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Isle Tech Companies on the Move:
PIXC, Guide.Net

By Rob Kay and Jeff Bloom

There is no question that last year’s wildly successful IPO of Digital Island has helped sparked an interest in the local fledging technology industry.  Though there are dozens of Hawaii upstarts that may not be on the verge of a public offering, it doesn’t mean they aren’t carving out interesting niches.  From time to time we like to focus in on a few of the more promising ones.

Tucked away, literally in a corner of Manoa Innovation Center, is
Guide.Net (www.guide.net) a 12-person Internet company that develops online database applications for military and commercial clients.  Founded in 1995 by Dr. Rich Halverson, a former UH Computer Sciences professor, the company provides Web-hosting, database support and e-commerce solutions for a variety of clients in the Aloha State.

The company’s biggest customer is the United States Navy, which has contracted out with Guide.Net to develop software agents that retrieve real time weather forecasting data from the Internet. In addition to this, the Guide.Net has also created
a unique niche with major Hawaii advertising agencies by acting as an outsourcing operation.  Here’s the way it works:  If an ad agency is working on a web site for a major client they need more security and other features than a typical ISP can offer.  Guide.Net steps in by offering high-end hosting and special database applications. Rich Halverson explained that clients, such as Castle Resorts and Hotels (www.castleresorts.com), need customized solutions on a case by case basis.

“The value added that we provide,” said the former UH Prof “is taking lessons that we’ve learned from the military and porting it over to the commercial side to build better, more reliable applications.”   Halverson said that working for the military, which demands robust features and high security, means civilian customers will benefit from the technology transfer.

Another startup that has had some publicity is a company called Pacific Internet Exchange (www.pixc.com) that provides advanced data switching and co-location services in Hawaii. Cloaked in secrecy for over a year, the company was founded by Lambert Onuma, a former director of business development and research at Digital Equipment Corporation and Bobby Chi, an engineer with Oracle and Unisys.

To date, Pacific Internet Exchange has garnered $12 million in seed money and expects to raise another $50 million before the
year is over.  Their first site, a 10,000-square-foot space near Honolulu International Airport, has just become operational.

Why did PIXC choose Hawaii to set up shop?  According to locally born Lambert Onuma, “We could have set up this business in Silicon Valley, but because our first market is Asia, the travel burden on our employees would have been too extensive.  Plus, we wanted the quality of life we could only find here in Hawaii."

Their technology, known as “neutral” Internet exchanges, allows regional, nationwide and global networks to interconnect with each other. According to Chi the result is faster and reliable access to the Internet, increased network speeds and added significant bandwidth capacity.  The upshot is that performance is enhanced while bandwidth costs are lowered for local Internet customers.

“What were addressing”, said Bobby Chi, “is the incredibly congested state of today’s public Internet which is kind of like the H-1 at commute time. This is especially the case outside of North America.”  He said it was his company’s mission to ameliorate this problem by building exchange facilities at key geographic points around the Pacific Rim.   Potential customers include Internet service providers, telephone companies and Internet content providers. The company plans to launch another eleven facilities over the next year.  This includes locales such as Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and elsewhere. According to a recent press release from PIXC, the staff is anticipated to grow from 20 employees in Hawaii to 50 and eventually to 150 worldwide. 

According to Bobby Chi, PIXC can help “put Hawaii on the map” by leveraging the Aloha State’s mid-Pacific location and its sophisticated telecommunications infrastructure.  Currently, said Chi, Hawaii doesn’t have a presence on the Internet.  With PIXC’s technology he stated that Hawaii could become a real center for Internet business.  By streamlining and directing data flows, Internet traffic can be easily offloaded into Hawaii from Asia. Likewise, Mainland Internet traffic can be also offloaded into the Aloha State.  “What this does”, said Chi, “is allow Internet content providers to be closer to customer.”  If PIXC’s promise holds true Hawaii, the dream of Hawaii becoming a meeting ground for East/West e-commerce could become a reality.

Jeff Bloom is the founder of Computer Training Academy/Network Resource Center, a computer education/consulting firm based in Honolulu. His contact is jeffb@cta.net or 839- 1200. Rob Kay is a Honolulu-based public relations practitioner who specializes in technology. He can be reached at rkay@pactechcom.com or 539-3627. Suggestions for column topics are welcomed.

Pacific Business News - March 10, 2000

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