Brian McConnell, CEO of InterOptic, spent several years at Tellabs and got to know the fiber optic world quite well.
As the head of a $300m division of Tellabs, McConnell introduced a fiber transport technology that allowed companies to transport a significantly higher amount of data through a fiber optic cable. The business took off and captured a significant market share in a competitive market. Eventually he left Tellabs to start a company that optimized mobile voice and data quality for 4G and 5G networks.
In October of last year, McConnell was summoned back to the fiber optic world when he became the chief at InterOptic, which produces fiber optic transceivers that plug into name-brand routers for data interconnection. It’s here that his experience in fiber optic technology has combined with his ability to market and scale up innovative technologies against well-funded competitors.
McConnell chatted with Chief Executive about the big challenges the company faces, how Internet of Things (IoT) will drive his market in the coming years and more. Below are excerpts from this conversation.
How does InterOptic challenge the well-established behemoths in this competitive market?
We basically focus on Fortune 500 and government institutions that have a high need to manage the bandwidth, interoperability and complexity in their IT networks. So what’s happening is you’ve got a lot of data centers that are focused on supporting the cloud. More and more increasing bandwidth needs are occurring, including a requirement for increased speeds, better uptime and reliability, and the efficient transfer of data and more processing power. So as that has transpired, our customers have traditionally purchased the Cisco, Juniper, HP, Arista branded products, these companies are what we call the OEMs, original equipment manufacturers.
We go to those customers and explain to them that there’s technology available that basically is OEM equivalent. One of the values that we can provide to those customers is that our quality is superior to some of the OEM solutions that exist out there. What I mean by that is everything that we do is to provide the customer optical transceivers to their network, which requires us to program each of those devices to ensure that they are compatible and work in the proper application of those OEM routers.
And thereby, they are ensured that when they get a device from InterOptic, it’s 100% tested before it goes into their network. A lot of the OEMs basically do batch type testing. They don’t do 100% testing before it goes into the field. So that’s one additional value that we provide. In addition to that obviously our cost points are much lower, so they get a huge financial benefit and can save on their optical transceiver needs.
What are some of the big challenges InterOptic is facing?
The early days of the transceivers were focused on a 100 MB interfaces and then it transitioned into higher speed devices like 1 GB and later 10 GB. Today, a lot of customers are starting to deploy 25, 40 and 100 GB devices in their network. We have been very responsive in responding to their needs and are able to provide the higher speed transceivers to help them, optimize their network and reduce their cost per bit. One of the hurdles that we’ve had is that it’s always safer to purchase from the OEM. So what we do during the sales process is we allow our customers, our key target customer to actually take some of our devices, do testing in their network or in a lab environment to prove that our technology is equivalent to the OEM device update they are currently using. So that’s one of the larger hurdles that we’ve had to help customers walk through.
What are the big opportunities you see in the marketplace?
This market is continuing to grow very rapidly. It’s a large market. It’s in the multiple billions of dollars. One of the key drivers of this technology growth is going to be some of the networks that are evolving from 4G to 5G in the wireless space, as well as [the emergence of] IoT devices, the ability to pay for more intelligence to occur at the customer end points. That data is going to be transverse through the network so that these devices have the capability to provide artificial intelligence and the networks become much smarter in the way they provide data connections… As the network progresses into 5G and IoT, that is driving a huge demand for the IT network, which in turn is creating a huge demand for the transceivers that we provide.