Oxford Networks to invest $5M in Brunswick data security startup

Resilient Tier V President and Chief Scientist Charles Largay (left) chats with Oxford Networks CEO Craig Gunderson (right) in one of the rooms the startup is building on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2011.
Resilient Tier V President and Chief Scientist Charles Largay (left) chats with Oxford Networks CEO Craig Gunderson (right) in one of the rooms the startup is building on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2011.
Posted Sept. 28, 2011, at 12:01 a.m.
Oxford Networks CEO Craig Gunderson (left) and Resilient Tier V President and Chief Scientist Charles Largay stand in one of the secure records rooms at the startup's headquarters in the former Brunswick Naval Air Station on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2011.
Oxford Networks CEO Craig Gunderson (left) and Resilient Tier V President and Chief Scientist Charles Largay stand in one of the secure records rooms at the startup's headquarters in the former Brunswick Naval Air Station on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2011.

BRUNSWICK — Two Maine companies — one an established telecommunications firm, the other a data security startup — have teamed up on an innovative deal that will enhance their, and the state’s, technology future.

Oxford Networks of Lewiston and Brunswick-based Resilient Tier V said the $5 million deal will speed up the build-out of the startup’s data center at the former Brunswick Naval Air Station, while expanding the offerings the telecom provider can make to its 12,000 existing customers — and to future ones.

Oxford and its investors have entered into an agreement with Resilient to invest $5 million to move the companies’ plans forward, explained Craig Gunderson, Oxford CEO. “We’re tremendously excited about it. We see what it does for Maine, what it does for Oxford, what it does for our customers.

“It’s a catalyst for Maine being more and more recognized as a real technology player,” he added.

Oxford Networks will be Resilient’s second-largest shareholder. Overall, said Charles Largay, president and chief scientist at Resilient, startup costs for the company are more than $12 million. Aside from the Oxford funding, investment comes from several partners and from Largay and his wife, Maureen Largay, Resilient’s CEO and primary owner.

The Largays opened Resilient’s doors this spring, taking advantage of two ultra-secure buildings on the former Navy base for their plans to build a secure data storage and disaster recovery business.

“We have this very secure data center, our customers are out there at the edge doing whatever they’re doing, and we need to connect securely,” said Maureen Largay. “That’s key — being able to have a network that we can really maintain, control, understand. And Oxford’s got an awesome offering.”

Gunderson said Oxford’s customers have been pushing the company for more services beyond providing the telecommunications fiber network. The customers were looking for data center services, cloud computing services — even disaster recovery solutions, which would allow a company to begin operations quickly after anything from a fire to a flood.

A strategic fit

Oxford’s strategic plan called for the company to begin offering those services. But with Resilient’s entry into the state, the companies began to explore a partnership.

“It’s an incredibly strategic fit, in terms of allowing us to do what our customers are asking us to do,” said Gunderson.

The two have entered into multidecade agreements. Through Resilient, Oxford will be able to offer disaster recovery services for its customers. Resilient will secure Oxford’s network and develop monitoring applications so customers can store data at the former base and keep track of it. In addition, Oxford will keep its own data backed up at Resilient, making the telecom company even more secure.

While the Largays and their partners have extensive contacts in the government and Fortune 500 worlds, this partnership will allow Resilient to work with a telecom network it trusts and to open up the market of Maine-based companies and their data, as well.

“We’re putting it in a place that was a national security asset, that handled some of the most confidential, most secure information,” Charles Largay said of the former naval base. “We’re taking a Fortune 50 solution and we’re making it available to the small and medium businesses in the state of Maine — at a cost-competitive, value-priced level.”

For the Largays, opening Resilient in Brunswick represented more than a new business opportunity. It was also a homecoming.

The Largays have been married for 30 years. He grew up in Bath; she in Bar Harbor. Charles Largay earned his degree at Bowdoin College and studied engineering at the University of Maine; Maureen Largay earned her business degree at UMaine. The two have long careers in data systems.

Before leaving to start Resilient, he spent 16 years at IBM where he largely focused on network-centric operations and crisis management. She was at IBM for 15 years, with work on data systems including projects for Boeing Data Systems, Space Shuttle Mission Safety and end-to-end testing of the data infrastructure systems for the 1996 Summer Olympic Games.

Charles Largay said he began talking about using former secure military base buildings for data centers back in 2003, when the latest round of base closings began to be discussed. He proposed the idea at IBM, but the company decided against it. In talking about the idea with his friend and mentor, who was then the chief operating officer at IBM, Largay decided to pursue the business plan with Maureen as a startup. They left IBM in late 2007.

Reusing military assets

A few factors drove the plan, said Charles Largay. One was physical assets, the military buildings, that would be coming onto the market. For relatively cheap prices, Resilient was able to enter into a 30-year lease at the former BNAS.

The buildings are essentially bomb-proof, with bunkers built up on the outside, high-tech biometric security inside and room after room secured with blast-proof doors, vaults, filing cabinets and other measures.

“You could run a loaded 737 into the building,” said Charles Largay. “You’d notice it, but you’d still be here.”

In addition, the Brunswick site is not in the typical path for major hurricanes. Generally speaking, there’s little seismic activity and, should there be some major catastrophic event, it is away from major metro areas.

Because of their former mission, the buildings have heavily redundant air-heating-power and communications systems. There are more fiber optics coming into the building than IBM has at its massive data center in Connecticut, said Charles Largay, and that’s going to increase over the next year.

The company has leased 66,000 square feet at the former BNAS. It employs 33 people now and plans to be at more than 124 within a year.

Another factor was that Charles Largay, through his military work for IBM, was privy to the “raging cyberwar that’s been going on, that most people don’t see.”

“It impacts most business, most people. These aren’t onesies or twosies or college kids in rooms — these are organized attacks either by nation-states or by crime syndicates, and they are on a scale that people can’t even imagine,” said Charles Largay. “It is all cross-linked to the war on terror.”

That, he said, drives the need for cyber-security.

The company hopes to offer not only secure data storage but also complete disaster recovery options. A company’s leadership team could easily be evacuated from a natural disaster or geopolitical schism, loaded onto a plane and flown right to the runway at the former BNAS. The firm’s data already would be at Resilient, and the company has vast space for such a team to work at temporarily and securely. And there’s nearby base housing, and even a hotel, on the former base where the team could live.

Resilient is also building mobile data servers, enclosed in composite shells made by the company, to place at customers’ sites. Complete with generators and satellite communications, these boxes are like “slices of the data center,” said Maureen Largay, to be placed at some customer sites. If there’s a disaster — say, an ice storm cuts out power and telecom — the boxes will kick in, allowing a client to keep operating.

The company is aimed at vertical markets including federal, state and local government, the defense and intelligence communities, health care and insurance, logistics, energy and legal compliance.

“Every one of those industries is driven by regulation and the need to keep the information secure and private,” Charles Largay said.

The idea behind Resilient is that it’s replicable. Particularly after the Brunswick site is set up, the company can easily move into similar, secure ex-military buildings and recreate the operations. The Loring Commerce Center is a consideration, said Charles Largay. The former air base in Limestone is on a separate power grid from the rest of New England, making it attractive.

All in all, the company has identified five other sites that it may want to acquire should the plan prove successful.

“But this will be headquarters. This is home. It took me 30 years to get back here,” Charles Largay said.

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