HONOLULU, March 31, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Servpac Inc., Hawaii’s Largest Independent Telecom Provider, continues operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. While virus fears and Hawaii’s emergency stay-at-home proclamation forced non-essential businesses to close, Servpac is still open as an essential business and addressing customers’ priority needs during this unprecedented period.
“COVID-19 caused a dramatic increase in service inquiries, especially with our customer support and remote tools,” explains President and Founder Richard Zheng. “Our support ticket volume increased 220% in the last two weeks, and our team is working 24/7 to assist with the record demand. We’re even hiring additional engineers for faster responses.”
Since the beginning of the outbreak, Servpac took early steps to ensure business continuity and employee safety. Precautions taken include upgraded mandatory hygiene practices for staff, daily sanitation throughout the office, and remote working arrangements for employees. All controls and safeguards are in place as required for SOC 2 compliance to protect business continuity.
Servpac will continue construction of its new MTP data center in Mililani Tech Park. The 30,000 sq. ft Tier 4 design data center will be carrier-neutral with multiple fiber entrances and a 2N redundant power and cooling system for guaranteed 99.999% uptime. The facility also includes Disaster Recovery office space with 100 hot desks and 20 private suites available on-demand.
To ensure employee safety and on-time completion, Servpac implemented a new policy at the facility that requires mask usage and bans visitors who traveled recently or had close contact with anyone who was sick or traveled outside of Oahu. Once construction of the facility is completed, MTP will be the largest data center in Hawaii.
“It’s a critical time for customers pushed to their limits because of this situation. Now, more than ever, local businesses rely on our infrastructure, technology, and flexibility to support their operations,” said Zheng. “We will keep working around the clock to continue service and support customers’ needs during this evolving pandemic.”
Servpac, headquartered in Honolulu, is Hawaii’s largest CLEC (competitive local exchange carrier) providing innovative and integrated telecom, managed IT and data center solutions for Hawaii businesses. Established in 2004, Servpac offers data center colocation, fiber connectivity, private Cloud hosting, business VoIP phones, and managed network for businesses – all supported by a dedicated fiber network and 24x7x365 customer support. For more information, please visit www.servpac.com.
In October 2015, Servpac President and Founder Richard Zheng sat down with ThinkTech Hawaii’s Jay Fidell to discuss CLECs and Clearwire leaving the Hawaii market. Ready the full interview below:
We’re back with the final show of Today Tuesday. We have Richard Zheng with us. He’s with Servpac. Servpac is a CLEC and we’re going to explain that later. We are going to call this ThinkTech Talks. We’re going to call this the life of a CLEC. Welcome to the show, Richard.
Thank you, glad to be here.
Good to have you here. So what is a CLEC anyways – so we know where you fit in the marketplace of telecommunications in Hawaii?
Well, CLEC stands for Competitive Local Exchange Carrier. This is compared to Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier, which in Hawaii is HawaiianTel. So we provide telecom services and our three products – VoIP, Internet, and Cloud. So kind of competing with HawaiianTel.
OK. So you’re protected. I mean, otherwise they would push you out of the market. So you have a sort of a little slot in the market between the ILEC and the public.
Right, so being a CLEC, we have some advantages. You know, we can use some of the ILEC facilities to provide our services. But, ILECs are not there to help us grow. So we have to basically build our own business model to provide innovative services.
OK. And so when you say you buy certain facilities from them, what are those facilities that you buy?
Several things. We can use the, you know, like facility, for example. They are you know, they have lots of CEOs. So we can co-locate our you come in inside of less than half an hour. So when I say we’re the largest CLEC in Hawaii, because not many see that collapse in Hawaii. So we have 19 CEOs. We have facility, OK, co-location. So we put this land there. We put around her there so we can provide other services that Hogan-Howe cannot provide.
OK. Now, I want to know the history of this, because I remember these terms from 10 years ago, maybe 20 years. It was part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996?
A minimum point of entry was all the rage. And everybody thought that would solve the problem for the business community. It didn’t do it. But we had CLECs and ILECs defined in the statutes that time. And there were a lot of people wanted to get into that business. But now you’re the last man standing there.
So what happened? Initially lots of CLEC wanted to get into the market. They figure they can buy services wholesale from HawaiianTel or from ILEC and then resell it to make some money and apparently it’s not a viable model. That’s why you saw a lot of CLECs collapse or bought out or, you know, disappear. So we became a CLEC in 2011. Our model is a little bit different from traditional, you know, select models.
What is the difference?
Let me give you a little big history about the company. The company started in 2004. So we provide VoIP services. Voice Over IP, that’s nothing to do with CLEC, right? Fast-forward to 2011, we figured we need to provide better Internet services because without reliable good Internet, the VoIP service cannot go very well. So we became a CLEC. Then, we’re not just selling bandwidth. You know, we’re not selling something that HawaiianTel sells to the market. We need to be providing other services.
You wouldn’t be able to survive you just reselling exactly what they do. You know there will be no profit.
Exactly. So one of the services we provide is an EFM. Traditionally, HawaiianTel uses this copper cable to provide DSL services. So, actually, we go a step further. There are the T1s – used to be gold standard and very fast. Right now it’s like nothing, right? So there’s a next generation T1 called an EFM. It has multiple cables that can push faster speed. So with this, we can give you up to 250 mbs with copper wires. So you know, copper wires are variable everywhere. With this service, we can provide a lot of places with no fiber or takes very long to build a fiber. We can keep people service like right away.
Oh, let’s dwell on that for a minute. It is very interesting because everything you know, as you say, things are moving way beyond T1. How fast was T1?
T1 is 1.5 mbs, so what’s nice about T1 is the symmetrical bandwidth. Right now you see lots of other internet service in the market like DSL, cable services. They are asymmetrical.
So there’s only once one direction?
Right, downloads are very fast while uploads are very slow. It’s great for consumers. Customers, they just go to YouTube and Netflix. They need to download it but they don’t need a big upload. For business, you need a big upload, you know? Right.
We do, I can tell you that. We weren’t doing video.
Exactly, all this content. Now people go to the cloud. You know, they go to Office 365 or other things. And, people backup data. right? They produce a lot of data. Also remote workers need to access the data in the office. So you really need a big upload. These asymmetrical services are designed for residential, not for businesses.
OK. So you say the successor to the T1 is called EFM?
Yeah, it’s not listed in this brochure.
Okay, this is your brochure. This is Richard’s brochure. We’re going to talk about some of the things in here. OK, it’s called what then?
EFM, Ethernet first mile. So, it has two big advantages. First, the speed is a lot faster. And the second one, is you can bounce the multiple cables and give you multiple high speeds. It’s like a building a freeway. Four lanes not enough? Build eight lanes.
Bonding. This is very important, and I want to digress on bonding. There’s so much here, Richard. We’re going to learn a lot today. You know, one of the technologies that has fascinated Think Tech is the bonding technology. You know why? Because first, the Israelis did it. They bonded a number of cell phones together in a backpack. OK, you take your signal off a camera and put it through the bonding technology. Now, this little backpack affair, which is not cheap, you know, is communicating with multiple cell phone companies and getting very high speed based on cell phone signals. Which is, you know, much more ubiquitous than wireless. Wireless is not everywhere, but cell phone signal is everywhere. And if you bond a number of cell phone signals, you get very high speed, which means you can send camera signals, video and audio wherever you are with any cell phone signal. This is quite remarkable. And we went on Ford Island a few months ago. It was the celebration of the 70th anniversary of Hiroshima. And there were there were cameramen there who were broadcasting live to New York using this bonding technology. And you can buy it. I mean, it’s available vintage photo and other places. It’s not cheap, but there you go. So bonding is to us very important. So talk more about bond.
OK, so you had a very good point in bonding. It can give you more capacity. You can send a faster speed. Another big benefit of bonding is redundancy. It’s like a freeway – you have four or eight lanes. One lane is blocked, and say one cable is bad. You still have the rest of the cable running. But for most users, they couldn’t even tell. Oh, one of the cables is down or having trouble. But for us, we monitor all the lanes in real time. So we know, oh, this one lane down, automatically this lane is taken out our service. So we can look at it, see what’s the problem fix it and Put it back in the service without any user interaction. You automate the whole thing.
You also said that you can get a signal of 250 mb/s on copper. Now that’s very interesting because there’s a lot of copper wire out there that isn’t being used for broadband. So you have a huge repository of a highway that you can use where maybe the other guy can’t use it. How do you do that? What’s the technology?
EFM is the technology. So it has been deployed for more than four years. It’s a really stable technology. We have lots of customers using this. And you know, we deploy fiber, but it takes longer and it’s very expensive. So if people need the fast speeds right now, we can give it to them.
Yeah, so instead of having waiting for fiber to come to your building or your neighborhood, you just use the existing copper wire and put boxes on both ends. You put the boxes in and then you have EFM technology at 250 mb/s. That’s very fast. We’re going to talk about speeds as we come back from this break Richard. It’s Richard Zheng. He’s with Servpac. We’re going to find out what they do, how they do it, and all the smart things they do. Finding their little niche in the market as a CLEC. It used to be old fashioned, but it’s not old fashioned anymore.
It couldn’t survive with old fashioned.
We’ll be right back after this break.
We’re back live. We’re here on a given Tuesday afternoon with Richard Zheng. He is with Servpac, and Servpac is a CLEC. Now, that’s pretty impressive – 250 mbs. And you can probably do that cheaper because you never had to spend any money on the fiber, am I right?
Yeah. There are a lot of things we do to make the cost lower. So I give you one example. Traditionally, when you program a new circuit, you have to log into all of these devices. Logging system, termination device, routers, switches – all the programs. What we did was we made this automated, talk about automation. It’s really easy and we built a web interface. Any technician can go there. They just drag and drop the I.P. address into the circuit, phone number in the circuit, click a button. It generates and configure a script. Then click another button in the center of the command to all of these devices programmed for you. So with this, not only is the cost lower so can pass the cost saving to the customers, but less errors. You can only drag and drop on the available IP address to the circuit. It’s quality.
So am I right? Physically, though, you have access. By virtue of your status as a CLEC to the copper wire. You can say that you want to connect on the copper wire and sell services over that copper wire to this business customer. I guess it’s mostly business.
OK. And then you wind up putting a little box on one end. And maybe a little box on the other end. Right. Right. We put a little box that customer side, but on the CO – the central office – we put a DSLAM. This is a big box with DC power and building redundancy. Lots of things that you know – bells and whistles – give us that capability of doing all these things.
And this gives a whole new meaning to copper. Copper would be really old fashioned. With this, you get pretty good speed. Nobody has that speed. Well, very few people have that speed. And you’d pay more for that speed if you were using fiber because you have to put in fiber. It’s a big capital investment.
Another thing about fiber is that nobody makes it available for you. You have to build yourself. Which are we in the process of building those fibers ourselves.
Yeah, but that’s something else to do, right? You’re also doing fiber, right? Well, we’re not missing anything.
Well, we do all kinds of things – fiber, wireless. You name it. Whatever works.
You know, that’s quite remarkable, especially the part about the software. I’ve always believed that whatever you have is going to be better if you have good software to run it. Anything in the world. Yeah. It’s a mindset. It’s a philosophy. So here you have these boxes. If you run the software, you configure the boxes automatically and presto, you’re up and running. Which means also in this kind of model, you’re talking about the copper. You can put a customer online in virtually no time at all. Very same day. Well, the copper you have relied on the island and give you those copper.
Once you get the copper. Normally we order the coppers once the ILEC finishes the installation. The next day we go there, put a box in. And we’re running.
All you really need to have is the copper. That’s all you need. That’s pretty impressive. Listen, let’s talk for a minute about how you guys learned to do this, to write the software and learned to use the copper. How you found your niche in this high-speed copper market. You know, where did you go to school?
I went to school in China. So I graduated from Tsinghua university.
Tsinghua is a very good school. Engineering school. On the other hand, everybody in China is an engineer. You could approach an artist in the street and you could say to them, where did you study in school? He would say he started engineering and art was an afterthought. OK, so what kind of engineering did you study there?
Computer science. So I was a programmer in the beginning. but I was never a full-time programmer, but I was trained to be a programmer.
And what languages does that mean? I mean, what level of confidence do you have? It sounds like it’s a pretty good level.
I think I’m pretty good at system design. Putting other things together, in terms of coding. I’m kind of getting rusty, you know. All of these new things – Ajax, etc. – they’re beyond me. I know what I tell my programmer what can be done. They make sure how to make this big question.
Richard, where do you get them? These guys are also very competent in programming. Where do you find them?
We find them everywhere. Although we are a Hawaii-based company, we actually find them all over because Hawaii is really small. It’s really hard to find lots of good talent. But for us, small comedy, we’re probably couldn’t afford them anyway. So we just go global and find them.
So you go on the Web. Did you go to Craigslist?
Oh, it’s a really interesting story. So initially I was doing the programming myself, but at a certain stage, it’s too much for me. HTML and CSS are beyond me.
We’re giving away your age.
We use open source libraries and there is a system upgrade that we tried to upgrade, but we ran into roadblocks. We didn’t know how to do it. So we approached the developer for the library and asked if they come to Hawaii. We pay the airfare, accommodation, and time you stay here. Do you want to come to Hawaii and help us with the upgrade? Nobody won’t say no to Hawaii. So he came here and this guy is really good. We give him an offer and he asked, can I stay in Hawaii? Or I can work from my home? Whatever you want to do. After a week, he decides he didn’t want to come to Hawaii. Fine, just stay where you are.
Or he could be on the Mainland, doesn’t matter.
He’s on the Mainland, yeah.
What school did he go to?
You know what, I don’t even know. He was in Europe.
Yeah. He’s in Europe now.
See how global that is. We can do global here. Your company, Servpac, can do global here. Bringing people in from wherever you find them, even by remote.
You know, I think we are talking about the cloud. Okay, to build a cloud, we have an engineer that is based in New York. He flew here several times. For one time, he stayed here for six weeks helping build this new data center facility?
Okay, I’m starting to get very impressed. So you know what? Aren’t you worried that ultimately fiber will overtake copper? Because some of these companies, including HawaiianTel, are putting a lot of money into fiber. Fiber will be everywhere. Nobody is laying new copper now. So what are you doing about that?
Copper is slowing going away. So that’s why we started the fiber project earlier this year. One thing besides the central office and EFM, another thing we did is put a fiber in lots of high rise and low rise buildings. We have over 100 buildings on that connection. Almost all these downtown buildings, we have fiber. Didn’t cost building owners anything but we put it in to give high speed to customers.
Why didn’t you wait for the big boys to do it? Well, I’m not talking about Oceanic Time Warner and Hawaiian Telcom because they will ultimately do it, won’t they?
Right. But how long have they been waiting for this?
Okay, you want to do it now?
Yeah. I mean, we have VoIP services. It’s like we have the fanciest car but drive on this road with a lot of potholes. It doesn’t work. So we know the time wasted calling other carriers to troubleshoot the network can be spent to build our own.
So how do you make a decision for a given client, you know, to say, well, I will give you 250 mb/s on copper. Or I’m going to put in fiber. Now, if you already have fiber in the building, that’s really easy, isn’t it? Just use the fiber rack. But otherwise, I guess the question is, when do you decide that you’re going to make the investment for fiber instead of trying to get the speed out of copper?
Right. So it’s actually it’s very easy. If it’s a multi-tenant building, doesn’t matter if it’s 110 or 20 tenants, the chance we get one customer and more customers is very high. Prices are very competitive with good service. Multi-tenant buildings are no problem. We just give people this high bandwidth with the multi-tenant buildings.
So you want you want one where it’ll spread that way? You can talk to each other and get more customers. And you want to building where nobody else has it. So they’ll all love it.
And they drop the price and very competitive. Nobody looks at this as being so cheap. Why should I spend money to build this?
It was your fiber cheaper than the big boys?
Yeah. I mean, 10 mbs. Traditionally, before we started buildings, about $800 for 10x10. Right now, for the big boys, it’s about $500. And these multi-tenant buildings are $99.
Oh, that’s pretty good.
As we deploy more fiber, we’re going to even drop the price even further.
When you say take 10 mbs, I want to get a handle on the speed. OK, first we talked about 250 mbs. That’s very fast. I suppose you can go to a gigabyte, too?
Yeah. If we put more cables there. Yes, we can get that.
That would be very fast. So what kind of business needs what kind of speed? how how how far can I go with 10 mbs. When do I have to go to 20, 50, 100 or whatever?
That’s I really hard question. It’s like asking how many burgers can I eat? Well, how hungry are you? Nobody knows. You have to eat one and see if you’re still hungry.
Is there a way you can tell me how much I need?
Yeah, I tell people if you want an honest answer, there is no way. But there are general guidelines. If you’re doing Internet browsing, emails, some uploads, some downloads – for about 10-20 people – you can comfortably have 10 mbs. support your phones, daily data, and Internet.
We want to be sure it’s really 10 mbs. You want to do a speed test on it because sometimes it’s supposed to be 10 mbs but it isn’t really. Then you’re not getting what you hoped you would get.
That’s a very good point, Jay. So, you know, in other providers, you know, they have this kind of optical bandwidth. I give you 10 mbs or 5 mbs. If you don’t get it, then you don’t get it. With our services, an EFM or fiber buildings is dedicated bandwidth and not shared with anybody else.
So if your neighbor is using it, you’re fine. They don’t affect you. You have your dedicated lane to our network.
That’s how you do it, by dedicating the lane of the line to my network. Nobody else. If you set it at 10, it’s gonna be 10.
Yes. These are going to be 10 because our VoIP service round top of this freeway. So if this road is bad and congested, the voice traffic will be really crappy.
So let’s take a minute to talk about voice. It’s been years since I remember Voice over IP being rolled out. I don’t know what advances have been made. Is VoIP a bigger deal now than it used to be? You know, it goes back to programming, doesn’t it? If you can make it sing, dance and do miraculous things, that will attract the market. It’s just a question of speed. I wanted to do miraculous things. I want to think and help my business. So what are you doing in that regard?
That’s a very good question. Traditionally, a phone is a phone . There’s a dial tone and you pick up the phone.
You make a call, pick a phone, and answer the call. With all of these technologies, you have these other things like data mining or things connected. For example, we use our VoIP system in our business. When the call comes in, it’s tied up with our CRM database.
CRM means contact….
Customer Relationship Management.
It’s a way to build your customer base. That’s what CRM is.
So the call comes in, based on the caller ID and other information, IT would push this notification to the tech support team. So on their screen, they will see a new call come in. And then based on the call ID, they can tell us who the customer is, and what services they have.
This is a cold call, brand new call?
Brand new call. So it’s in the system. It’s either customers, vendors, or brand new calls. Hopefully, it’s in our sales database. So the screen for the call tells us if this is a customer or vendor. If it’s a customer, it’s going to tell us what service they have. If it’s a phone service, it’s going to tell us if they have trouble with their phone service. If phones are offline, if phones are back online. If the internet speed is having trouble. Before they even talk to us, we get all of this information on the screen. The technicians can troubleshoot even before they talk to the customer.
A brand new cold call. You know what’s happening before you pick up the phone?
Yeah, exactly. Because when the call comes in, the first thing is it needs to ring right? Before ringing, they are sending a notification to the support team.
Exactly, you’re doing the software. That’s quite amazing. So with the CRM and VoIP – Voice over Internet protocol – you’re able to help me in my business? How can you help me make my business run better these days with the current technology and programming products? It’s CRM but other things too. What are the other things?
There are lots of other things we can do. For example, we have large installations. When we schedule with a customer, we need to say before the technician goes on-site, we need to call them to say somebody will be on site. Traditionally, you have an admin person call them and that takes time. Now with this VoIP – Voice over IP system – you can track the technician’s location and see if they’re on the way to the customer. So it will trigger a call to the customer directly.
Saying our technician will be onsite in 20 minutes. If there are any questions, please press zero to talk to the operator.
And it’s automated?
Yeah. Otherwise, have a nice day.
Well, it strikes me between the old fashioned handset that we’ve had in our homes and businesses for so many years, which many have not been advanced with the technology as against the cell phone. I mean, this has technology that grows while you watch. When there’s a new version every six months, there’s another amazing thing that happens. But this could happen with VoIP the same way.
Yeah, keeping people mobile. For example, we have an app running on the smartphone – Android and iPhone. You can basically take your office number and go anywhere. Attorneys and CPAs – they don’t have to stay in the office to do their job. They can go home and make a call to the customer. It shows their business caller ID instead of a cell phone caller ID.
So that’s the new model of it. It’s all seamless and integrated and you can do that. Is that something you’re programming or getting from a large company?
Now, we are a small company. We couldn’t afford to spend five million dollars to buy a switch and do those things. When we started in 2004, you know, we used lots of open source programs, but we integrated them together. We have built our own web interface provisioning system because this system is only customized for our use.
So provisioning is what helps you install it right away? And that’s again a real benefit. When you get the equipment there physically to push a button and the provisioning is automatic. And you can re-provision, too. So the next time around, it’s going to be automated as well.
Exactly. You disconnect, press a button and disconnect. Then a notification is sent to the technician so they know to go to the customer site, grab the device and bring back to the office. All inventory is tracked and the system is integrated.
I like the idea of connecting a cell phone with the office system and the guy on the other end doesn’t know where you are. You’re going to pick it up at the same speed and he could think you’re in your office or Bulgaria. It doesn’t matter.
We have a marketing customer that has a office in Japan. When they call their clients in Hawaii, they just pick up their IP phone to make a local call. It’s a free call for them also.
We use Skype around here. We do Skype programs every day to everywhere. What’s the difference between VoIP and Skype, and can VoIP carry video? I know there are video programs there, but can you set me up with a video conference call system? Is it like Skype? Is it the same Skype?
Well, Skype is free (laughter).
Yeah, but they nail you for a few bucks.
What do we do is we specialize in business communications. You know, business is different from residential or other applications. And people want lots of features including ringing multiple phones, auto attendant, go to voicemail, and send to cell phone. All these things that we do really well.
You know, again, back to the software. Just click a few buttons and program right for the user. And also, you can do calendars. You can say from 8:00 or 5:00, ring my office or cell phone after hours. Next Monday is a holiday, so ring my cell phone, ring my assistant, etc. All of these things can be done through our system.
You could probably tell us when you take a break on the show.
That’s Richard Zheng. He’s with Servpac, a really high tech operation. This is Think Tech Talks and we’re talking about the life of CLEC. It’s not what you thought. We will be right back.
The boundaries of programming and telephony, including voice over telephony, which is an important part of business now.
So I get on the phone and nobody I ever call these big companies on the mainland is ever there. It always takes me through a voice menu. I remember a few years ago that you could buy a book and learn how to make a voice menu. You could and if you can hit number one or number two, or go there. I mean, our country, our world, our globe is full of voice menus. Some of them work really well and some of them don’t work well. You mentioned in the break that you don’t do voice menus, but certainly you can fit me together with a voice menu. What’s it like?
Let me correct myself. We can do voice menus.
Yeah. So you press the one to that marketing to sales. Yeah, we do that. It’s really easy. You just press the button, transfer, and give the location. You can keep your office hours. Those things that, you know, you don’t need a human operator to offer this. But I can tell you this. In Hawaii, people still like their human touch. We have lots of customers that want to use this, but lots of people want a human being answering those calls.
Yeah, sure. I’m one of them because I think the voice menus are out there are lousy. I mean, you really have to think through what he wants and what it means to him to press one or two -what’s going through his mind at the time he’s engaging with the menu. So many of them. On the mainland, you get into voice menu hell, going round and round and start the whole call again. But don’t you agree that it’s a question of programming? You have to figure out exactly what kind of user experience you can give and then you can have a happy customer over there.
Yeah, so that’s why we specialize in these things. The user comes to us because they want certain things, but this is probably not the best way. Some people want their phones to ring 20 times before going to voicemail but nobody is going to wait for 20 years because they’re going to disconnect you. So we are good at those things. We can give customers suggestions and help them build the system.
I think voice menus are just beginning. Sometimes you hit a good one, like I forget which airline. Some of the airlines will have an engine that recognizes what you say. It’s not pressing one or pressing two. You could give it a whole sentence and it would pick out the words in there and decide what you’re really trying to tell it. There must be engines that you can buy, software engines that will do that. And now I can have a conversation with this phone.
We actually look at the software a couple of years ago. The technology for what are we can afford is not there. You know there’s the advanced ones. I don’t know if you ever heard about ones just like a dating service. You can talk to them. You feel like you are dating and talking to somebody.
This goes to artificial intelligence, which isn’t cheap. It takes a long time to develop it. You keep hearing news stories about artificial intelligence that’ll do psychological therapy on you. Have a conversation and sell you something on a human level. Talk about people who want human contact. We’ll give him your contact, but it won’t be a good idea. Ok, that’s very interesting. We haven’t even scratched the surface on that because humans are much more expensive than software. Maybe there’s an opportunity for you to take it to another level.
But I want to talk about the cloud. You can give me Cloud, backup my stuff using the high-speed Internet and keep it safe in redundant locations. In co-locations but multiple co-locations. So I never have to worry about any natural disaster, power failure or anything else. It will always be there. How does it work?
Last year we built this new data center in Hawaii. The purpose of the data center is only for cloud services. Every aspect was designed around the cloud. We always tell customers there’s lots of redundancy here. There’s no single point of failure. You know, even if a tsunami comes, unless it’s a huge one, we are 1 and 1/2 miles from the ocean and really safe. Also, we built a similar system in Las Vegas. If disaster happens, then your data is gone here. What do we do is take a snapshot of the data and send to Las Vegas. So within a few hours, we can get everything running in Las Vegas.
And I wouldn’t even know it?
Well, you wouldn’t know because it’s a disaster. for the normal disaster, you’ll be down for days or even weeks. This one you would be up and operating in a few hours.
Oh, that’s fabulous. And that’s software again, isn’t it? You have to build that. Your software needs to be better than the next guy’s software to be competitive in the marketplace. Why don’t you use Amazon as a back end? Just send it all to Amazon and nobody knows where it’s going. Cloud is anonymous anyway. So why don’t you just use Amazon? They’re cheap?
Well, they’re not. The advantage we see compared with Amazon is that Amazon is mainland based, right? We are Hawaii based. When you send the data to the mainland and then comes back, you’re talking about a 60 to 70 millisecond latency to the West Coast. On island, latency is about two to three milliseconds. So it is 20 times slower when you try to access data from the mainland.
What about that big concrete box at the airport?
You’re referring to what used to be Piihana Pacific. Actually, when I first moved that island, I worked for Piihana.
I remember when we talked a number of times.
It’s a great facility. For colocation, I strongly recommend using them. We are not colocation. We do cloud services. We built a whole system around cloud. That makes us separate? Another thing is we provide VoIP phones, Internet and cloud. All these things are connected. You can’t build the best cloud if the internet is slow. It doesn’t really matter. You pull your files and it takes forever. You’ll just give up. What makes us special is we combine all those things together.
Amazon doesn’t do that?
Amazon doesn’t do that. You can do third party, but you’re talking about third party. Here, there is a single point of contact. If something is slow or down, you just talk to Servpac. You don’t have to talk to multiple carriers, just one vendor.
OK, I want to talk about Clearwire, because that’s how we got in touch for this show. You sent around a little note about Clearwire going out of business in Hawaii. So what is happening with Clearwire and how do you fit?
Clearwire is a fixed wireless company service provider. It was a joint venture between Sprint. and another company or some other entities. Sprint bought Clearwire a few years ago, but business wasn’t do so well. They’re shutting down.
I remember Clearwire used to have a little box, a wireless box about that big. It’s not high tech now, but it was high tech then. You could take it around with you and get reception where ever you were, right? It was wireless, but it was feeding by cell signals.
Yeah, similar cell signal. That’s actually one big advantage of Clearwire because it’s fixed wireless. You don’t need to set up the antenna. You can take it pretty much anywhere you want if they have a good signal. That’s a big if because the spectrum they use is not the best. The speed is not very fast, the coverage is not very good, and uptime is not always good.
They never invested the money into the infrastructure in order to make it really work, I think.
Besides, you know the call center on the Mainland. You call by 3 pm Hawaii time, they’re finished already.
Yeah, there is no support there. For several different reasons, Sprint just shut down the business.
OK, so you’re going to shoot into the niche. How are you going to do that?
There are several things we can do. If people just want Internet access, we can do either EFM or DSL. Remember, we’re in over 100 high rise, low rise buildings for fiber and we don’t need anything from third party. If customers want the service, we send a technician there and put a cable. Here we go, internet is up.
You know, I remember years ago when I first met the CLEC community, I was so struck by the vitality that you find in CLECs, in all CLECs. Unfortunately, there are not that many around these days. But I still find that vitality in you. So, Richard, it’s really great to connect with you and hear about your adventures, technology, programming and view of the whole marketplace. I wish you well. Good for you.
Vitality is still there. Richard Zheng. It’s Servpac. It’s the life of a CLEC. Good luck to you. Thank you.
On March 30, 2020, President and Founder Richard Zheng was interviewed by Think Tech Hawaii about Servpac’s response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. See the full interview below:
[00:00:27.460] – Jay Fidell
OK. We’re back alive. I’m Jay Fidell. This is Think Tech talks on Think Tech. OK, and we’re talking about broadband. We’re talking about the broadband providers doing during the time of the virus, with somebody who knows. That somebody is the founder and CEO of Servpac. Servpac is a broadband provider, among other things. Richard Zheng. Hi Richard, thank you for joining us this morning.
[00:00:53.950] – Richard Zheng
Hey, good morning, Jay. Thanks for having me.
Absolutely. So here we are, we’re actually not that far into it. You know, when you start counting the days of the weeks. Hawaii hasn’t had more than about three weeks or so in a serious virus. I think our first case was disclosed on March 6, so not that long ago. And our world has completely changed since then. Not only the cases, but the way we greet each other and talk to each other. The way we do business, of course, and our lives in general have been seriously impacted over that very short period of time. So tell me how how is your life at Servpac been impacted in that short period of time?
[00:01:45.180] – Richard Zheng
Yes, This is definitely a challenging time for everyone. Nobody would expect this three weeks ago. After their first case in Hawaii, we made a lot of adjustments in the business and how to adapt to this because the customer demand is quite different from before.
[00:02:11.100] – Jay Fidell
Yeah. It’s certainly had that effect on every business I know, except, you know, we have distinction going on these days between essential services and non-essential services. Servpac and broadband providers are clearly essential services. So how did this come to your attention as the CEO? And what reaction that you have and what steps are you taking now to deal with the extraordinary changes in our world?
[00:02:43.700] – Richard Zheng
Yeah, when this whole thing started, it was only some cases on the mainland and not a big deal in Hawaii. Then we started noticing people looking at ways to work from home because we provide the broadband Internet and phone services for businesses. Some of the customers start calling and asking, “hey, what can I do?” And I talked to other businesses and they already started with their contingency plan. And what you’re going to do in case that the office and business shuts down.
[00:03:20.360] – Richard Zheng
So, after a little bit, we realize this is going to hit us really quick, really fast. We saw this avalanche coming towards us. So basically we updated our business continuity plan. We do it every year with dry runs. So we just put the plan in place.
[00:03:54.770] – Richard Zheng
And initially we were thinking about having employees go home, have the home internet to make sure they can still access the system from home to answer phone calls.
[00:04:07.730] – Richard Zheng
So during the day, we have a plan to do it a week later. Then in the evening we realized, hey, this thing’s going to be hitting us really hard. So we’re like, OK, let’s accelerate the plan and do the casting the next day. So that it was a Friday about two weeks ago. Then that weekend, we just sent everybody an e-mail to say they can work from home.
[00:04:44.540] – Richard Zheng
That was one week before the city shut down. During that week, we saw our call volume doubled. We were swamped with phone calls and people needing to work from home, sending phone calls to voicemail, or play a different greeting. So it was lucky we had everyone working at home already. We don’t have to worry about our internal operations and freed up all of our resources to help customers.
[00:05:19.790] – Jay Fidell
You’re talking about changing the connection from the office to the home. Educating people and helping them reconnect from home, both on broadband and on Voice over IP, which is part of broadband. That would be reasonable to anticipate as soon as you find out that people work from home because they don’t have those connections at home and will be calling you because you offer telephone support. You knew you put this all together immediately and you knew you would have to be prepared for that kind of onslaught of telephone calls. I suppose people were slightly panicky and demanding?
Right. We always take pride of our customer service. So when people call, they can always get hold of engineers to talk to them. We or any business isn’t designed to have this double call volume, literally overnight coming in. We really struggled in the beginning getting back to the customer as soon as possible. And it is very challenging. The team really stepped up, worked long hours and over the weekend getting the tickets answered and problems resolved for customers.
How hard was it, Richard, to connect all your people at home? That sounds like for you it would have been pretty easy.
Yeah. You know that when people go home and access the internet, they need to access the resources from their office. So we need to make sure this is secure. For our managed network customers, this means having firewall and VPN in place.
So it’s just a matter of assurance they can put in a VPN connection at home so they can access the company resources securely from their home office. And the same thing the Voice over IP phone. We need to set it up, give them credentials, and get everything ready. The biggest challenges is the resource it takes. We need to get engineers set things up and talk to customers. Everybody’s home connection is different and we make sure if there are any issues with their phone connection or home computer set up, then we need to walk them through the different scenarios and get things running for them. So that said, the hardest challenge is how to get resources on our side to help people in a timely manner?
Yeah, so disclosure, you’re our broadband provider and central to our operations. We like you and you have always been good on support. So this is part of your brand. And I know that all customers want to be able to call you. And that’s an important thing. Other companies, you can’t get through. You can never get through even on a good day. You can always find an engineer, a technical support person at Servpac. I guess the question I have is it goes beyond just the broadband. It goes beyond just broadband and the VoIP phone, because when people go home, they’re using their computers. And now your engineers, they’re not only have to answer questions about the basic provisions for the broadband and the basic provision for the phone. But there’s going to be all these leak over questions about how I set my computer up, am I right?
Yeah, definitely. We have to go above and beyond to help people on the issues we normally don’t have to resolve. But now, you know, before the phone in the office, we set up the connection, the network in the office. When they go home, it’s a totally different setup. So we had to really work through the different issues and have different solutions. We had really nailed down to this.
So one thing we were really lucky with was when we were slaughtered by customer phone calls, one of my friends came in and he owns a business that does reservations for Luau. When this thing blew up, there was nobody wanting to come to those. So he’s like, “I have a few people here. They are really good in at call centers and talking to customers. Can you use them?”
First off, I thought this is pretty technical and we cannot use them. But then, you know, we have a huge volume phone call coming in and can probably train these people very quickly. They can get the customer information and get all the tickets created.
So I can use all my engineers time to solve technical problems. But in terms of communication and getting information, these people handle it. Within a couple of hours, we get like three call center people up and running and set up VoIP phones to work from home. We had one engineer train these people. We transcribe all the phone calls so we can review it to find problems. These people, within two days, came to full speed and were able to answer phone calls. That is a huge thing for us because that frees up resources for the engineer, so we can really handle the technical problems.
[00:11:41.410] – Jay Fidell
That’s a win win. They still have jobs.
[00:11:47.570] – Richard Zheng
Exactly. They have jobs and the owner doesn’t have to worry about furloughing these people. These people have a job, help our customer service, and our engineers solve the problem. This company wins, we win, and the customer wins.
[00:12:05.900] – Jay Fidell
Yeah, absolutely. And there’s many lessons in there, not only for broadband providers, but for others. I mean, it’s a service to the community.
[00:12:14.970] – Jay Fidell
What you’ve done is you’re taking them off the streets and repurposed them for things they can do to keep them in the workforce. You’ve helped to modify the shock the business community would otherwise have on this. So what do you do with a company that calls you Richard and says we can’t operate anymore. We’re not an essential service and our employees have to go home. Our business model does not permit them to work from home and there’s no way they can be helpful at all. So we’re going to have to have to shut down on this, Richard. Do you have that experience and what do you do?
[00:12:59.250] – Richard Zheng
Yeah, we have customers sending emails and a cost for, you know, for the basic of their businesses, either running or even they run but they couldn’t pay us. For us, we are essential and will always be available for customers. But I worry so much that our customer won’t pay us and then are we going to have trouble paying my employees or vendors. What if my vendors cut off my service? As the CEO of the company, that’s definitely a major concern for us.
[00:13:45.090] – Jay Fidell
There’ve been articles in both New York Times and the Wall Street Journal about April 1st, which is coming two days from now. April 1st is the first of the month since it’s bill payment day. It’s paying the rent, all kinds of suppliers, and mortgages. Answer is always happens on the first in both of these articles that appeared. And I noticed they’re concerned about what happens to the country just like Y2K. If you remember Y2K, it all on the same day and nobody knows exactly what’s going to happen. So, April 1st, all these bills come due. You may get a flood of calls and letters and emails telling you they can’t pay or maybe not. I don’t know. And same thing with the banks, mortgage companies, and so forth. We’re going to find out soon.
[00:14:47.350] – Jay Fidell
And one of the things that you mentioned before we started was that this is not the kind of thing where you make a plan. And then something happens like coronavirus and adapt your plan. This is not a monthly change in plan or even weekly change in plan. You review your plan every day. Tell me about how that works.
[00:15:07.860] – Richard Zheng
Yeah. So you mention Y2K. People know Y2K will come on January 1st. People have years to plan for this. And Coronavirus, even though you know it’s in China for a few months, honestly nobody took it seriously. Yeah. So what really helps us is we do have business continuity planning for the last four years. Every year, we look at our plan to see is there something happening? Typically people don’t plan for pandemics. People plan for local disasters like hurricanes and other things.
[00:16:02.520] – Richard Zheng
But those plans, although it doesn’t apply to here directly, helps us to understand what are we going to do when this thing happens? So one thing you mentioned, this seems that be changing so fast. We need to send everybody home. But we’re a week ahead of time. We think, OK, we have a few days. We have one engineer go home, then the next day another engineer, so after a week, we have everything ready and send everyone home. Then we had a plan on Thursday evening, we see this thing’s is coming really hard on the news. We can’t wait for a week. So Friday morning, everyone comes in and we have a company meeting and after lunch, everyone goes home. They take the computer, their own monitor and phones.
[00:17:02.540] – Richard Zheng
Now we test and this thing works, which is good because we found some problems. Some people didn’t have good internet at home, or someone’s router wasn’t working. That helps us really address these issues and get those problems resolved before we get huge amount of phone calls coming in. So you got this thing, need to look at the situation, review the plan -probably multiple times.
[00:17:39.940] – Richard Zheng
That’s the only way to survive in this pandemic. In this whole process, we really communicate with employees. You know, most of the workforce staying at home now. Before, you know, there were water cooler meetings where we can address people with concerns. With people working from home, we have zoom meetings to see how the company doing and what we face in the future. Talk about concerns from a customer who can’t pay us to what are we going to do? I communicate that very clearly with all the employees. The company has enough reserves. We’re going to survive even for a few months. If we don’t have customer payment, we can still survive. It’s not a problem. But, if this goes even longer, then we might have a problem. We communicate very clearly with all the employees. It’s a very difficult situation.
[00:18:57.260] – Jay Fidell
Yeah, we we live in strange and threatening times. You know, one thing is, have you been thinking about what happens at the end of the crisis? Hopefully at some point, it’s going to end. We don’t have to figure that out right here and now, when it’s going to end. Nobody knows when it’s going to end. But let’s say it’s going to end in the space of a year or year and a half. That’s a long time. Do you have an idea about how you will reorganize yourself? Maybe it’s gradual or all of a sudden. How are you going to bring everybody back, you know, to your office premises? Are you can do it gradually? How are you going to get back to normal?
[00:19:44.090] – Richard Zheng
Yeah, I don’t know. This is going to be a really hard question because, you know, after several months or a year, everything will get to the normal. But I can guarantee you one thing – the normal is going to be a different normal.
[00:20:08.370] – Jay Fidell
How would be different? Do you have an idea about how it will be different?
[00:20:14.330] – Richard Zheng
Well, there’s lots of things that will change. One thing is people will get it used to working from home. Business owners will see working from home is not a bad thing. Maybe more people can work from home. We will adapt to this. Our business has adapted all these years. We started in 2004 and keep adding new services. I’m pretty sure we’re going to be different a year from now in terms of the services we provide. But how is it going to happen? What’s it going to be? It’s everybody’s guess and still little too early to tell.
[00:21:00.310] – Jay Fidell
One thing you said that sounds interesting is you bring in additional staff to do triage, get a general idea of what people are calling about, and then refer them to the engineers. You know that two level kind of triage. Seems to me that’s something that sounds so good, useful and helpful. It’s one possibility where you might you might continue that after things return to normal now.
[00:21:30.380] – Richard Zheng
Yeah, when when we get hit by this thing, lots of businesses tried their best to adapt. Even the restaurants. In the first week or weekend, I wanted to support the local business. I have the means, so I want to do take out for some of my favorite restaurants, I don’t them to shut down and I couldn’t enjoy the food I like. So I could called a week ago to get some food. No problem. The line went so very quickly. This weekend, I called several restaurants. They’re so busy they couldn’t even take my calls.
[00:22:08.610] – Richard Zheng
You know, everything is changing so fast. It really is hard to predict. One thing I can say from this example is if you’re doing well and service your customers, people will come back. Right. people will take your services. They will love you. That’s why in the last few weeks we tried so hard to answer every phone calls. We try out not to send people to a voicemail or wait long hours. You know, that’s our job. We spend all the resources on some people’s calls and take care of them.
[00:22:50.690] – Jay Fidell
Sure it’ll pay off. When we spoke last, Richard, it was January 10th. I don’t know if you remember, but I Think Tech always covers the Pacific Telecommunications Conference. We were there and took some footage of you. You talked at some length with some great interest and excitement about your new data center. I wonder, you know, how your data center has has been going in the throes of the crisis. Tell me about the status of it.
[00:23:24.790] – Richard Zheng
Yeah, it’s great. You know, I’m I’m working out of Mililani today. I still travel between the two offices and can tell you the project at full speed. I guess a lot of contractors and the subcontractors, their other work has slowed down.
[00:23:46.210] – Richard Zheng
But our work is classified as an essential services as data center telecommunications. All the contractors have been working and we didn’t slow a little bit. In some cases we actually accelerated the projects, and then there’ll be more resources. We do have to make some adjustments. So when people work in the data center construction area, we all have to wear masks.
[00:24:24.810] – Richard Zheng
It is good because, you know, our understanding is these masks are hard to get. They may not be able to prevent the virus, but at least if I’m sick for whatever reason, I don’t even know this from the block spreading the virus to other people. So we basically made a policy overnight and enforced it. Everyone on-site needs to wear these masks.
[00:24:55.480] – Jay Fidell
Yeah, absolutely. Well, I want to talk about one other thing. We have a few minutes left and that is where broadband fits, from your point of view, in the community. I mean, everybody is trying to reach kind of refigure the economy now. You know, as the economy declines, what’s going to be problematic. What’s going to stop first and second, and if business stops, what is it going to be?
[00:25:23.120] – Jay Fidell
What’s it going to be on business B and C and D? And how are they all connected? And where does broadband fit in all of that? Where do you fit in all of that? What happens? And this is my big question. What happens to the ghost of Christmas future if you can’t do broadband, if we don’t have broadband? What what is life like here in these islands and here in our community? Can you talk about it?
[00:25:48.180] – Richard Zheng
Yeah, definitely. Internet and broadband is critical. Now, people realize how important this is because they need to work from home. My kids, in two days, are going to start school and learning, so they need broadband services. People had been building the Internet, but lots of times we are not ready for this.
[00:26:19.140] – Richard Zheng
You know, the bandwidth usage has been skyrocketing. I heard that in Europe, the government has asked Netflix to drop the video quality from high definition to low resolution because then that it will it just couldn’t handle it. So now everybody knows the Internet is super important, and we need to invest. The private companies and government needs to invest in broadband. The whole Internet infrastructure needs to adapt to this new reality since lots of people will be working from home.
[00:27:03.460] – Jay Fidell
You think we could be in a situation where we we have to give up resolution on our Internet and broadband. Such as in Europe with Netflix.
[00:27:15.440] – Richard Zheng
Yeah, I don’t know. I think some some nights we’re watching Netflix, the quality was not that great. Maybe it’s automatic dropped already.
[00:27:21.950] – Jay Fidell
It’s happening already.
[00:27:27.550] – Richard Zheng
Well, I’m starting to hope this an opportunity for people to realize the problem. You know, if I up the effort just like we need to produce the masks and other medical supplies, so same thing. Toilet paper.
[00:27:43.820] – Jay Fidell
Well, let me add this last thought. It’s really necessary, in my view, that we have broadband and the availability of the Internet in these dark times when we’re all shuttered and sheltered in because life would be very tough without those things. But the other element, and I think it’s worth mentioning, is that when we get out of this, when we see the light at the end of the tunnel, when we try to get back to normal, we’re going to need broadband more to knit the community and economy back up together. We cannot afford to lose it because if we lose it, then it’d be really hard to bring back our economy. Don’t you agree?
[00:28:30.020] – Richard Zheng
Yeah, definitely. The broadband Internet is not just for entertainment. It’s become essential for workforce. And people have been talking about telemedicine due to the pandemic. I heard of some machine where you can take blood pressure and do some basic testing. So those things can not only make us more efficient, but save people’s lives.
[00:28:58.290] – Jay Fidell
Yeah. Well, thank you to Richard Zheng, CEO of Servpac, a great company. I can tell you from personal experience, thank you so much for coming on our show and talking about these things. Well, all the best to you. Stay safe and all your people stay safe, Richard. Aloha.
[00:29:13.670] – Richard Zheng
|On March 24, 2020, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell issued an emergency “stay at home” order for the island of Oahu, only allowing employees who deliver essential services to leave their house and report to places of work. |
Since the City and County of Honolulu identifies Servpac as an essential service, we will continue operations and support for customers.
We already implement a Coronavirus policy in our office that protects employees and complies with CDC and federal guidelines. This includes on-site precautions such as cleaning of equipment and common areas, installing hand sanitizer stations, and having staff members work remotely.
Regardless of the ongoing situation, our support team is still available 24x7 for service assistance and inquiries including remote access and emergency on-site services.
Servpac understands the impact this will have on businesses for the foreseeable future. For questions and inquiries, please call 808-237-5001 or contact support. Mahalo and stay healthy!
As of March 13, 2020, COVID-19 is declared a national emergency by the federal government. This is an ongoing situation worldwide, and Servpac is taking the necessary steps to protect employees and ensure operations. Safety is a top priority for our customers and staff, and we’ve already taken on-site precautions such as cleaning of equipment and common areas, installing hand sanitizer stations, and encouraging staff members to stay home if sick.
Since companies are implementing remote policies to prevent the spread of this new illness, we’re committed to supporting all of our customers during this challenging time. If an outbreak occurs in Hawaii, we will continue operations with employees working remotely. Our support team will be available 24x7 for service assistance and remote work inquiries including:
- Phone Setup – IP phones can be used outside the office. Our phones utilize “plug and play” for easy use, but some require more time for set-up. If you need help with set-up, click here to schedule an appointment with our support team.
- Remote Access – Employees will need special tools to access their work from home for an extended period of time. Our support staff can help you make sure all VPNs, VDIs, softphones or other remote tools are configured for employee use.
- On-Site Service – While our physical office will be closed, our technicians will still be in the field and available for emergency on-site visits.
Servpac will continue to monitor the situation globally with COVID-19 and its impacts on Hawaii. We will inform our customers of any updates or changes to our service. Please call 808-237-5000 or contact our support team for assistance.
On January 20, 2020, ThinkTech Hawaii sat down with Servpac’s Richard Zheng (President), Charity Ching (Solutions Engineer), and Cory D’Orazio (Digital Marketing Manager) to discuss their PTC experience and brand new data center facility. Check out the video and transcript below:
— Full Interview Transcript —
Richard Zheng: So this is really exciting news for the businesses. And, you know, I even have a customer asking me – should I sign up now? They worry about when we open, they won’t have a space.
Jay Fidell: So, Cory, you know, I have a hard question for you. You know, we’ve been talking to a lot of people here at PTC. We asked them, you know, what they see in the future for telecommunications. And we get different answers. We had this off the record conversation with a fellow from Amazon that was very interesting. Amazon sees this as very important – a telecom for everybody. We live more of our lives, like it or not, in telecom than we ever did before. And the generations coming up – they’re going to live more of their lives and in telecom, connecting with everyone everywhere. And one guy we talked to a minute ago was into texting. It’s a texting service and not only on cell phones, but also landlines. And I suppose you can do that easily. So my question to you is where is telecom going in the world? I mean, you’re here so you can smell out the answer. We’re only on day one. Have you? Have you worked out the answer, Cory? Where is it going?
Cory D’Orazio: Yeah, I would say Richard may have a better answer.
Richard Zheng: So, you know, when you look at the progression of how companies really from phones, Internet, cloud and now finally data center. So when we see the future, we think cloud, these are going to be the future. Just like everybody talking now, you know, like content is king. Right now, you have cell phone pictures. Do you even save in your hard drive? Most people just save in their iCloud. You know, cloud is the future and that’s why we got a data center. We have fiber optic networks. And eventually, you know, I think the business side is going to follow the consumer. The consumer is already moving in the cloud, so businesses will do the same thing. Hawaii is about two to three years behind the mainland. Most businesses in Hawaii, they’re thinking about moving to the Cloud. Let’s move the e-mail server to the cloud. They have Office 365 or G-mail instead of changing servers and maintaining and managing it. So we see within two or three year terms, we’ll move the application and data over to the cloud. That’s why when we build data center, we want to not only provide a local cloud, give people low latency and local support packages them together will also help these medium, large business to migrate to the cloud. So that’s why we have a solid infrastructure. By the end of the day, a lot of these things don’t matter. Once you have the foundation right, but you need a solid foundation. Once we have that, you know, we’re going to focus on moving to the cloud to help customers move to the cloud and help Hawaii businesses move to cloud.
Jay Fidell: I’m learning about the cloud now and I don’t know what I would do without the cloud and sort of like a data center all in my laptop because I can have as much stuff as I want and it’s automatically safe in the cloud. And from a business point of view, that’s what the data center does. But you know what? We have to hear from a millennial or an almost millennial. Charity, what are you going to be demanding in terms of the future. Where do you want to see telecom get you? What do you want to see the cloud get you? What is going to be your demand 5 or 10 years from now?
Charity Ching: I would probably want things now or I want to ensure or have confidence in knowing that it’s like. For example, you’re thinking cloud, right? That definitely where it’s going. And so I, a personal example, have my cell phone and pictures on it and I don’t want to transfer it over to a hard drive since we can save it to the cloud. So what I want to do and make my life easier is to be able to just save all of my pictures to the cloud and not even think about it and just know at any given time in the future, I can go back to that and have access to it without even worrying about is it there? Is it really? Where is the cloud? I guess that’s another little thing, right? We want it now and ensure that our information is safe. And I can. Get to it whenever I need to. Technology continues to grow and what I want is whatever is available to make my life easier.
Jay Fidell: You know, there’s the Microsoft people have a cloud. Apple has a cloud. Amazon has a cloud. All these companies have a cloud. Do I need to have a cloud with all of them? Because sometimes I can’t remember what cloud I left it with. So what do I do? Cory.
Cory D’Orazio: So Amazon, Microsoft – there are lots of big cloud providers. I would say if you are looking into having a cloud service, I recommend a local private cloud hosting service because especially if you have a lot of data that’s being hosted in the cloud, you want it confidential and don’t want other people to have access to. If you’re a local business or someone here in Hawaii, go with someone like Servpac who provides a more private hosting service. It’s more secure, more safe. And you know that your data is available locally in the right hands.
Richard Zheng: I mean we’re really excited about attending this event, present our company to the world and talk about where we going forward. You know we have all these clouds and it’s going to be a multi-cloud because one cloud cannot service everybody’s needs. So you need to have different clouds including local, Amazon, Azure, and Google. But we’re here to help people navigate through the process to be able to say if this application is better to run Microsoft or AWS. There’ll be other applications that have low latency. High, iOps. You want to run locally in Hawaii, which you know, by the way, we have a call for you.
Richard Zheng: So we want to be the integrator to give customers the whole turnkey solution. At the end of the day, customers care about service. They don’t care what backend or which cloud to use. They want be able to access information right away at their fingertips without thinking.
Jay Fidell: I take it you guys agree with that. Anything there you want to disagree with, speak now? Okay. I’m sold Richard. We got to talk. Thank you, Richard, Charity, and Cory. Great to talk to you guys. Aloha.
On Wednesday, January 29, Hawaii Public Radio’s ByteMarks Cafe invited Servpac’s Richard Zheng, President and Founder, and Kat Windham, Director of Operations to discuss the brand new data center facility. Listen and read the full interview below:
Burt Lum: Welcome back to ByteMarks Cafe. And of course, I’m happy to have Richard Zheng and Kat Windham. And they’re here to talk about Servpac. But Richard is the president and of course, Kat is the director of operations and they are one of Hawaii’s premier data centers. Now, you know, I want to welcome you both to the Byte Marks cafe.
Kat Windham: Thank you. Thanks for having us.
Burt Lum: Now, before we get into the kind of the details. Well, first off, I want to give you Kat, the opportunity to share with us a little bit about what the announcement that was made at the recent Pacific Telecommunications Conference, which a lot of us attended last week. And it was kind of a convening, it is an annual event. You know, a lot of the the big bandwidth folks, data center folks, the big deal, the content folks. I mean, all the folks out of the whole Pacific sort of region, Pacific Rim, attend this conference. So it was a pretty major event. And of course, you guys had an announcement. Kat won’t you share a little bit about that.
Kat Windham: So we’re making a major announcement. Servpac is going to be opening a data center in June.
Burt Lum: And where is this located?
Kat Windham: This is in Mililani Tech park.
Burt Lum: Richard, you tell us a little bit about what the Servpac does, because it’s been around for a little while. Right. And I remember chatting with you over at PTC and it was like one of the I sometimes claimed that PTC is like a well-kept secret, but Servpac is a pretty well-kept secret.
Richard Zheng: Thanks for having us. So Servpac started in 2004 and we have been providing telecom services and managed services for businesses in Hawaii. We looked at the market and have been providing phones in that cloud, and we saw a need for data centers in Hawaii. That’s why we look at what the options are and we think that is with the opportunity here to build a large data center in Mililani Tech Park.
Burt Lum: Kat, the businesses that you currently are like what the phone company provides, or describe some of the services you deliver
Kat Windham: Okay. So we do Voice Over IP, so Voice Over Internet. We are also one of the few providers that can deploy our own fiber, so we have our own fiber infrastructure. We also do cloud services and we just got into managed services and I.T. So it’s a very exciting time for us. And of course, now this milestone of us building this data center is huge.
Burt Lum: Yeah. No, this is great now. Richard. So in terms of the details of the data center, I mean, this is in Mililani Tech Park and this is a building that you recently acquired. Tell us a little bit about that.
Richard Zheng: Yeah, so this property – the land is five acres. And there’s already a building existing there. It’s a thirty thousand square foot building. And what are we going to do is we’re going to make half of the building a data center, the other half we’re going to use for disaster recovery for businesses.
Burt Lum: And in terms of that’s a disaster recovery, what would that piece of the property have in it versus the data center?
Richard Zheng: That’s a good question. So if you look at Hawaii, majority of the businesses, like 90 percent of them, are on the South Shore of Oahu and really close to the ocean. If we have a hurricane or tsunami, a major natural disaster, businesses need some space to work. You’re talking about bank needs to process the checks and insurance company to make payments. So lots of businesses need a physical space so they can go there. And what’s nice about our space is it has generators, cafeteria, and shower so people can stay there as long as they need to get work done.
Burt Lum: And, you know, in terms of the businesses that would leverage, the disaster recovery space, would they have have perhaps encountered something kind of catastrophic? I mean, you talk about a major event that now they can’t work in their space, so they have to work in your space.
Richard Zheng: Right. It can be a major natural disaster that shuts down the whole area or could be a localized event for the building. For example, the road gets cut or they couldn’t get into the existing building.
You know, threats or those kind of things where they need a secondary space to go to work. Lots of people thinking, you know, why not just go to a hotel and rent a conference room to work in. The problem is the space needs to be very reliable – it needs power, it needs Internet and not just any internet because business these days worry about hacking and normally they don’t allow to access information from any random IP. So in our case, you know, every year they can come in and do a drill and test it to make sure the process is working so they know if they have a need, they can come in and everything is ready for them.
Burt Lum: So Kat, in terms of the companies that would potentially come in, would they in this disaster recovery area, would you describe it as primarily an office space or do they perhaps back their servers up in the disaster recovery?
Kat Windham: We will have hot desks and we’re gonna have private suites.
Burt Lum: Yeah. In terms of when you say hot desk, what does that mean?
Kat Windham: Right now we have a space and there’s multiple desks. It’s really nice, it’s lined up and that’s what we imagine renting out.
Burt Lum: And then there would be, it would be already Internet connected?
Richard Zheng: Right. So these are cubicles that are wired already, have internet drops if somebody wants to secure their connection. Also, we have Wi-Fi available. So for Internet, you know, there are multiple service providers. I mentioned about generators – multiple generators – would make sure the system is always available for these users.
Burt Lum: It all sounds like, you know, even for someone that’s maybe starting up and it’s not quite a it’s not a disaster recovery scenario, but if they needed some space to really work on their project. I mean, this would be a perfect space to do it in.
Richard Zheng: Yeah, actually, that’s a good suggestion. You know, we were thinking about that. You know, when there’s no disaster, the space is empty, and we can make it a co-working space. Innovation and the right kind of things.
Burt Lum: So there is some flexibility, I guess, with how you want to leverage the space?
Richard Zheng: Right. Because right now our focus has been building the data center. So this is space for disaster recovery in terms of using as a co-working space. You know, for people that live in North Shore and commute to downtown, this would be perfect for them.
Burt Lum: Oh, yeah. It’s right in Mililani Tech Park. So I do want to talk to you more about the data center part of the build. Well, hold that thought. We’ll be right back after this short break to continue our conversation with Richard Zheng and Kat Windham from Servpac about data centers. And of course, we’ll talk about the Internet. This is ByteMarks Cafe. Support for ByteMarks Cafe comes from the HP, our local talk show fund, which helps Hawaii Public Radio sustain and grow its locally produced talk shows. Mahalo to contribute her bush consulting. Welcome back. This is ByteMarks Cafe. I’m Burt Lum. If you’re just joining us, we’re talking to Richard Zheng and Kat Windham from Servpac about infrastructure that serves up the Internet. Of course, right before the break, we were talking about the new build that Richard and Kat, you folks are now currently got all your resources pointing to. And we talk a little bit about the the disaster recovery portion. But the kind of the main thing now is the data center. And that and you said that, you know, this is probably one of the few data centers that’s that’s in a protected zone. I mean, it’s it’s you know, it’s not subjective subject to tsunamis and that kind of natural occurrence or natural disaster. But in terms of what exactly does 30,000 square feet of data center offer Hawaii? I mean, why is this important to Hawaii in terms of getting connectivity or getting their content or applications right?
Richard Zheng: Yeah, data center is a very important component of the Internet infrastructure, because most people don’t realize they just use their iPhone or talk to Alexa. They’re getting information, which is great, but in the back hand, these big companies all have these giant server farms somewhere in the Internet. Actually, the closer to the user, the better. So, you know, if the infrastructure is you know, this data center is not working, then they couldn’t serve their content. That means when you talk to Alexa, they couldn’t give you the answer. When you look at the iPhone, you couldn’t see the pictures.
Burt Lum: And, you know, the example of like e-sports is also another one where it’s it requires low latency. And low latency means that it has to be quick to respond to the server that’s serving up that particular e-sports or application. Right. And, you know, one of the problems that we have in Hawaii is that a lot of those e-sports games are located somewhere else.
Richard Zheng: Right. People always say we’re lucky living in Hawaii. But I guess it is unlucky to access the mainland servers, it takes about a 60 to 70 millisecond latency. And this is just physics. There is nothing you can do. It doesn’t matter how much money you put in or how much pipe. So, if in the case of ESPN and other games like the first person shooter, it’s gonna kill you if there is a 60 second delay.
Burt Lum: Now, in terms of streaming content, everybody goes home to watch your Netflix or, you know, things like Amazon Prime or, you know, CBS Plus or whatever. Well, how does the data center play in terms of serving up that kind of content?
Richard Zheng: So for streaming video, normally there is a way to buffer the traffic. But, you know, for other applications such as interactive applications, let’s say, you know, for businesses, lots of people go into the route of using virtual desktop. When you access that content, it is very important to have low latency. And also another application would be we would download large files like pictures. You know, I know lots of engineers firms use trying to use AWS for the engineers 3D rendering or those applications. The latency can be a really big problem for these business applications.
Burt Lum: So, in terms of your data center, do you envision it being primarily for local businesses in Hawaii or for the nationals and multinationals? It’ll be the Googles or the Facebooks or the AWS’s, or any of those national brand names, right?
Richard Zheng: Right. So that’s a really good question. So the first priority is local business. Because there are lots of local hospitals or banks. And they need to store the information locally so the user can access fast and reliable. You know, people always say, OK, there is fiber to the mainland. I can put my content in the mainland. But what if there’s a fiber cut like what happened a few years ago in Asia.
Richard Zheng: There are big earthquakes that have cut some undersea cables and affected many people. So in our case, for the fiber cut, you’re talking about a month of repair time. So that’s why you do need to store information locally in Hawaii. So the primary target is the local business. Of course, we try to attract the Mainland providers. And a lot of people move their business applications, too, like AWS or Azure. We want to bring those providers to Hawaii so we can provide low latency applications.
Burt Lum: So even though, you know, we hear a lot about Azure, we hear about A.W.S., do those servers reside in Hawaii or somewhere else?
Richard Zheng: Yeah. They reside somewhere else because normally for these giant companies they build these large data centers themselves and put a server over there. So the closest one to Hawaii is still the West Coast.
Burt Lum: Now, is there would there be any interest as a result of your building this data center space for servers like what AWS builds to locate at your data center?
Richard Zheng: Yeah, that’s one of the goals. We want to track these large content providers or CSPs, bring them to Hawaii so people can really send the application between the Mainland and Hawaii at any time. So if you have low latency applications you can store in Hawaii but you feel you want some larger data to put on the Mainland as a backup, you can do that too.
Burt Lum: So now, there’s other data centers in Hawaii. You got DR Fortress, you got Endeavour. You got AlohaNap folks. They’re doing something similar. They need to attract the same kind of local customers. They’re trying to attract the name brands as well. So is there continual need for more data centers? What’s the demand for data center space?
Richard Zheng: Yeah, there’s actually there’s a big demand for data centers. IT used to be all the enterprises running the data centers – the banks, hospitals – their own data center. But as anything technology related, it’s getting more complex. And a lot of these enterprises look at the market and they say, “I’m doing banking, I’m running a hospital. Why do I need to be in the data center business? Why do I need to buy my own data center?” So they would rather give the headache to the provider and not worry about all the details.
Burt Lum: Now, you mentioned fiber, and I want you to kind of share the your perspective on on connectivity in terms of especially data center access fiber versus wireless. And just so people understand the concept of connectivity via High-Speed Fiber versus going wireless.
Richard Zheng: Yeah. So that the fiber and the wireless is both a great technology, but the applications are a little different. Everybody wants to go mobile. People want to access information any way they want. That’s why you see the big push for 5G going wireless. That’s great for the consumer access but once you go to the network, the backbone fiber is the way to go because of fiber’s reliability and capacity. Just wireless just couldn’t deliver.
Burt Lum: Yeah. In terms of this, it’s sort of next phase of Servpac. I mean how do you see bringing all the right customers into the data center?
Kat Windham: Right now we’re doing some marketing campaigns and not just that, it’s really word of mouth. Like you said, Servpac at one point was a pretty good kept secret. So, you know, we’ve been doing name recognition marketing, and our service is what people know us by. So I think that’s going to take us to that next step.
Burt Lum: Now, Richard, in the last 15 seconds, can you tell me what a Tier 4 is?
Richard Zheng: So there’s a company called the Uptime Institute to classify the data in different levels. So Tier 1 is the basic, Tier 4 is the highest level. So what are we gonna do is Tier 4 which is highly redundant in case anything is broken. And we have you know, what data centers don’t.
Burt Lum: So where can people find more information about Servpac?
Richard Zheng: Servpac.com
Burt Lum: Very good, I’ll put that up on our show notes. Richard Zheng is the President and of course, Kat Windham is the Director of Operations over at Servpac.
Burt Lum: I want to thank you both for joining us today.
Kat Windham: Thank you for having us.
Richard Zheng: Thanks, Burt.
HONOLULU, HI, JANUARY 17, 2020 — Servpac Inc., Hawaii’s Largest Independent Telecom Provider, announces a new data center in Mililani Tech Park. Known as MTP, the new data center facility offers state-of-the-art colocation, disaster recovery, and other interconnection services available to new and existing customers. The new facility helps businesses grow their data capacity and enable global businesses to expand operations to Hawaii.
This 30,000 sq. ft facility is located in Mililani Tech Park on Central Oahu. The Tier 4 design data center delivers a 2N redundant critical power and cooling system for guaranteed 99.999% uptime. This is a carrier-neutral facility with multiple fiber entrances, offering access to multiple providers and Servpac’s fiber optic network. Located 10 miles inland and 850 feet above sea level, the data center offers an ideal location for business continuity and disaster recovery operations. This state-of-the-art data center facility will expand Servpac’s offerings to the Hawaii market by providing customers a secure and reliable infrastructure to support their needs.
“The opening of this data center marks a major milestone for Servpac’s commitment towards local businesses,” explains President and Founder Richard Zheng. “As a local company, we plan to invest 30 million dollars in the next five years towards building this state-of-the-art telecom and managed network ecosystem for businesses in Hawaii.”
The data center offers Disaster Recovery office space with 100 hot desks and 20 private suites, available on-demand for local businesses with back-up power. On-site amenities for customers include a lounge room, kitchen, and conference rooms with 24×7 access. The Mililani location offers quick access for local businesses needing immediate protection from disruptive events such as hurricanes, tsunamis, and power outages. Located on a 5-acre lot, the facility offers expansion space based on customer demand.
“We’re capable of building 150,000 sq ft of colocation and disaster recovery space for customers,” Zheng said. “Our facility will become the largest data center in Hawaii, offering world-class infrastructure and the best solutions for customers.”
Servpac, headquartered in Honolulu, is Hawaii’s largest CLEC (competitive local exchange carrier) providing innovative and integrated telecom, managed IT and data center solutions for Hawaii businesses. Established in 2004, Servpac offers data center colocation, fiber connectivity, private Cloud hosting, business VoIP, and managed network for businesses – all supported by a dedicated fiber network and 24x7x365 customer support.
For more information, please call Cory D’Orazio at 808-237-5000 or e-mail email@example.com.