GTT: A strong backbone: moving IT into the cloud – Rick Calder

For every banking institution, any movement of its internal services and data storage to the cloud is always presaged by a single question: how secure will the network that supports it be? Future Banking talks to Rick Calder, CEO of GTT, about how the company's networking services are providing the backbone by which banks can support their move into the cloud.

Founded in 1998, GTT has grown from a small network provider based in Virginia to one of the largest cloud networking providers in the world. Through the operation of its Tier 1 internet network, the firm is able to provide services ranging from secure, high-speed internet access, to global Ethernet and MPLS VPNs, as well as a full suite of managed services and global voice solutions.

"When I joined GTT, the company had really emerged as a challenger brand," says Richard Calder, the firm's CEO. "We had the ability to provide cloud networking services to multinational clients, anywhere in the world and any application in the cloud, and provide secure and private connectivity through our global network service. The role of the network becomes such a critical component of that and, as more people realise that, our position in the market will become even stronger."

Since Calder was appointed as GTT's CEO in 2007, the firm has seen its annual revenue shoot up from $50 million to almost ten times that figure.

In that sense, GTT fundamentally differs from other 'cloud solutions partners' such as Amazon, Rackspace or Google, which largely just provide applications for use within public and private date centres. When a client decides to move their applications from their proprietary data centre to the cloud, they choose between those companies as the end destination for that service. Once that decision is made, GTT facilitates the migration via its secure network, thereby enhancing the client's performance and saving them money.

"We're the connectivity option," Calder explains. "We are a better way to reach that cloud, whether it's via public internet or through private secure cloud services. GTT has built its network effectively around this cloud ecosystem to be able to interconnect seamlessly on a private secure basis or through the public internet to any cloud application that's out there."

The network

Transferring a large number of data and IT services to the cloud requires a reliable and secure backbone network. Luckily for GTT's customers, the company owns and operates one of the largest IP networks on the planet. "We are consistently ranked one of the top five internet backbones in the world," says Calder. "As a function of that, we enjoy extensive reach when it comes to maintaining network stands and points-of-presence. GTT has built relationships with over 2,000 network partners over the past 17 years; we can actively connect any one of our clients anywhere in the world."

Overall, GTT maintains 17 international offices, servicing over 4,000 clients with over 250 points-of-presence across six continents. With these statistics in mind, Calder believes that the company is uniquely placed to compete against some of the better-known names throughout the telecoms sector.

"We think we really are the challenger brand that can credibly take on the BTs, and the AT&Ts and the NTTs of this world," he explains. Fundamentally, Calder attributes this to GTT's corporate value system. "All of our employees work according to three simple principles: simplicity, speed and agility. We want to be easy to do business with, while also remaining responsive, fast and always striving to say 'yes' to our clients. We've found that has really resonated in our multinational target market."

Keep it under control

In most cases, GTT does not pitch its services to potential multinational clients on the understanding that all of the latter's network should immediately be moved over to its control. Rather, Calder and his colleagues fully accept that most of their new customers are used to divvying up key services between multiple providers. That said, it doesn't mean that GTT will shy away from trying to win over the whole business given half a chance.

"We generally earn a piece of the business and then advance very rapidly from that position, because of the values we hold as a company," explains Calder. "Each of our big multinational clients has a large, multifaceted team running their account, headed by a client account manager who is leading a dedicated service delivery team. Overall, we have three network operations centres for technical support - Seattle and Austin in the US, and Belfast, Northern Ireland. We've found that, over time, our customers really value this model because, more often than not, they haven't had these sorts of teams working with them on such a scale before."

Keep the defences up

This model of dedicated account teams is complemented by GTT's commitment to operational security. The company was the first of its kind to achieve full PCI/CISP compliance, and currently holds a key leadership position on the PCI Security Standards Council. Furthermore, the company extends a lengthy portfolio of compliance services to their clients, from helping them develop a PCI compliance plan, to continuous network monitoring and assessment, wherein daily log reviews and reporting allow a quick and effective response to security threats.

Overall, the impression left is of a company carefully placing itself at the dead centre of a seismic change in how banks approach the basic storage of customer's data. "Our large banking clients are telling us that they need to move to the cloud because of the compelling economics involved," Calder explains. "Moving their IT applications and software services on to that platform allows compelling cost and scale advantages."

Move at pace

The reason that it hasn't happened sooner has been because of the historical security imperatives that accompany banking; in short, the security of the network that governs the supply and dispatch of customer transaction data needs to be affirmed before anything can be transferred to the cloud. It is in shoring up that fundamental principle where GTT believes it can help to transform the way banking institutions approach data storage for years to come.

"If I lose my application outside the four walls of my enterprise, I need a very secure networking partner," says Calder. "In that sense, I think we are the perfect complement to this trend of moving IT out into the cloud. We're a key part of that migration, and we see it as something that everyone needs. We clearly see that as something that's going to fuel the growth of our business and provide secure connectivity for our clients moving forward."

Rick Calder, CEO of GTT.