Southern Tech Scene Can't be Ignored

August 03, 2015
By: Doug Mohney

Austin, Boston, Silicon Valley, and Seattle are all well-known hubs for technology and startups—less so, southern cities with maybe the exception of Atlanta. It's time to start rethinking those assumptions as gigabit speed broadband and centers of excellence emerge in an area running from North Carolina all the way down to the end of Florida, as well as moving westward to pick up other "mid-South" states.

North Carolina gives us Research Triangle Park (RTP) and Charlotte. The area around Durham, Raleigh, Wake Forest and Chapel Hill, is one of the hottest places for fiber deployments in the country, with AT&T, Century Link, Frontier, and Google Fiber all announcing gigabit projects.  RTP itself holds over 200 research companies across 7,000 acres, employing over 39,000 high-tech workers. Avaya, GENBAND, IBM, Lenovo (News - Alert), EPA's national computing center, NetApp, and Sumitomo are among the pure play IT and telecom companies that rub shoulders with a large crop of biotech and medical firms in the region. SAS, the forefather/godfather of Big Data analytics, has its headquarters outside of Raleigh. I'd throw in Cree (News - Alert) as well because of its leadership in the LED lighting field and its creep into wireless applications.

Charlotte, NC Skyline via Shutterstock

Closer to Charlotte, Apple (News - Alert) has a billion dollar data center that resides up the road in Maiden. AT&T has deployed gigabit service in Charlotte, while Google has the city on its to-do list for fiber in the near future. NASCAR-winning Joe Gibbs Racing calls the Charlotte area home; Coach Gibbs will share his views on the need for data to run a successful business at IoT Evolution in Las Vegas two weeks from now.

Chattanooga, Tennessee boasts the Western Hemisphere's largest gigabit network, a thriving environment for startups that want to move into town to take advantage of that network. Additive manufacturing—better known as 3-D printing—is hot in town with startups making custom-made shoes and building the largest 3-D printer in the world for home wall construction structures.

A bit further south, Huntsville supports multiple industries, including space flight though NASA Marshall. ADTRAN (News - Alert) and Digium call Huntsville's Cummings Research Park Home, while the Hudson-Alpha Institute for Biotechnology operates a huge server farm and network to support DNA sequencing for everything from better sorghum plants for bio-fuel to personalized medicine based upon the information in your genome.

Florida is the last stop on the Southern tech tour. Orlando is the destination for millions of vacationing families and numerous conventions, but Disney (News - Alert) and Universal Studios are huge users of the latest technologies. For example, Disney's MagicBand project combines the Internet of Things with location-based services and analytics to deliver a better experience for visitors and free up employees from ticket taking and payments to being able to more personally interact with visitors.

With the close of the Space Shuttle program, NASA's Kennedy Center has undergone a transformation into a commercially-focused launch facility for both government and businesses. Private companies put satellites into orbit and will deliver astronauts to the International Space Station in a few years. Other firms once dependent upon government contracts have found new life in the aviation and energy industries.

Miami may not loom large when compared to the other cities cited above, but it plays a critical role as a telecommunications gateway to the Caribbean and Latin America. There's a lot of fiber passing through the city and the Terremark data center is a vital hub for Verizon's cloud offerings.




Edited by Dominick Sorrentino