacific-Tier: Tell us a little about the FIC. What is the vision, or what is the mission of FIC?

Bob Evans: Well. Its primarily,… like you find colo (colocation) facilities that are "carrier neutral,…" I like to look at us as a network company that is carrier neutral. Although we do sell circuits and services like IP transit (Internet network access), it is kind of a necessary evil, because we only have about 8 or 9 other ISPs (Internet Service Providers) currently serving our market.

So they use our network in the market place to service their customers. So we'll build a network within our network to service other companies.

Pacific-Tier: So the FIC is present in Northern California, the San Francisco, San Jose, the bay area, as well as Los Angeles. What value does the FIC, or a company like the FIC bring to a market like California that is not available through another carrier like Level 3, an XO Communications, an AT&T, or that scale of carrier?

Bob Evans: Well, most of those companies will go ahead and install their circuit in the basement of a building, or in the MPOE (main point of entry), and then only allow you to use their IP (Internet network access).

For example, Level 3 isn't about to go ahead and market the fact that I could have VLANs in that building like I would have and connect them to ISPs. That's the real advantage. A customer could buy a circuit from us, then they can buy Internet transit from us too, then they'll turn around and say "gee, you are over at the PAIX (Palo Alto Internet Exchange), over at places like Market Post Tower, One Wilshire and everything,…"

Then they'll say "there's this other company we're working with, and we'd like a connection direct to their office. They're using Cogent bandwidth (or something like that), could you make that come in here on another port?"

And we'll do it. Most (other) companies will say "no." But that's actually part of our business strategy.

Pacific-Tier: Well, that's a great utility, for both the enterprises and other carriers within your area. Where does the FIC go from here? What is in the future of FIC?

Bob Evans: Lately it's become one of the discovery that most of these business now feel a critical need to not have their mail server, or other types of critical databases remain on their campus. Or they want to have a backup of it someplace else. So we're now creating a service in other data centers where you get a circuit from us, then we'll give you another port that gives you a layer 2 connection back to your rack or your server in those facilities, or one of our facilities.

This gives you the added benefit of having your own private network to the back side of your server, then it gives you the advantage of maybe having your server connected to other Internet providers in one of those other colo facilities, or maybe you could even carry that Internet back to your place and have two Internet providers.

So I think the advantage is, if you get a circuit from us you get the flexibility.

Pacific-Tier: Well that's great. I think it is a great utility for the community. The final question is, you're an entrepreneur, in tough economic times, with lots of graduates hitting the street, what advice do you have for people who are considering starting their own companies, or emerging entrepreneurs?

Bob Evans: Well, that's a very good question.

During bad economic time I always find that not to discourage me, and I wouldn't let anybody discourage them either. The reason is because in the midst of chaos, there's usually always opportunity. And as soon as you explain that opportunity to somebody else who's got money or can help you, or needs a service that you have, it's actually easier to make business deals.

Pacific-Tier: That's great advice.

Thank you very much. It's a pleasure to visit the FIC again, and thanks for your time.

Bob Evans: You're welcome – thank you

More Stories By John Savageau

John Savageau is a life long telecom and Internet geek, with a deep interest in the environment and all things green. Whether drilling into the technology of human communications, cloud computing, or describing a blue whale off Catalina Island, Savageau will try to present complex ideas in terms that are easily appreciated and understood.

Savageau is currently focusing efforts on data center consolidation strategies, enterprise architectures, and cloud computing migration planning in developing countries, including Azerbaijan, The Philippines, Palestine, Indonesia, Moldova, Egypt, and Vietnam.

John Savageau is President of Pacific-Tier Communications dividing time between Honolulu and Burbank, California.

A former career US Air Force officer, Savageau graduated with a Master of Science degree in Operations Management from the University of Arkansas and also received Bachelor of Arts degrees in Asian Studies and Information Systems Management from the University of Maryland.

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