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Vapor IO, Crown Castle Bring Amazon Web Services to the Kinetic Edge

Vapor IO and Crown Castle International have jointly developed a service that seamlessly interconnects Vapor IO’s Kinetic Edge with Amazon Web Services (AWS) via Crown Castle’s high-speed Cloud Connect. This product enables a new class of mobile and wireless edge applications that span the continuum from edge to core. Starting today, customers at Vapor IO’s Kinetic Edge can build edge applications that interconnect with AWS over an operator-grade fiber optic network. Built atop AWS Direct Connect, this collaborative offering unlocks a powerful class of edge applications that split workloads and data between the mobile edge and centralized locations, delivering a seamless end-to-end experience.

“By directly connecting AWS services to applications at the Kinetic Edge, we’re bringing the full power of the cloud to the last mile wireless network, delivering the foundation of a true edge-to-core architecture for developers,” said Cole Crawford, founder and CEO of Vapor IO. “We are aggressively rolling out the Kinetic Edge across a national footprint that will reach over 20 markets by the end of 2020 with a planned deployment of over 80 additional markets. By incorporating AWS Direct Connect into our last mile network, we enable seamless cloud integration for edge applications.”

Customers of Vapor IO’s Kinetic Edge can build applications on AWS that directly interact with Vapor IO’s tower-connected data centers at the edge of the cellular wireless network, via Crown Castle’s dedicated high-speed fiber link. This will allow developers to build wireless and mobile edge applications that can reduce network costs, increase bandwidth throughput, and rely on a more consistent network experience than Internet-based connections.

Crown Castle Expands Partnership with Edge Computing Firm

Crown Castle International has expanded its partnership with edge computing pioneer Vapor IO. The partner-driven edge colocation business that originally operated under the code name “Project Volutus” will now be offered commercially under the Vapor IO Kinetic Edge brand, but will continue to leverage Crown Castle’s assets, including its tower real estate and metro fiber.

“The exponential growth in mobile data and the development of new applications that require high-speed data networks with low latency make this an exciting time to be in the shared communications infrastructure business,” said Phil Kelley, senior vice president of Corporate Development and Strategy for Crown Castle. “Vapor IO’s edge computing solution provides edge colocation with the most dense compute per square foot, which optimizes the use of the valuable land under our towers. When you combine our distributed real estate and high capacity fiber connectivity with Vapor IO’s capabilities, Crown Castle is uniquely positioned to enable edge computing.”

Crown Castle also participated in recent round of Series C funding of Vapor IO, which was led by private equity firm Berkshire Partners. The investment will be used to officially launch the company’s Kinetic Edge colocation and interconnection services, while expand the footprint of its edge data centers.

The Kinetic Edge platform offers a new category of collocation built around infrastructure-side edge computing at the intersection of the wireless and wireline networks. By deploying micro data centers at the base of cell towers and in nearby wireless aggregation hubs, Vapor IO expects to be the largest provider of edge data center colocation services integrated directly into the wireless infrastructure.

Vapor IO’s Kinetic Edge enables carriers, cloud providers, web scale companies and other enterprises to place IT equipment (compute, storage, and networking) in Kinetic Edge locations—one hop from the existing 4G LTE and emerging 5G wireless networks.

Vapor IO’s Kinetic Edge architecture will create city-sized logical data centers using high-speed fiber and both open and proprietary software. By combining multiple micro data centers, the Kinetic Edge can offer infrastructure that positions compute and storage extremely close to users while also spanning a geographic region. With Kinetic Edge, Vapor IO is first-to-market with a comprehensive package of edge colocation, interconnection and networking services.

Vapor IO will leverage its partnership with Crown Castle, as well as utilize its award-winning technologies—the Vapor Chamber, Vapor Edge Module and the Synse open source telemetry system—to build and operate the nation’s largest network of edge data centers.

Collocation on the Kinetic Edge

Vapor IO’s primary offering will be providing Kinetic Edge product bundles that include

  • Colocation: With rollout plans that include all major U.S. cities, Vapor IO will offer customers edge computing colocation services that extends to all major metropolitan regions. Multiple sites in any one Kinetic Edge city can be treated as a single, logical data center than spans the entire metropolitan region.
  • Interconnection: Edge meet-me rooms and interconnection services provide high-speed access to last-mile networks, regional data centers, metropolitan aggregation points and peering centers, as well as public cloud and private data centers.
  • Software-Defined Networking: Using the web-based Vapor Edge Portal or secure APIs, Vapor IO customers can configure virtual private networks to create their own unique edge computing topology including Kinetic Edge data centers as well as private and colocation facilities—making it possible to treat all of a customer’s IT equipment in a region as if it were all in the same building.
  • Highly-Secure Lights Out Multi-Tenant Facilities: The Kinetic Edge utilizes Vapor IO’s patent-protected enclosure systems, which include the Vapor Chamber and the Vapor Edge Module. Vapor IO’s Kinetic Edge is designed with multiple layers of physical and logical isolation to provide customers with a highly secure environment for their equipment.
  • Remote Operation and APIs: Vapor IO’s data centers at the Kinetic Edge are designed for remote operation via the web-based Vapor Edge Portal as well as via APIs provided by Vapor IO, including those offered by the Synse open source telemetry system running in each location.
    Rollout Plans

Vapor IO has deployed multiple Kinetic Edge data centers in Chicago with plans to have 13 sites underway by the end of 2018, nearly 50 by the end of 2019 and over 100 by the end of 2020, providing coast-to-coast coverage. Specific cities and more detailed rollout plans will be announced later this year.

Edge Computing Company Introduces 5G-as-a-Service

Vapor IO, an edge computing and edge data center company, plans to offer 5G-as-a-Service (5GaaS) over its Kinetic Edge product. This offering consists of 5G-capable infrastructure and connectivity deployed to edge locations and packaged as a “pay as you go” service, launching first in Chicago later this year as part of Vapor IO’s Project Volutus.

“As wireless technology moves to commoditized x86 and ARM servers, cloud-like operating models will become the de facto standard,” said Cole Crawford, founder and CEO of Vapor IO. “Spectrum owners should not have to build a distributed data center footprint from scratch when they can lease 5G infrastructure capacity on demand.

“Just as public cloud providers use hyperscale data centers in centralized locations to deliver compute-as-a-service, Project Volutus, in combination with this 5GaaS offering, will use Vapor IO’s Kinetic Edge micro data centers in regions optimized to deliver 5G-capable infrastructure-as-a-service,” he added.

Project Volutus ecosystem partners include Crown Castle, Intel, Flex, the Open19 Foundation, Vapor IO, Packet and others.

Delivering 5G-as-a-Service

Vapor IO will collaborate with Packet, a provider of on-demand dedicated computer servers, on the deployment and operations of the 5GaaS offering. Vapor IO will oversee the physical facilities, operate the lit fiber networking, and provide real-time infrastructure management. Packet will operate the compute-as-a-service as an “on demand” utility, making 5G-enabled infrastructure available in minutes.

Telcos and spectrum owners, as well as users of unlicensed spectrum, will be able to deploy 5G services using both flexible hourly and spot market models, as well as with long-term reservations that offer discounts based on commitments.

“5G-as-a-Service is a logical extension of the centralized cloud computing model, only delivered in edge data centers with carrier-grade equipment,” said Zachary Smith co-founder and CEO of Packet. “With this partnership, operators and content players can deploy 5G infrastructure with the agility and economics of the traditional cloud, powering new low-latency services at the network edge.”

Some of the benefits of 5G-as-a-Service include:

  • Disruptive operating model for wireless services: Delivering 5G as a pay-as-you-go utility allows operators to shift costs from CapEx to OpEx and focus on end user services rather than on building and operating cloud data centers.
  • Accelerated deployment of 5G: By offloading capital investment and leveraging shared resources, 5G infrastructure can be deployed much more quickly and at much lower cost.
  • Increased competition and industry agility: The shared, open, and fully-managed infrastructure can support a large number of carriers and spectrum owners, lowering the barriers to entry and making it possible for new and smaller players to compete with incumbents.
  • New services: By using 5G-as-a-Service, operators can easily cross-connect with other tenants on Vapor IO’s Kinetic Edge, making it easy to tap into organizations and developers building new services, including MEC (Multi-Access Edge Computing) and edge cloud services. This paves the way for new, edge-based applications including autonomous vehicles, mobile AR/VR, and low-latency IoT.

Edge Computing Could Help Both Carriers, Tower Owners

By J. Sharpe Smith

Edge computing is becoming part of the network conversation as more companies go public with their solutions for wireless communications. Placing data center infrastructure, i.e. content, at the edge of the network will give immediate access to the internet to billions of mobile devices, such as smartphones, medical devices, industrial controls and IoT sensors.

But that vision of the future goes out a few years.

What carriers need right now is a way to cut their backhaul costs which have risen because of the increased traffic caused by unlimited data plans, Greg Pettine, founder and EVP of business development, said in a phone interview with AGL eDigest.

“The [carriers] know that if they can get some of the content out beyond their core data centers out to the wireless edge, they can significantly maintain their operating expenses regarding fiber to the tower. That’s big,” Pettine said.

Also important to today’s carrier operations is the performance of the network, which can be negatively affected by traffic congestion. “The [carriers] have admitted to throttling back users of certain applications, such as YouTube, Facebook, Netflix and Amazon,” Pettine said. “This results in churn, which they don’t want to happen.”

EdgeMicro’s answer to the traffic congestion problem is to locate the data from these websites in a micro datacenter positioned at the cell site or a central office or a mobile telephone switching office. Then, when a data request comes into the tower, the system redirects it to the micro datacenter to get the data, instead of backhauling it to the regional data center.

The organizations may take advantage of storing data in a micro datacenter because they are the ones driving the most content across the internet. Those companies including Facebook with Facebook Live; Instagram; Google with YouTube, Akamai Technologies, which is used by the ad networks; Amazon and Netflix.

Data traffic in EdgeMicro’s network-neutral micro data centers is managed by a technology known as Tower Traffic Xchange (TTX), which is a Local IPAccess (LIPA) solution that combines all the necessary LTE network components into a single, low-power, collocated appliance.

EdgeMicro gave a preview of its TTX and micro data center at the Competitive Carriers Association’s (CCA) Annual Convention earlier this year in Fort Worth.

The company’s medium-term plan is to deploy at 500 tower sites in the next five years. First, 30 micro datacenters will be deployed at busy multi-tenant towers that serve 100,000 people in the next 18 months in tier-two cities, which don’t have a lot of backhaul, content or ISP peering.

“That will provide us with the data to proliferate our micro datacenters,” Pettine said. “EdgeMicro’s prefabricated micro data centers will be deployed at ultimately thousands of cell towers globally.”

EdgeMicro’s collocation model is based on an 8-foot by 20-foot container with six racks. A quarter rack would be sold to each content provider, which works out to 24 customers in each container.

“We are in various stages with the [carriers], introducing it into their labs for testing. Ultimately, they need to start field test the acquisition of data,” Pettine said.

Micro Datacenters: Good for Towers?

What is in it for tower companies? Providing micro datacenters will make towers stickier, reducing carrier churn. Tower companies would make good strategic partners and could fund the effort as an alternative cash flow.

“Tower companies get increased rent and have the potentially to be strategically aligned in bringing in innovative cash flow,” Pettine said, “But they don’t know anything about data centers and that is where we come in. We understand the collocation model from a datacenter perspective: the cost-to-build and opex.”

Tower companies have already shown an interest in micro datacenters. For example, Crown  Castle International is a minor investor in Vapor IO, whose Project Volutus enables cloud providers, wireless carriers and web-scale companies to deliver cloud-based edge computing applications via a network of micro data centers deployed at the base of cell tower sites.

“The cloud of the future will extend past today’s large, centralized data centers. The next generation cloud will follow your car. It will follow your phone. It will follow your sensors. It will be distributed and data driven and everywhere,” Alan Bock, vice president of corporate development & strategy, Crown Castle.

Vertical Bridge announced in late September that it has partnered with its sister company DataBank to host edge computing at the base of cell towers. Additionally, AT&T has announced it also has micro datacenter plans.

One pundit has claimed that the Cloud is “dead.” While that may be an overstatement, the global market for micro data centers is certainly alive and projected to be $8.47 billion by 2022, according to a report on MarketstoMarkets Research.

J. Sharpe Smith and the senior editor of the AGL eDigest. He joined AGL in 2007 as contributing editor to the magazine and as editor of eDigest email newsletter. He has 27 years of experience writing about industrial communications, paging, cellular, small cells, DAS and towers. Previously, he worked for the Enterprise Wireless Alliance as editor of the Enterprise Wireless Magazine. Before that, he edited the Wireless Journal for CTIA and he began his wireless journalism career with Phillips Publishing, now Access Intelligence. Sharpe Smith may be contacted at: [email protected].