American Tower has teamed with a data center collocation provider, Flexential, to launch the Flexential Local Edge, a remote data center providing collocation services.
The first Flexential Local Edge remote data center will use American Tower’s edge data center at a tower in Atlanta, connected with Colo Atl, an American Tower subsidiary company that provides carrier-neutral collocation and interconnection services in a global telecom hub of Atlanta. Flexential plans to use American Tower edge data center infrastructure in Denver and Boulder, Colorado.
“This new arrangement is effectively a channel agreement, whereby Flexential will sell edge capacity to its clients at American Tower micro data center sites, which typically have nine racks and 96 kilowatts of total power,” wrote Eric Luebchow, a senior analyst at Wells Fargo Securities, in an equity research note. “It will be interesting to see how this symbiotic relationship between towers and edge data centers evolves in the coming years.”
Flexential’s remote data center allows customers to deploy hardware and software close to the end-user or application — at the edge, as it is called — in third-party managed edge data centers for the provision of low-latency communications, high security and comprehensive network services.
“Local Edge will push to use 5G and AI in a more meaningful way for traffic controls, autonomous vehicles, infrastructure monitoring and more,” said Flexential CEO Chris Downie. “We see this an opportunity in many markets around the country to provide a true differentiator.”
Other Tower Companies Already in the Edge Game
In 2019, SBA Communications purchased New Continuum Data Centers, which has a multitenant flagship data center in western Chicago and a fiber loop. Two years ago, Crown Castle International expanded its partnership with edge computing pioneer Vapor IO, making use of Crown Castle’s tower real estate and metro fiber.
Lately, with increasing adoption of work-at-home initiatives and video applications, telemedicine and remote learning as a means of limiting the spread of COVID-19 infections, more businesses seek to deploy low-latency applications to improve the overall customer and employee experience, which can be achieved through mobile edge computing.
“It’s still far too early to quantify the potential upside to these relatively minor investments, but they do signify the tower companies are watching the space closely and may be prepared to pounce if the opportunity presents itself,” said Luebchow.
Verizon Rapidly Rolling out Mobile Edge Computing
Last month, Verizon, teaming with Amazon Web Services, added three more 5G mobile edge computing cities — Atlanta, New York and Washington, D.C. In August, the mobile edge computing platform was rolled out by the companies in Boston and in the San Francisco Bay Area, and more cities will be launched by the end of 2020.
“Mobile edge computing moves the data and processing done by the applications and services we use closer to the end user at the edge of the network,” a Verizon spokesman said. “This shortens the roundtrip data needs to travel, reducing lag time, or latency. By moving AWS compute and storage services to the edge of Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband millimeter-wave network, innovators can develop applications with ultra-low latencies that will support next generation use cases ranging from self-driving cars to autonomous industrial equipment. Customers are already testing their edge solutions in AWS Wavelength service zones at the edge of Verizon’s 5G network in multiple locations.”