AiNET: Betting Big on Innovation

AiNET: Betting Big on Innovation

Deepak Jain, Founder & CEO, AiNETDeepak Jain, Founder & CEO Datacenters are the key enablers of internet and modern day communication and commerce—addressing the world’s insatiable urge for information and storage. Enterprises seeking cost reduction, operational agility, automation of processes, and flexibility between networks, storage and computing resources are finding refuge in datacenters. In-house facilities and servers are getting shifted to collocation, physical networks to SDN, and enterprise applications to cloud—the shift promises to continue to redefine the way companies and government think about issues such as access, storage and security.

Deepak Jain, CEO and founder of AiNET, has seen such shifts in the market before. Through foresight, innovation and vision, he has managed to keep his company at the leading edge of these IT revolutions for 23 years, building a business that now owns the largest private fiber optic network in the Mid Atlantic, and handles 25 percent of all network traffic worldwide (including E911 and every stock market transaction).

Humble Beginnings

In 1993, Jain didn’t have a reason to think the company he founded and operated out of his parents’ house in Columbia, Maryland, as a high school senior, would one day be considered an industry leader.

He started the company to run AOL style bulletin board systems (BBS). “I was looking for a way to monetize my hobby,” Jain recollects. “The whole operation consisted of phone lines, a couple of servers and some fans to cool them. My mother used to complain that I left the door open when the ‘cooling system’ (the fans) failed.”

In the first year, he added internet access as an enhancement to help his few clients with file transfers, and soon after pivoted to a pure ISP service. He was still a freshman in college.

“In 1994, I got a request to host a website from a company in Finland,” says Jain. “I thought, wow, this internet thing really has potential.” It was one of the few companies on the planet that could provide the service at the time. An increase in revenue followed. But it was in 1995 when things really took off.

“I got a call in my mother’s kitchen from Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner at AudioNet (now It was right around dinner time. They asked me if they could place servers in my environment.

We allocate a substantial portion of our revenue to research because it allows us to maintain that edge; to be the one customers reach out to because we are the only ones who can solve their problems

The concept of the internet data center didn’t exist yet. We didn’t even have a word for what they wanted to do. But we did it. They couldn’t find anyone else who would.”

Fast forward 21 years, Jain and the AiNET family of 19 companies under its umbrella have kept the same mentality: “We like to be the only ones who can do that, whatever that may mean from an IT standpoint,” Jain says. “We’re constantly working to make the previously impossible, possible.”

A Culture of Innovation

Under Jain, AiNET has taken a strategic approach to R&D in the IT space, tackling problems across a wide range of the tech spectrum. Challenges in energy efficiency, reliability, cooling— the company’s engineers are working to solve them all.

“We allocate a substantial portion of our revenue to research because it allows us to maintain that edge; to be the one customers reach out to because we are the only ones who can solve their problems,” says Jain. “But really, our biggest asset is our people. We hire very smart people— people with imagination, people with passion, with vision— they help us to be able to think ahead of these major client concerns, to solve problems before the market even knows they are problems.

“Our biggest challenge these days isn’t finding solutions to tech problems anymore, because we’ve created an environment that fosters creativity,” Jain laughs. “Our biggest issue now is finding ways to convey our solutions in an accessible way. That’s how innovative our team here is.”

The proof is in the pudding; or rather, the proof is on AiNET’s wall of patents. The firm holds nearly 100 patents in the core areas tech customers care about, from issues pertaining to power distribution, redundancy and data storage. They even invented their own storage systems to meet increasing demand for cloud scalability and customer elasticity requirements.

Oh, How Far they’ve Come

Today, the company boasts an impressive portfolio: nearly a dozen prime contracts supporting major government agencies; hundreds of direct enterprise clients, and millions of indirect clients downstream.
They have built or acquired nearly 500,000 square feet of data center real estate in the last three years, with plans to build or acquire more, not to mention their 10,000 mile fiber optic network, or multiple divisions providing Internet as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), managed services, Software as a Service (SaaS), connectivity, cloud, consulting, auditing, and security.

In some companies, a diverse services portfolio can be a liability, but Jain disagrees: “Our secret,” he says, “has been to weave all these services together, and add a healthy dose of innovation as the glue that binds it, to create tech that doesn’t disappoint—to generate reports that make sense, tech that meets business needs, which means low cost and high reliability. That’s the goal—faster, safer, more reliable, and more compliant.”

Jain believes that it comes down to implementing a vision, which he defines as a process: assessment, road map, and then migration.

Looking Forward

The future looks bright from where Deepak Jain is sitting today, at his company’s data center headquarters in Beltsville, Maryland. With plans to expand from the Washington, DC market to further capitalize on customer need in Baltimore and Northern Virginia, he doesn’t seem to show any signs of slowing down.

"Look, at the end of the day, our customers want tech that really works, so they can stop worrying about it and focus on what it is they actually do"

“We have all these exciting things working right now—tech under development, and a buzz as more and more organizations find out about us, and how we can help them.”

“Existing customers are figuring out how to turn over more of their services to us, and there is a real enthusiasm in the market because these big companies have been looking for years for an IT services provider who can meet their vision and strategic requirements, not just band-aid solutions to tech ‘problems’. We’re focusing on telling people about who we are—our belief in innovation and vision. It’s really a compelling message.”

When asked why he thinks AiNET has been so successful, he replies without hesitation:

“Look, at the end of the day, our customers want tech that really works, so they can stop worrying about it and focus on what it is they actually do.”
- Arun Kant
    April 01, 2016