Deep Dive with Brendan Press, CCO Gulf Bridge International

Deep Dive with Brendan Press, CCO Gulf Bridge International

Brendan Press, CCO Gulf Bridge International

What would you describe as your most memorable achievement in the data centre industry?

Having worked in the telecoms for over 20 years, I have witnessed a dramatic change in the industry, due to the year-on-year increases in demand for data across the world. In terms of data centres specifically though, I am – and Gulf Bridge International (GBI) is – a relatively new entrant in the data centre world. GBI is beginning our journey to offer data centre services to customers and, in time, our goal is to be an owner of our own data centres.

Our most memorable achievement to date is working with a key data centre partner here in Qatar, MEEZA, to offer a fully hosted, end-to-end connectivity solution for an OTT provider that’s the owner of some of the world’s most popular social media applications. With consumers demanding more content than ever before, we are supporting the demands of hyperscalers and OTT content providers by providing direct remote peering in the region – it’s a revolutionary concept here and an incredibly exciting project to be a part of.

What first made you consider a career in technology?

While it might sound cliché, I strongly believe in the power of technology to transform people’s lives. Technology – and communications in particular – is a dynamic industry. I find the fact it changes so quickly, in order to improve our day-to-day lives, very compelling. The intersection of technology and communication forms the basis of how human beings interact with each other and make sense of the world, so being part of the process of making this happen is a key reason why I chose this industry.

What style of management philosophy do you employ with your current position?

I think one of the most crucial things for businesses is setting a vision and then building a strategy around that goal to make it a reality. At GBI, it’s my responsibility is to ensure our people all work together across the company to be successful in achieving the goals that we set out.

The industry we work in relies heavily on monitoring numbers and statistics and there are many financial goals that businesses need to meet. But you can do this in a fun and inspiring way. To achieve this, working towards a common goal is key as that’s what grounds employees and helps makes sure people feel happy and inspired by the work that they are doing.

As well as establishing a common goal, I believe there are three other important elements to consider when managing a team:

  1. Executives should always lead by example.
  2. You should give credit where credit is due and make sure all feedback is constructive.
  3. Ensuring that everybody knows the importance of their role in the company and has a clear understanding of their responsibilities means operations will run smoothly.

What do you think is the current hot talking point within the data centre space?

Globally, the cost of energy is dominating conversations in regard to data centres. Data centres are huge consumers of energy, so the industry is feeling the impact of rising costs, with it even affecting the continuity of services in some cases. But this is also an opportunity for data centres to review and evolve how energy is managed and deployed.

Elsewhere, I would say there’s an important conversation around how data centres are moving away from being superstructures to more locally present. It is a significant shift away from supporting the needs of cities rather than countries. For example, current investment trends in subsea cables are driven by demand for high-quality connectivity, itself due to the growing number of localised data centres. And, in the Middle East we are uniquely equipped to deliver low-cost, highly scalable data centre availability.

How do you deal with stress and unwind outside the office?

Sport is a big thing for me outside of work – when I am back in the UK, I run with my local London running club which I have been a part of for many years now. Even in the heat of the Middle East, I run long-distance several times a week. For me, it is a great activity to relieve stress, stimulate new thinking and see what is important. Music is a big part of my life too, having been part of a band in my youth, so running also offers me the opportunity to put my headphones in and catch up with my bass guitar roots.

What do you currently identify as the major areas of investment in your industry?

The major areas of investment in the industry at present are to do with providing fully integrated solutions for content application cloud providers, ensuring that customers enjoy the full potential of diverse and assured connectivity of services. Put simply, it is about working to deliver an end-to-end full package, with the integration of connectivity to data centres being a big part of this. That’s why establishing strategic relationships with data centres partners has been key for GBI.

In GBI’s case, it is assurance and diversity that we are investing in. For example, we announced we are diversifying the North Route of our subsea cable meshed Smart Network through Iraq. The North Route, which now also connects the Gulf to Europe through Iraq, will leverage a wider range of terrestrial networks established by GBI and our partners. By circumventing the Arab peninsula completely, it shortens latency significantly, providing that assurance and enhancing the resilience of Internet connectivity to and from the region.

What are the region-specific challenges you encounter in your role?

Competitiveness in the industry is primarily driven by being able to offer the lowest possible latency. This relies on reducing the distance between the data centre and the end-user, which can present a unique challenge. It can be achieved either by routing subsea cables along the most direct path, or if there is an opportunity, by using a combination of subsea and terrestrial cables to establish a shorter path.

What’s more, to provide a competitive last-mile solution for customers wanting access to data centres, GBI has several strategic partnerships. For example, GBI are providing solutions to a world-recognised OTT provider and have partnered with MEEZA, the data centre service provider in Qatar as well as using Vodafone Qatar’s local network infrastructure to do so. At GBI, we want to offer fully hosted, end-to-end solutions and, with our partners, we can jointly invest in this end goal.

What changes to your job role have you seen in the last year and how do you see these developing in the coming months?

Meeting growing user demands continues to shape the telecoms and data centre industries. There is a clear need for investment from a multitude of players to support the current ecosystem. The good news is, investment in the establishment of data centres and high-quality cables to guarantee sustained speed and quality is flourishing, but this needs to remain at a rapid pace.

At GBI, we are increasingly working with hyperscalers, cloud, content and gaming companies directly to provide services based on GBI-owned infrastructure and partner capabilities. So, beyond customers in the carrier business, we are developing important relationships with new players. To offer fully hosted, end-to-end connectivity solutions to all the customers we serve, providing service assurance through diversity and low-latency routes is of utmost importance.

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