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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:

Full Interview w/ Servpac’s Richard Zheng (President and Founder) and Kat Windham (Director of Operations)

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.