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Trade potential could open doors for businesses in state

Venture Technologies new data center opens for business

JACKSON — Last month, Venture Technologies made history by opening the state’s only commercially accessible tier one data center, providing Mississippi businesses and government with managed services for delivering information to end users.

“In Mississippi, major companies that don’t have in-house data centers have been hosted out of state, in cities like Dallas or Atlanta,” said Dr. Angeline “Angie” Dvorak, CEO of the Mississippi Technology Alliance. “Now Mississippi customers can expect the highest level of reliability with this data center, right in their own state.”

Continuous network operations for organizations, regardless of size, will be managed and monitored by skilled network engineers around the clock at the 5,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility located in the Jackson State University e-Center, formerly the Allstate Call Center, in south Jackson. The data center was completely built and engineered by Mississippi companies.

During the grand opening Feb. 19-20, more than 300 people toured the data center, which features three-tiered secure physical access; redundant high-speed Internet connections; redundant firewall, virus protection and intrusion detection systems; redundant servers and storage; and advanced backup and recovery systems. Its raised-floor access provides easy entry to cabling and components and the under-floor airflow from two Liebert air control units provides constant room temperature. The physical and electronic security of the data center is “like Fort Knox,” noted an observer.

“Obviously, it’s impractical for every business to create this environment on their premises,” said Gerard Gibert, CDP, president and CEO of Ridgeland-based Venture Technologies, which is online at www.ventech.com. “But it is practical and feasible for us, as a service provider, to leverage this investment over multiple organizations.

Additionally, the low cost and availability of high-speed bandwidth through conventional leased lines and wireless connectivity is enabling us to offer services that were previously cost prohibitive.”

Managing a company’s information technology infrastructure enables organizations to concentrate on their core business, Gibert said.

“Our goal is to ensure that customers have access to information continuously at a predictable fixed cost,” he said. “Technology has advanced to the point that it is not necessary for a company to invest in a lot of expensive hardware, software and human resources to establish and maintain their information systems. Our costs for providing these services are typically less than the salary of a network administrator.”

New York-based International Data Corp., an industry research organization, projected that spending on data center services will increase 92% by 2004, to annual revenues of $7.8 billion.

“We saw that customers in Mississippi, Alabama and even Tennessee were having to seek these services from out of state vendors with tier one facilities, usually in tier one cities such as Houston and Miami,” he said. “There wasn’t anything like this in the area and we felt that customers were more comfortable subscribing to services provided by local organizations.”

Already, about 30 organizations have subscribed to the various data center services and another 20 companies are in the decision-making phase, Gibert said.

“We believe that in the very near future, we’ll have 50 to 60 customers subscribing to various managed services,” he said. “One of the major benefits of subscribing to a managed service model like this is the ramp-up time is extremely rapid. You don’t have to spend a lot of time designing and building infrastructures and hiring people, because we have it up and running. You literally sign up for our services, pay our fees, log on and compute.”

Within five years, Gibert predicts that data center service revenue will account for one-third of Venture Technologies’ income.

Gibert and Norman Katool, CPA, established Venture Technologies, an IT services company, in 1986. The company provides a variety of solutions, including network design and integration, remote network management, e-business services, network security, IP telephony, document management and Web-based application development to private and public sector clients across the Southeast at its locations in Birmingham, Dallas, Memphis, Nashville and Ridgeland.

“In the 16-year history of Venture, there have been many milestones, but perhaps none is as significant as this project,” said Gibert. “Our vision is consistent with the vision of a lot of technology industry leaders. The Internet, in general, is becoming a digital utility, where computing power storage and other managed information services could be accessed to operate businesses. We felt like there was an opportunity and need for that in the area and we wanted to be the first to bring it to the market.”

Gibert calls the data center services “insurance for data.”

“Virtually everyone maintains some form of insurance on their valuable assets — homes, automobiles and other personal possessions,” he said. “Isn’t information really the most valuable asset an organization owns? Yet most of us have little or no protection for our information assets. What would you do if you suddenly lost access to your precious data? What would it cost to be without this data for an hour? A day? A month? Would your business survive?”

MTA worked very hard to bring Venture Technologies to the table, said Dvorak. “We knew the company had the capacity and skills, and even though there was an opportunity to recruit a tier one data center provider from outside the state, we wanted a Mississippi company to be the first,” she said.

Venture Technologies received no state or federal funding to establish the data center, said Dvorak.

“It was totally funded with private money,” she said. “But Venture Technologies built the only commercially accessible tier one data center so the state could invest its money in a technology incubator to help birth more technology companies.”

MTA recently leased 25,000 square feet in the JSU E-Center for use as a technology incubator.

“By being able to incubate some companies and hopefully provide them with access to the data center, we can help grow a whole new tier of tech companies for the state,” said Dvorak.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne Wilbanks Jeter at lwjeter@yahoo.com</a.

About Lynne W. Jeter

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