Tom Bartlett, American Tower CEO, told the Q3 earnings call last week how American Tower aims to use its neutral-host real estate portfolio to help customers deal with the convergence of wireless and wireline networks, which will lead to numerous additional services that call for mobile data centers.
“We believe that this convergence along with increasing digitalization, network virtualization and cloud-native software-defined services will lead to increasing demand for distributed, interconnected global edge compute processing,” Bartlett said.
Infrastructure at the edge should remain a critical component of the network architecture as it evolves, according to Bartlett, which is where American Tower’s real estate assets reside.
“We are focused on developing communications infrastructure business models that augment the value of our existing assets, expand our revenue base beyond traditional tenants, and enhance our leadership role in the wireless ecosystem,” Bartlett said. “At the highest level, our goal is to selectively extend our digital infrastructure core capabilities to further encapsulate neutral hosted wireless connectivity, transport, and compute functions as part of our comprehensive platform.”
American Tower plans to offer tenants an integrated suite of complementary solutions to fit within the increasingly complex network designs.
American Tower will focus its investments on business models with contracted long-term revenue commitments from Tier 1 customers; multi-tenancy and multi-service offerings with low ongoing maintenance capex; operating leverage characteristics similar to towers; and synergies and adjacencies to existing American Tower assets and skillsets, Bartlett said.
In the United States, as 5G deployments accelerate, American Tower expects an increasing number of lower latency applications and more cloud-based customer demand for application-level and network compute functions at the edge.
“There are two distinct solutions within this emerging ecosystem: distributed compute and mobile edge compute,” Barlett said. “We believe that these two offerings will develop on different timelines and will allow us to provide differentiated valued propositions for our customers.”
On the distributed computing side, enterprise workloads continue to move to the public cloud. In the near term, on- or off-premise private cloud computing is also being used as a hybrid solution. American Tower has begun deploying micro data center facilities at select tower sites and has seen early indications of solid demand in collaboration with partners like Flexential, a nationwide data center platform.
“Small and medium-sized businesses are often willing to move legacy workloads to more responsive, proximate, cost-effective data centers, and we believe that many data centers at some of our macro towers can represent optimal locations for these installations,” Bartlett said.
In the long term, however, 5G mobile edge compute solutions at the tower to represent a much larger opportunity to fulfill the need for low latency, according to Bartlett.
“The foundational concept of our mobile edge strategy is the expectation that localized neutral host, multi-operator, multi-cloud micro data centers can be the most cost- and technology-efficient means to which latency can be reduced,” he said. “These facilities can be optimally located at select macro tower sites that already have power, fiber and multiple wireless tenants, rather than each cloud provider and carrier forging ahead with their own connectivity arrangements.”
Colo Atl, an American Tower company and provider of carrier-neutral colocation, data center and interconnection solutions, is in the early stages of small-scale deployments at the tower sites.
“At this point, we think a scaled solution is still at least a few years away, but there is tangible progress being made, and we are excited about the possibilities,” Bartlett said. “Underlying this excitement of the potential future 5G related use cases that we expect to drive rapid uptake of mobile edge compute functions.
Verizon is joining forces with Microsoft to create new ways for enterprises to accelerate the delivery of fast and secure 5G applications, benefiting from reliable and low latency connections. Verizon’s on-site 5G Edge network integrated with Azure edge services can enable ultra-low latency, many times faster than the blink of an eye, which can help businesses tap into real-time data analysis and delivery.
Applications incorporating computer vision, augmented, mixed and virtual reality, digital twins or machine learning can be enhanced with 5G and MEC on the customer premise, helping transform the way industries such as retail, transportation, and logistics operate: Think of automated high-precision asset localization, tracking and positioning in manufacturing. In healthcare, the increased speed, reduced latency and high bandwidth connectivity of 5G networks could enable real-time precision medicine leveraging mixed reality and AI capabilities as well as seamless and fast sharing of large files to improve patient care.
The collaboration brings Azure cloud and edge capabilities together with Verizon’s on-site 5G Edge, a mobile edge computing platform designed to enable developers to build applications for mobile end-users and wireless edge devices with ultra-low latency. By providing on-site private 5G, businesses will realize increased power efficiencies and reduced costs of end user devices, while helping to address their privacy and security needs.
“We have built a network that provides real-world, 5G-enabled solutions TODAY,” said Rima Qureshi, EVP and Chief Strategy Officer at Verizon. “By bringing together Verizon’s 5G network and on-site 5G Edge platform with Microsoft’s expertise in cloud services, we will enable the development of the next generation technologies everyone has been envisioning.”
Logistics and supply chain solutions company Ice Mobility is already testing on Verizon’s on-site 5G Edge platform, integrated with Microsoft Azure. The company is using 5G and MEC to help with computer vision assisted product packing. By gathering data in near real-time on product packing errors, the company has the potential to improve on-site quality assurance and save 15% to 30% in processing time.
“We are especially excited to join Verizon and Microsoft to test how 5G and MEC can improve the quality assurance process,” said Mike Mohr, CEO of Ice Mobility. “They truly have listened to our needs to provide automated real-time quality oversight and feedback, which will enable us to cost-effectively launch unique new products, while maintaining the highest execution standards, significantly increasing throughput and reducing costs. And, this is just the beginning.”
“By leveraging Verizon’s 5G network integrated with Microsoft’s cloud and edge capabilities, developers and businesses can benefit from fast, secure and reliable connections to deliver seamless digital experiences from massive industrial IoT workloads to precision medicine,” said Yousef Khalidi, corporate vice president Azure for Operators at Microsoft.
Moving forward, Verizon will explore opportunities to co-innovate with Microsoft to deliver new value to industries ranging from manufacturing to healthcare.
EdgePresence has embarked on an aggressive effort to deploy low-cost edge data centers nationally at cell tower sites in tier 2 and tier 3 markets.
Through partnerships with Schneider Electric and its distributor Accu-Tech, EdgePresence is deploying fully integrated Schneider Electric EcoStruxure Data Center solutions, which are redundant 12-cabinet microdata centers that serve 20 to 30 key clients in these markets that need more connectivity and more options for redundancy.
Doug Recker, CEO of EdgePresence, whose background is in building, owning and operating data centers, has developed a two-phase approach that targets enterprises initially and then serves as a carrier-neutral solution to wireless carriers’ 5G edge compute needs.
“We have a business model that serves enterprises, and it can survive without 5G. We serve doctors’ offices, cloud providers, local hospitals and government,” Recker said. “I need revenue to sustain my business. I have employees to pay and investors to pay back. Enterprises are a very sustainable business model. When 5G comes, our data centers will already be in place and ready for the content providers and the carriers.”
When it comes time for the wireless carriers to build out 5G to tier 2 and tier 3 markets, Recker’s solution means carriers won’t have to build their own edge data centers. It makes it easier and quicker to deploy 5G.
“Carriers can buy access from me to the carrier hotel or for access to the internet at a fraction of the cost of building their own facilities,” Recker said. “No reason to deploy new shelters or upgrade their current data centers when they can save the capex by collocating with me. Just rent the space you need.”
Why Cell Tower Sites?
EdgePresence has signed a one-year contract with American Tower and has helped them deploy six data centers. It has plans to deploy at sites belonging to SBA Communications, Vertical Bridge and Crown Castle International.
“We need the ability to go anywhere,” Recker said. “I need space in all kinds of markets, and cell tower sites are my number one choice. Cell towers have the power and usually have fiber and a secure compound. It is easier to get permitted to deploy there. It is a whole new revenue stream that is waiting for them.”
These edge data centers also represent opportunities for tower services companies to deploy more equipment at the cell tower site and provide maintenance services.
Each structure has the same 12-cabinet redundant data center form factor, and the maintenance contracts will be the same, together with the same monitoring capability. Recker is looking to partner with one or more tower services companies to maintain the data centers.
“Maintenance is extremely important when we are deploying these data centers in third-tier markets around the country,” Recker said. We need people in place to who will fix them and maintain them. We went with Schneider Electric because it has a very low failure rate. The shelter must be cost-effective so we can make our money back quickly.”
EdgePresence has recently deployed a data center at a cell tower site in Statesboro, Georgia, and it built dark fiber back to the closest carrier hotel. Now, enterprises in Statesboro have access to more than 26 internet service providers, instead of one. They can use the facility for redundancy and collocation.
The key to edge compute is timing. If EdgePresence waits until 5G reaches the tier 2 and tier 3 markets to deploy its data centers, it might be too late. Another company may have already deployed a data center and be in position to fill that need. The company will deploy its next data center in Jacksonville, Florida, next week and then in Gainesville, Florida, the week after that.
“Our goal is to have 16 data centers deployed by the end of the year and have them 60 percent occupied,” Recker said. “Then it’s time to go turbo, and we will deploy more than 50 data centers in the next 16 months. If I am the first data center in a market, there is no need for another one. That’s why quick deployment is important.”
DataBridge Sites, a data center provider, has selected Crown Castle International, to provide its optical network for secure, high capacity bandwidth for private network requirements and redundant access to the internet and cloud service providers.
Crown Castle will provide its 80,000-mile nationwide fiber network, including over 10,000 miles of fiber in Pennsylvania to provide high capacity network connectivity to DataBridge and their clients.
DataBridge Sites currently serves over 100 customers in Philadelphia, Maryland, and Chicago data centers offering more than 150,000 square feet of data center space, with more than 15 megawatts of available power. The facilities were designed to meet IT infrastructure requirements for uptime, high density power, cooling and bandwidth requirements.
January 5, 2017 —
More and more, collaborative data centers are shifting to the cloud. Several big players (IBM, Amazon, and others) are building mega-data centers in preparation for massive cloud services in 2017. By some estimates, 2017 will see 66 percent of corporate workloads processed by cloud servers and centers. Database-as-a-service is expected to increase to 44 percent in 2017. The cloud story in 2017 will be similar to 2016, but at a faster pace and larger scale. That poses a big challenge to enterprises in getting the processes, technology, and people up to speed and able to proceed.
Cloud security is going to become much better in 2017, alleviating many of the fears of corporate cloud users. As well, expect to see more tools to help with that management, especially around cloud service/application governance, including tools that can abstract the end user from the detail.
The cloud will be a challenge in 2017 for those who are not familiar with it. But for those who are, it will be an exciting year.