Trading Stories: Operating one of Ireland's most connected buildings

One of Ireland's most critical technology centres is based in Hollyhill but it's not Apple. David Linnane speaks with Jerry Sweeney of Cloud CIX, the most connected building outside of Dublin.
Trading Stories: Operating one of Ireland's most connected buildings
Jerry Sweeney CEO Cloud CIX.

CLOUD computing is becoming more and more popular in the business world, and the Hollyhill-based Cork Internet Exchange (CIX) is leading the way.

Jerry Sweeney, founder of CIX, tells us how he grew the business and how he is moving it on to the international stage.

Tell us the history of the business.

I founded the business in 1983, and we worked as contractors for multinationals, doing after-sales services. It came into existence because of Apple, and then grew into companies like Dell. We had offices in Dublin, Glasgow and a joint venture in Rotterdam.

In 2001, there was the dot-com bust. Companies lost profitability and had already started moving manufacturing to eastern Europe and Asia. Our business peaked around 1999, and we could see a slowdown from that point forward. From 2003, we were looking to reposition. We began developing software and needed a data centre to store it, but there was none in Cork, so we decided to invest and create our own.

We opened in 2008, and, unfortunately, it was a very tough economic climate. But we survived through that start-phase. By 2010 we had critical mass, and got stronger in 2011 and 2012, and have grown again since then.

Describe what your business does and how cloud computing works.

We put a lot of computers together in order to create economy of scale. You don't own the computer, but you can connect to us and rent out space on the computer. We have a data centre that provides the power, the cooling, the security, and connectivity, and we layer our services on top of that. We provide security. We have generators so the power doesn't go.

If you're a small business, it's very cost-effective. It's low cost and incredibly flexible.

The foundation of what we do is connectivity, There are 28 companies operating telecommunications infrastructure out of our building. We estimate that these companies deliver broadband to 30-40,000 in the area. It's easily the most connected building outside of Dublin. Broadband companies like Rapid, Imagine, Nova, and East Cork Broadband all operate through us. CIX houses a node on the Government network. This network allows Government services in the area connect into the national Government network.

People can connect with us and do everything from infrastructure to protecting their data and looking after their cybersecurity. We develop software for companies as well, and are able to combine different services, like creating invoices, and build them an app very easily.

What's in the future for the business?

We recently won the One To Watch award at the it@Cork leaders awards. Even though we have been operating for a while, we got that award because of where we are going. In the last year, we have gone from being a Cork company to an international company. We are selling into the UK and south-east Asia.

At the moment, CIX has the fastest latency between Ireland and the US, and a cable being laid to France and Cork will terminate here, making us the fastest connection with mainland Europe.

We have embarked on a plan to grow internationally. We have a new joint venture in Hyderabad, India. We have done a big pivot and plan to become a big international player.

That meant going abroad and setting up in India. It's the same as any other business. If you were selling coffee at the train station and you want to start selling to people in the city centre, you can only attract so many people. You have to go to the city centre. You need to be based internationally to get international business.

Will you still be expanding in Cork?

We're doubling the size of the building. It's going to cost about €6 million, and then another €6 million in infrastructure. We hope to have that up and running in April. We have 17 staff here in Cork, and two in India as well.

What's the best thing you've learned in business?

I'm in business for 24 years now. The best thing I've learned is that, if you're going to be successful, you need to be absolutely focused and learn your skills right. You need to know what you're doing. You also have to have a bias for action. You have to experiment and be tolerant of failure.

70-80% of what you try will fail. The other 20% will succeed and become a part of your business.

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