The Intermax Blog
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
COEUR D’ALENE (November 18, 2015)
From Ice Storm 1996 to “Windstorm 2015”
Local Planning, Commitment to Customers, Backup Measures, and
Strong Infrastructure Can Carry the Day
A FIERCE STORM BLOWS IN
Sustained gale force winds up to 70 miles an hour throughout the Inland Northwest didn’t make a dent in the new Intermax Networks Data Center and Headquarters last night. Our network’s Head-End equipment, all hosted customer servers, and our extensive fiber backbone infrastructure were all unaffected when “Windstorm 2015” came blowing through. Here’s some background as to why that happened.
Nineteen years ago, almost to the day, the Inland Northwest endured a brutal weather snap known as “Ice Storm”. As the NOAA weather history puts it:
“It began as just another drizzly day in Spokane, Washington, but by its end, November 19, 1996, produced one of the region’s worst ice storms in 60 years. Trees came crashing down everywhere under the immense weight of the ice. The mayor of Spokane declared a state of emergency as over half the city’s residents lost electricity—their worst power outage in 108 years. Three days after the storm, 100,000 people in the surrounding county were without power, and six days after the storm, 20,000 were still without power. Some area residents were without electricity for up to two weeks following the record-breaking storm. Throughout the devastating ice storm and its aftermath, four people lost their lives in and around Spokane and Kootenai counties, and total damages were estimated at over $22 million in 1996 dollars—$33 million in 2013 dollars. This ice storm remains one of the most severe on record for the area.”[i]
A few years later in response to that, Verizon designed a Data Center in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho to service national clients regardless of weather, and to withstand a similar or worse weather event like Ice Storm in the future. They had hundreds of employees in the facility for more than a decade.
Fast forward to 2015 and the company that bought Verizon moved those related jobs elsewhere, leaving the building and the significant investment in physical infrastructure intact but unused.
ENTER INTERMAX NETWORKS
Intermax has been building the largest independent internet and telecommunications business in North Idaho. Growth has been strong enough that in 2014 we went looking for new ways to accommodate the number of new employees and facilities needed. Intermax has gone from 3 employees in 2007 to 34 today, with the number of customers growing almost tenfold in that same time.
Intermax decided to capitalize on the assets in that building, constructed as it was to withstand another Ice Storm. They leveraged the infrastructure, remodeled the office space for new purposes, and converted it into a modern, IP-based Data Center capable of serving customers throughout North Idaho and the Inland Northwest. The industrial-grade 750-kw Diesel Generator, the redundant Commercial Air Conditioning units, the large-scale power-conditioning battery backups and 24/7 monitoring of the site make it perhaps North Idaho’s newest, most hardened and most reliable publicly available Data Center.
That facility became the new Intermax Headquarters and Data Center on Mineral Drive in Coeur d’Alene in October of this year.
THE PLAN GETS AN EARLY TEST
As the windstorm blew through November 17, 2015 it was eerie to drive around Coeur d’Alene and Hayden to see so many commercial businesses blackened and closed with only emergency lights running in the parking lots. Our immediate neighbors all around the area (Best Buy, Target, Silver Lake Mall,) and up and down I-95 were pitched into darkness for hours while Intermax had lights, heat, power, and an uninterrupted flow of internet access.
In the secure and controlled Intermax Data Center, network backbone and server monitoring confirmed throughout the storm that no links were severed for customers hosting their servers and critical information at Intermax. In short, the Data Center ran flawlessly as it was designed to do.
RESTORATION AND FUTURE PLANNING
As the power is being restored around the region Intermax is helping current customers work through their local-power generated issues at their locations, while those customers who entrust their connectivity to Intermax’s fiber network and the Data Center have stayed up and running throughout.
Intermax has invested in building a team of professionals across the technology and telecommunications perspective to truly become a one-stop shop for business continuity in the Inland Northwest.
Commercial clients who use the Intermax local cloud, the extensive fiber network, our commercial grade VOIP switch, Data Center storage, and our IT network management services are relying on us to deliver a reliable, outsourced and bullet-proof experience.
On November 17, 2015, Intermax’s brand new Data Center passed that test with flying colors.
For more information:
Mike Kennedy, President, Intermax Networks
208-661-7337 (call or text) 208-762-8065, ext. 111 (office)
Using schools as anchor tenants, a competitive provider is building metro fiber networks in small Western cities – and partnering with last-mile providers to serve homes and small businesses.
By Masha Zager / Broadband Communities
A collaboration between a metro fiber network builder and a rural microwave provider is beginning to deliver fiber to the home to multifamily housing in small Idaho cities. This model shows how creative financing and partnerships can make FTTH business models work even in unlikely places.
Fatbeam, a competitive provider that launched in 2010, builds metro fiber rings in third-tier markets (populations of 25,000 to 100,000) and fourth-tier markets (populations of 5,000 to 25,000) in the Pacific Northwest and the Rocky Mountains – markets that were not previously served by fiber – and serves community anchor institutions in those markets. To date, it has built more than 300 miles of fiber infrastructure in more than 15 markets. “Fatbeam’s mission is to provide high-speed Internet connectivity to more rural areas and, in doing so, enhancing education opportunities, delivering greater public safety and driving economic growth while also maintaining profitability,” explains Greg Green, the company’s president.
Fatbeam’s model is to identify a market it can profitably serve and then bid on an E-Rate contract for the school district. E-Rate, formally the Schools and Libraries Program of the Universal Service Fund, subsidizes connectivity for K–12 schools and libraries at amounts that vary based on local income levels and other factors. When Fatbeam wins an E-Rate contract, it builds a metro fiber network specifically for the schools and then extends the network to serve hospitals, factories, data centers, government offices or other large customers that want either dark fiber or Gigabit Ethernet connections. Each metro network is connected to a long-haul fiber route so the communities don’t become little fiber “islands” cut off from the rest of the Internet.
Changes the FCC made to the E-Rate program in 2010, following the recommendations of the National Broadband Plan, gave schools more flexibility in connecting to fiber optic networks and made schools more aware of the benefits of fiber. Fatbeam and similar providers who win E-Rate contracts can use school districts as anchor tenants for metro fiber networks – and, as Green says, “you really need to have an anchor tenant for the network to make financial sense.”
Although Fatbeam doesn’t serve homes or small businesses directly, in each community it looks for a partner to lease some of its fiber and provide retail broadband services. One of those partners is Intermax, a company that was founded 11 years ago as a rural microwave provider. Intermax originally leased fiber from Fatbeam to backhaul fiber from its own towers. “Our anchor tenant was ourselves,” says Mike Kennedy, president of Intermax. In the process of connecting its towers, Kennedy says, his company “bought into” the idea of a fiber backbone network, leased additional fiber strands and helped Fatbeam plan its routes to pass as many commercial corridors as possible so it could serve businesses. Intermax uses MikroTik core routers and, for its hosted PBX offering – which is generating a great deal of interest among small businesses – it uses Cisco VoIP equipment to prioritize voice service and ensure quality of service.
However, the schools Fatbeam was connecting via E-Rate contracts were generally in residential neighborhoods, and Intermax quickly realized that those neighborhoods presented opportunities as well. It began extending fiber to serve clients in residential neighborhoods, including apartment complexes.
One new 70-unit apartment project, Fairway Meadows in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, expected to open in early 2014, is targeting upscale, techsavvy residents, and the developers requested a full fiber pipe home-run to each unit. The base level of Internet services, included with the rent, will be 10 Mbps, and residents can upgrade to 100 Mbps. The developer lists “free fiber-wire Internet” first on its list of amenities for Fairway Meadows. Kennedy says, “They don’t want to have to worry about residents leaving for lack of bandwidth.”
Other MDU complexes are in the negotiation stages. “As the economy has rebounded, construction is restarting, and lending is easier,” Kennedy explains. With fiber backhaul, Intermax’s microwave network has become increasingly powerful, benefiting the economies of the areas it serves outside the towns. “People are moving there to live in rural isolation,” Kennedy says, noting that rural isolation is more appealing when residents can work or run businesses from home. Being able to offer both fiber and microwave service is a plus for Intermax. A number of business clients purchase both services, using fiber for primary connectivity and microwave for failover redundancy. The two connections, though both ultimately lead to the same network, can be routed in different ways so customers can be certain of 100 percent uptime.
The fiber network’s “consistency, clarity and uptime are just fantastic,” according to Kennedy, and support costs are far lower than for microwave. “It’s exciting to be on the cutting edge,” he adds.