An Interview with Gil Santaliz, CEO of NJFX

Editor’s Note:  As a kid I remember watching James Burke’s classic BBC documentary series “Connections.”  It is arguably the biggest reason behind my interest in technology as an adult.  Mr. Burke’s point was that you can’t look at any development in isolation.  It is a series of “connections” – events that shaped the modern world. 

I never thought I would have a career where understanding “connections” – not just where submarine cables land but the whole spectrum of connections that drive Internet bandwidth demand and thus determine where cables go – is of such critical importance.

SCW spent a lot of time in 2018 writing about developments in a region of the world that sometimes gets overlooked – Southeastern Europe and Central Asia.  Here is a brief list of some of the more important developments in this region from last year:

  • Signing of a multinational agreement on the legal status of the Caspian Sea that could lead to a new submarine cable route across the Caspian
  • Signing of an agreement between the governments of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey to support the building of new infrastructure to meet demand for Europe-Asia traffic
  • The upgrade of the Caucasus Online cable connecting Romania to Georgia
  • The announcement of a new cable in the Black Sea to supplement the existing Caucasus Online cable
  • Plans being reported for numerous new east-west submarine cables in the Mediterranean

All of these developments mean much less in isolation than as part of the bigger picture of the growth of Internet bandwidth demand in the region.  They are some of the “connections;” the pieces of information that build our understanding of the flow of content between the continents. 

With this backdrop, I had the pleasure to speak with Gil Santaliz, CEO of NJFX, which operates a landmark Tier III data center/cable landing station campus in Wall, New Jersey.  At first glance, one would not relate NJFX with the Southeast Europe/Central Asia market, but following our theme of the growth of “connections,” NJFX recently made an important one with the announcement that Bulgaria’s NetIX would deploy a new Internet Exchange (IX) Point of Presence at NJFX for its market entry into the United States.

SCW: So how did the agreement between NJFX and NetIX come about?

Mr. Santaliz: NetIX is based in Sofia, Bulgaria, and it’s an interesting story.  We had a chance to meet them when we were at the Capacity Global Carrier Awards conference in London late last year.  We were awarded the Best North American Project of the Year award at the conference for our data center-class service combined with a subsea cable landing station.  NetIX was at the table next to us and they won the Best Internet Exchange 2018 award.  We started talking afterwards and they said, “We want to come to the US and as you won the North American Project of the Year award and we’re European IX of the year, we should get together.”  So that’s how this all got started. 

SCW: Just as an aside, there are a lot of conferences related to submarine cable activity right now.  How do you approach them?

Mr. Santaliz: It seems like there is always another one next week, but they’re really worthwhile.  They are great for networking and figuring who is good at what they do and who to collaborate with.  Right now [at the time of this interview], NJFX and NetIX both have teams at NANOG and we’re out together in the marketplace talking about the best place to pick up your Internet exchange traffic now would be at NJFX with NetIX, which has an incredible platform that specializes in Eastern Europe and hard to reach places – Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey, even Afghanistan, which are hard to reach places. 

SCW: What do you find most interesting about where NetIX operates?

Mr. Santaliz: Think about what the Internet has done for that part of the world.  It is a region that is changing rapidly.  People expect more now because they have more knowledge at their disposal.  The more they know, the more they can ask for change.  The Internet is the only medium out there that provides that sort of communication globally.  So, interconnectivity in that region is crucial. 

One of the things that NetIX does so well is that they have source content, especially video, for that region of the world.  Much of it is content that was never available before to the people they are reaching.  Their customers are ISPs but they’re also providing TV content for millions of people who have never experienced it.  In the US, we see this content in our 500 cable channels, but in much of Eastern Europe and Central Asia it’s still somewhat new for them.  And on the other hand, people in that region are creating new content that people in the US might have an interest in learning more about and seeing first hand. 

As Thomas Friedman said, the world is getting flat because of the Internet and it is becoming one global marketplace.  Being able to share video and content globally makes us all part of the same community.  At NJFX, we are pleased to be able to provide the platform for NetIX to deliver this content to the US and other new markets. 

SCW: Where does the NJFX campus stand right now in terms of its development?

Mr. Santaliz: The NJFX campus provides an important connection in this global picture.  The facility hosts the landings of two transatlantic submarine cables (TGN-1 and TGN-2) and a third that is under construction (HAVFRUE/AEC-2).  We also have the Seabras-1 cable between the US and Brazil.  Another planned cable, Wall-LI, will link our campus with Long Island.  This will provide a connection to the transatlantic cables landing there while bypassing the metro New York City area.  There are other expansions that we along with our partners will be announcing soon.  These might really surprise you. 

SCW: Thank you and we look forward to learning more.

For more information:

NJFX web site

NetIX web site

Other Regional News:

Caspian Sea Agreement Signed

Agreement Supports Fiber Links in Caucasus Region

Caucasus Online Cable Upgraded

New Black Sea Cable Announced