Date: March 16, 1994
Location: South Brunswick
Title: Global Enterprise Services Has a Key Role in Internet
Author: Dan B. Levine
Subject: The company links hundreds of firms to a world of information with JvNCnet
Every morning, when Sergio Heker enters his office at Global Enterprise Services in South Brunswick, he checks his messages. He flips a switch on his computer, taps on the keyboard, and enters the world of cyberspace. His electronic mailbox may have messages from business associates in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Juan or even Tokyo. Heker taps out his replies and in milliseconds, sends them humming over the network. “I”m on the network all the time. There is hardly a day when I don”t discuss things with clients around the world,” he says. Heker believes E-mail is potentially a more powerful means of communication than the phone. “I can send a message to 100 people in 100 countries at a time. You can”t do that on the phone,” he explains.
The network that keeps Heker in touch with the world is the Internet. The global computer network has long been known to academics and researchers and is now increasingly being used as a business tool. A loose collection of 25,000 linked computer networks, the Internet has 1.7 million users all over the world. Computer users hooked up to the Internet can send electronic messages to one another or share files among themselves. More than 63% of the Internet”s users are businesses, which use the network for everything from looking up documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission to checking copyright information in the Library of Congress. Test designers at Educational Testing Service in Lawrence use the Internet to collect information from databases when they produce exams. At AT&T”s Bell Labs in Murray Hill, scientists swap research papers with colleagues over the Internet.
Heker”s relationship to the Internet, though, is different than that of most other companies. Global Enterprise Services is not just an Internet user; it is one of the biggest providers of leased access lines to the Internet. The 35-employee company has more than 500 clients, including companies like Dow Jones, AT&T and PepsiCola as well as universities like Rutgers and Princeton. Companies that want access to the Internet pay between $1,000 and $4,000 a month to get onto JvNCnet, Global Enterprise Services” proprietary network, which allows them to connect to networks around the world. Global Enterprise Services also has less expensive programs for small companies and individuals that want to use only some Internet networks.
JvNCnet, one of six American companies that provide access, has less customers than two Virginia competitors, Performance Systems International or UUNET Technologies. But it covers a wider geographical area than any other network. Says Anthony Rutkowski, vice president of the Internet Society in Reston, Va., a volunteer organization that oversees the network: “Global Enterprise Services is a backbone of the Internet. It is one of the pioneers.”
Companies like Global Enterprise Services are a relatively recent part of the Internet”s history. The network was first established in 1969 by the Department of Defense as an emergency measure in case of nuclear attacks. Four computers in California and Utah were connected using what was then a new technology called packet switching, which allowed users to send messages and share files. The computers were to be a fail-safe form of communications after a nuclear attack.
Over the years, the network grew to include other government agencies, educational institutions and a large number of corporations. Today, some 20 million people–almost three times New Jersey”s population–use the Internet via 1.7 million computers. Curiously, the Internet has no central managing authority; the Internet Society acts essentially as a guide for users and also works on the development of new networks.
During the past five years, private networks like JvNCnet have grown out of other non-profit networks. Heker”s experience is typical. He first became involved with the Internet eight years ago, while working as manager of ZeroOne Systems Group in Plainsboro, a former division of Sterling Software. While working for ZeroOne, Heker helped design the strategic direction for JvNCnet, then a non-profit network. But he also recognized the commercial possibilities of the Internet. “I knew the potential of the network as a service provider,” Heker explains. “I saw the potential when no one knew the term Internet.”
Heker left ZeroOne to join the John von Neumann National Supercomputer Center, where he supported network planning and engineering for wide area and local area networks. In 1989, he became director of JvNCnet at the Consortium for Scientific Computing in Plainsboro, which was in charge of the supercomputer center. A year later, after the Consortium closed due to a lack of government funding, Princeton University acquired JvNCnet, and Heker became director. After working for the university for two years, he bought JvNCnet in August 1992. “I think Princeton University understood the network had to continue to move forward, and selling it was the only way to do it,” he explains. Heker formed Global Enterprise Services soon after buying JvNCnet. Neither Heker, nor the university would disclose the price of the deal. Heker worked alone for almost six months before hiring 11 more employees. The company was based on the Princeton campus for the first 18 months, but has now moved to a 6,000-sq.-ft. office on Route 1. More space will soon be necessary because of increasing business.
Today Global Enterprise Services” 35 staffers monitor the Internet 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Though Heker declines to reveal his company”s revenues, he says they increased last year by 50%, while the client base tripled to the current 500. Heker believes this growth resulted from the fact that most companies now recognize the need for global communications. Says he: “If a company wants to remain competitive, it has to look around and see this incredible network that allows it to communicate with vendors and clients all over the world.”
Global Enterprise Services” clients echo Heker”s sentiments. Says Michael Neubarth, editor of Internet World magazine in Westport, Ct.: “JvNCnet is a good provider for gathering information. It”s very valuable, especially for us since we publish an Internet magazine.” Concurs Bill Cheswick, a member of the technical staff of AT&T Bell Labs: “We have people who travel the world through the Internet.”
Heker constantly tries to expand Global Enterprise Services” reach. The company was the first Internet provider to establish international private links, or connections, and last November it became the first to install a major link in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Heker says worldwide growth continues to be a top priority. “Expansion is part of our daily plans. We live in a global market. The services we provide are in response to our clients” needs,” he says.
Besides growing territorially, the company is expanding into new markets. Last month it struck a deal with the Association of American Medical Colleges to build a national network connecting hospitals and medical colleges to the Internet. This will allow medical students applying to residency programs in teaching hospitals to transfer their application materials electronically. With this service, the process of applying for residency will be accelerated and possibly changed forever. Says Paul Jolly, associate vice president for operation studies of the Association of American Medical Colleges: “The Internet provides us with access to a myriad of services.”
As electronic communications continue to reach into millions of offices and homes around the globe, the Internet”s role will continue growing, as will that of companies like Global Enterprise Services. While Vice President Al Gore talks about the government helping to develop the future Information Superhighway, Heker believes one is already in place. Says he: “It is great that the government is taking a proactive role in this as a way of improving the quality of life. But the Information Superhighway of today is the Internet.” And Global Enterprise Services is already zooming down the fast lane. u