Clint Heiden

Chief Revenue Officer, QTS Data Centers, Co-Founder and Member, QTS Richmond NAP

Technology evolution and growth in data is undeniable. Recently a very successful inaugural NAP Summit concluded in Richmond. As a co-founder of the new NAP located in the eastern seaboard of United States, can you share with us the importance of the NAP to you personally and to QTS?

This event signified the first-ever effort to highlight a region rather than a commercially oriented agenda.  Our focus was on job creation, drawing a talented workforce, enticing business relocation and startups in the region and finally the overall awareness to the Internet ecosystem that Henrico County was positioned to be the next major global interconnection hub.  All of the ingredients were present in the region, but awareness of the potential within the region was low if not non-existent.  QTS did not step into this leadership role for commercial reasons. We are a company driven first and foremost by a commitment to community, employees and users of the Internet — regardless of commercial interests.  We do believe that there is opportunity for QTS through this growth, but also believe there is equal opportunity for the entire ecosystem including other regional data centers.  We are proponents of an open Internet and someone had to step up to the significant investment to start this long overdue awareness.

The QTS Richmond NAP represents the most profound change that will impact and expand the convergence of everything associated with Internet and development possibly for decades to come. Can you highlight the strategy for the growth and the future of the new NAP?

For me it’s the blueprint for how to work with other regions and help them transition to the world of digitization and understand what it can mean for their economy.  I must admit, being the pioneer of such a venture was very scary.  It hadn’t been done before and we were asking VIPs and attendees to come to a destination that required significant travel.  Attendees came from Europe, Latin and South America and the West Coast of the U.S.  The split of local vs. remote attendees was probably 50/50, indicating the desire to hear from Internet luminaries on what this could mean elsewhere in the world.

Can you share the challenges (if any) and opportunities that the companies advocating for the new NAP will face? 

Again, awareness Ð the ingredients were present.  Convincing incredibly busy VIP speakers that would be critical to the Summit’s success was a month’s long task and took tremendous effort.  We are all very busy and asking for time at the Summit took many conversations and thoughtful dialogue on why it was so important.  In the end, we received the acceptance of every VIP we targeted.  I’m not sure other conferences have ever achieved that, even when doing them in more convenient or standard conference destinations like Las Vegas, Chicago, London, Sao Paulo, etc.  Secondly, we had to secure a large audience.  We were worried when we started this effort we might attract 25 local unenthused attendees.  However, as momentum grew and news spread we ended up with 50 VIPs and over 500 enterprise attendees.

What is your vision for the Richmond NAP, 5-10 years from now? What do you want the NAP to be remembered as for generations to come?

I’m incredibly proud to be associated with this event and what it will come to mean for Henrico County and other cities that follow the blueprint.  As we look forward 5+ years, I think we will view Richmond as one of the great global interconnection points and one that helps to achieve Internet diversity and hence Internet sustainability.  As Microsoft and Facebook both noted on the Subsea Cable Panel, reliance on Ashburn and other hubs like it present potentially disastrous consequences.  Ashburn will never lose its importance, but we need to ensure that other hubs gain similar notoriety, scale and importance.  Sites like Richmond are a “once in a lifetime” opportunity and I could not keep myself from giving everything I had to help to take it to the next level.

In closing, as time moves forward Richmond will assume a permanent place in history as one of the most important new developments for the Internet.  Over time it will attract more subsea cables (a third is already landing Ð DUNANT), businesses, peering, jobs and diversity.  It should not go without mention that this development also brings with it, in many cases, decreased cost of connectivity, lower latency to markets such as Atlanta, Philadelphia, New York, and points west in the U.S. and less complexity in routing traffic.  It will also offer the same advantages for traffic moving from the U.S. to Europe, Latin and South America, Africa and Asia. While not significantly impacting Ashburn, it will become an Ashburn bypass.