AMG Systems driving development of UK expertise
Following AMG’s announcement toward the end of 2014 that the company had been awarded a major development grant, we have been finding out from company founder Alan Hayes how the funds for his company will benefit not just AMG Systems, but the UK security and surveillance and transport industries as a whole.
Based just outside the market town of Biggleswade, Bedfordshire in the UK, AMG Systems design and manufacture a range of fibre, IP/Ethernet and wireless transmission products, as well as hybrid combinations to meet end-user demand as a result of IP migration and future proofing requirements.
Northamptonshire’s Local Enterprise Programme (LEP) awarded the company a six-figure sum, which will be spent to improve the technology base to make sure the industry continues to advance – regardless of what the future holds for AMG as an organisation. Hayes explained that it’s vital that technical knowledge is developed and shared, not lost, and why AMG’s own research and development is so important.
“With the migration to IP infrastructures, research and development of associated technology is all important,” said Hayes. “The industry is reliant on hardware, and the underlying issue facing the whole industry is whether or not the backbones of systems in use are secure. Firmware espionage is rife at the moment, and firmware sabotage in telecoms is a major security risk that can shut down a business for long periods of time.”
The lack of knowledge about how to handle this issue is a challenge, Hayes explained. There is a shortage of core technology and skills in the UK, with cheaper commercial and managed switches from the Far East flooding the market.
“It’s important that we build expertise in the UK so we have the ability to design and build value added switches from the ground up that meet the bespoke needs of the UK’s transport and security industries as mass produced switches from the Far East simply aren’t up to the task.”
According to Hayes, the way switches are used and maintained in the transport and security industries is quite specialised. For instance, Hayes compares the way Cisco switches are used for enterprise networks to AMG’s switches. Cisco switches are all maintained and managed by a small number of experts. However, AMG’s switches which are tailored for transport and security are often implemented at the edge of network, situated at the roadside and therefore need to be robust and easy to manage and maintain.
In order to provide the best possible solutions and develop the knowledgebase that has enabled AMG to deliver its well-received series of multi-service Ethernet switches – known in the industry as the AMG Intelligent Multi-Service Switch or ‘Wonderbox’ – the company has invested heavily in building up a ‘Centre of Excellence’. However, this has not been without its challenges.
“We spent about two years trying to recruit expertise for our team from across the UK and Europe, but in the end we had to bring in talent from the Far East,” said Hayes. “However, we’ve managed to build up a team of dedicated personnel that includes engineers who are working toward developing the knowledgebase within the UK. We’ve also been busy up-scaling our operations, from design to sales, as well as our technical support level.”
Hayes said that this dedication to developing the best possible product and service is one of the main reasons that customers choose AMG, because they know AMG can be relied on to design a secure backbone for their network – and that it will last.
A lot of AMG’s work concerns long-term strategic projects globally, so the solutions need to last 10 to 15 years at least and be supported the entire time. Hayes insists that the key to achieving this is to have the expertise in-house and not rely on third parties. He also points out that the software source code for clients’ switches is stored in Escrow off site, so that should anything befall AMG, the company’s clients can access everything needed to keep their systems up and running.
And that’s what it’s all about for AMG – keeping its customers’ systems running. Hayes’ team works closely with technology partners to ensure this remains the case because, as he says, standard technology simply isn’t up to the task.
“The security sector focuses too much on gadgets,” Hayes said, “and everyone takes for granted that a transmission device exists to handle all the new toys and that any new product will be able to connect to the network. That’s why we’ve invested our own funds – and will continue to do so alongside the funds from the LEP grant – to continue to improve network infrastructure that supports the needs of the security industry.”
As well as building up the UK’s main centre of expertise, we can expect to see the AMG Wonderbox Mark 2 before the end of the year. The next generation of Ethernet switches will be totally scalable with a number of Ethernet ports, increased speed and enhanced complexity. While driving advancement, Hayes is keen to stress that the reliability of AMG’s hardware is never going to diminish.
“No matter what else we’re working on, or what bespoke systems we develop for our clients, our hardware is consistent,” said Hayes. “The core hardware, supported and enhanced by our developing ‘Centre of Excellence’ and research and development, ensures that we can support long-term strategic projects, and provide our customers peace of mind.”
AMG’s solutions are currently being put to use in a range of global projects, including: