An Interview with Amy Marks, CEO of XSite Modular

Editor’s Note: At the recent SubOptic conference, I had the opportunity to speak with Amy Marks, CEO of XSite Modular, a company that builds modular cable landing stations and data centers. 

As the pace of growth for new submarine fiber optic cable systems accelerated in recent years, it has become important to find ways to make the process of building these systems more efficient.  The modular landing station is one step in this process.  In the following interview, Ms. Marks talks about her company and what modular cable stations bring to the industry. 

Ms. Marks: XSite Modular are specialists in modular cable station design and construction.  In most locations, there is only a need to build a cable station once or twice in 20 years, so local contractors are not able to build up experience in this type of product.  For a company like XSite that will build cable stations in 30, 40, 50 locations, we can build up a knowledge of cable station construction that doesn’t exist in many locations that don’t have the opportunity to gain experience with repeated use.  Because we build modular steel and concrete cable stations in the United States and ship them overseas, we have the ability to get better and better every time.

As we are actively involved in supporting the industry, our reputation has to be pristine to get repeat business, unlike a situation where you build a conventional cable station once and the customer never sees you again. 

Having concurrency of the permitting process while as we are building the station is important.  As soon as the foundation is complete, we can bring in the cable station, often in a matter of days, to install and commission the building.  So if you’re in a remote location, a location with a lack of skilled labor or if the skilled labor is otherwise engaged, we’re able to quickly install a building that might otherwise have taken months or even years in a matter of days or weeks. 

Our buildings are customized to any size that is needed.  We have some standards that we can recommend but because we are in a process of building and not a product, we can make it longer, taller, shorter, wider, it doesn’t matter to us.  It’s more about what’s in the program requirements of the client.  Then we ship, not with container ships, but with roll-on, roll-off vessels.  This way we are in a protected environment and the stations can be as large or small as needed. 

Each submarine cable project is different.  Some need different rack spacing, others different aisle spacing.  We know all of the clearances so we can design the station to meet the customer’s requirements. 

XSite’s cable stations are more robust than one using conventional building techniques.  We have to design for picking up, putting down and going over the roads seismically with our buildings.  We have more redundancy in steel, redundancy in materials for structure than anyone else, even conventional construction.  I believe we have the most robust and structurally significant buildings.  We just had one cable station go through a Category 5 typhoon. 

XSite also builds modular data centers.  We’ve been at the forefront of the convergence of the data center and cable landing station for a long time, mostly because we went to countries that started with the cable landing station and morphed into building more hybrid CLS/DCs.  It’s a case of the convergence dictating what we’re building.