An Interview with Carl Grivner and Jim Fagan, GCX

Editor’s Note: The re-emergence of GlobalCloudXchange (GCX) following its separation from Reliance Communications has been a major story in the submarine fiber optics industry in 2021.  The company operates a far-reaching network of high-capacity submarine cable systems connecting four continents.  It also includes the groundbreaking FEA cable, one of the most historically significant submarine cables of the fiber optics era. 

But GCX is now looking into the future at an application that may be equally groundbreaking for the industry – gaming. 

SubCableWorld recently had the pleasure to speak with GCX executives Carl Grivner, CEO, and Jim Fagan, Chief Strategy and Revenue Officer.  Their comments below paint a picture of a promising industry that has the opportunity to greatly expand in regions that are not always thought of as fertile ground for gaming.

Grivner: Gaming is one of the applications that we think fits very well into our strategy.  It is an enormous opportunity for us.  It’s already a huge market and it’s getting bigger.  We think that with our strengths, particularly in the Middle East, GCX can lead the industry in terms of gaming.  We have the capacity and the ability to get things done in that region.  Gaming is following a similar pattern to that of the cloud providers many years ago.  I think we can open some doors for the gaming industry and allow them to move much faster. 

Fagan: One of the things about GCX’s global network, which is quite an advantage, is that all of the fiber pairs on all of the systems, except the older FEA cable, have been upgraded to Ciena WaveLogic 5.  Carl and I, with our shared history, are very big proponents of Software-Defined Networking (SDN).  We’re working really hard to install what we call the G360 platform so we can virtualize Layer 1 across our network.  This will make it software enabled for ordering and provisioning different products and services and integrating the different segments on the network. 

Grivner: What we’re doing with G360 applies very well to gaming.  G360 enables us to provision and move capacity from one system to the next in seconds.  This is important for gaming applications. We think it’s a great opportunity for us. 

Fagan: We're already seeing a strong drive from gaming and streaming providers who want to get into the Middle East.  So we ask ourselves how we can take our assets, how we can add software tools into our network, how we can take it into the landing stations in all the Middle East countries and how we can  pre-package them for gaming and other specialized customers in a way that differentiates us.

Grivner: One thing we see with the gaming industry is their need for capacity to support these live gaming events that they hold around the world.  The demand for bandwidth at these events is incredible.  I think it really goes back to the fact that you really need the subsea, low-latency routes to make the experience really happen.  The gamers are coming to us and they’re looking for solutions.  It’s an application where you need to get the capacity up and running as quickly as you can.  We’re ready to do this kind of thing.  It’s already a great opportunity and a fun experience for us where customers are coming and asking for these kinds of services. 

Fagan: Those big gaming events are really interesting.  Before I came here about a year ago, GCX didn’t have those opportunities.  I serviced a lot of those in my prior experience, but it took a lot of work.  We had to free up a lot of capacity for a short duration to serve those events, which, pre-COVID, might have 80,000 people watching them play video games in a stadium and maybe 50 million people watching them virtually around the world.  But for GCX, we have the spare capacity.  That’s a big positive now when you look at these events.  You don’t worry about, well am I taking away 3 or 4 long-term deals to do this for somebody for 30 days or two weeks or three weeks.  So that’s one advantage for us.  The other is the G360 platform.  We should have our full automation as far as spinning up and spinning down Layer 1 in the first quarter of 2022.  We’re putting in all the processes for our quoting, our inventory management, etc.  At that point, we won’t have to do a lot of that planning.  We’ll have overhead capacity and we’ll put in more overhead on those “hot routes.”  We think it will be an advantage to draw the gaming companies to our platform where we operate in-region.  We think there’s a massive opportunity to differentiate ourselves. 

While GCX has a great customer base with the carriers and the large OTTs, it didn’t have a lot of specialization in that next layer, whether it’s gaming or other applications.  Over the last year, I’ve tried to bring into our sales team the experts in that area, particularly focusing on gaming and streaming.  They introduced us into deeper conversations with the big gaming players.  It’s been interesting because they’re seeing massive demand in these markets that obviously have a lot of complexities.  One of the things I didn’t realize was that Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have some of the biggest gaming markets in the world in absolute dollar value.  These gaming companies are making so much money on the game itself and on the players and the way the games are played.  They need to balance latencies.  They make their money on that experience; on attracting those gamers.  It’s kind of like the cloud providers back in the day, as Carl mentioned before—they’d build data centers anywhere to get into the market.  It’s kind of the same thing.  They look at it as the cost of doing business.  The gaming companies need to focus on all these heavy-duty applications to make the whole experience work.  A  company like GCX can take care of the pieces underneath; getting the big pipes, getting seamless connectivity into the IP networks, leveraging relationships with the local carriers and mobile networks who can get us onto the primary IP routes.  That’s what the gaming companies are looking for, particularly in the Middle East.  We’re piloting quite a few different models right now for the large gamers in the Middle East that we hope we’ll be able to replicate throughout our platforms.