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Viatel Takes On The Big Players

Paul Rellis (pictured) had a brilliant career at Microsoft. He headed up the company in Ireland before being appointed chief operations officer for Microsoft Western Europe.

The only snag was that it meant being out of Ireland during the week, and not enough time at home with his wife and children. After 17 years with the company, Rellis walked away in April 2017, just as he turned 50.

One year later, Rellis got back in the game, taking charge at Digiweb and Viatel, the broadband, data network and managed service provider built up over two decades by Colm Piercy.

The founder is still chairman but he has left the building to focus on Chirisa Investment, his international technology and real estate investment firm.

“I had been travelling like crazy for five or six years and I made a career decision that I wanted to live in Ireland and put my effort and energy into an Irish business,” says Rellis.

“I spent some time figuring out for myself what I really wanted to do. Microsoft is a great company and I’m not one bit sorry for every day I spent in Microsoft. I’m not sorry either that I left.”

There are two aspects to Digiweb Group. Digiweb is a consumer broadband business that scores very highly for its customer service. Viatel is the largest Irish-owned provider of advanced voice, data connectivity, data centre and managed WAN solutions.

Between them, annual turnover is around €30m and Rellis sees a big opportunity in taking on the larger players.

Cloud And Connectivity

“Viatel has changed direction from being a connectivity company to being a cloud and connectivity company,” says Rellis. “We can provide a lot of really good cloud services, particularly software defined services. We want to be the best at cloud and connectivity in Ireland.

“A software defined network manages internet traffic in a much smarter way. It allows you set up the network faster and run it cheaper, and bring on new sites quicker than before. We are applying the power of software into networks and we are the only company doing this in Ireland.”

Rellis adds: “On the cloud side, we don’t compete directly with Amazon, Microsoft and Google. We offer a solution that works for customers who need to keep data in Ireland and require a private cloud to store their data, or companies that want back-up as a service disaster recovery. If you are running on our network or running on our connectivity, we can provide cloud services cheaper than other providers.”

Rellis instances Viatel customer Centric Health, which is rolling out an SD-WAN network to its 45 health centres sites around the country. “Centric are digitising their business and want to put a patient application in the cloud and centralise how they manage their network and data. The solution has to be fully resilient, fully backed up. We provide not just the connectivity but the cloud services too.”

As Rellis tells it, Viatel is disrupting a market with its technical innovation. “Eir and others run old technology called MPLS. It’s certainly not as flexible or adaptable as ours, and Viatel SD-WAN is 25% cheaper. “I think those guys are holding back their customers from taking advantage of the internet technologies. I know from experience that at some point that dam will break, because you can’t build a wall and hold people back on the other side forever.
“At some point people see the value of the new technologies, and that’s what we have. I find it outrageous that companies like eir are profiteering and not playing fair with their business customers.”


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