Life at the edge is getting busy. A team of data center veterans this week launched EdgeMicro, a startup planning to deploy factory-built data centers at cell tower sites across the country. EdgeMicro is the latest in a series of ventures targeting the market for edge computing, and plans to roll out 500 facilities over the next four years.
Edge computing moves content closer to users, improving the experience for streaming video and gaming. It’s been a hot trend in 2017, as the emergence of the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles and artificial intelligence (AI) reinforce the need for data centers in new places.
Meanwhile, the coming of 5G wireless has carriers scrambling to deploy new capacity closer to users.
Investors and existing players in the data center and wireless sectors are moving to capitalize on demand for edge infrastructure. There are now three announced projects seeking to deploy micro data centers at telecom tower sites, and several more in the works.
Strong Pedigree in Data Centers, Interconnection
EdgeMicro’s team includes some heavy hitters in the interconnection world. The company’s advisory board includes Jay Adelson, a co-founder of interconnection market leader Equinix, as well as Josh Snowhorn, GM of Interconnection at CyrusOne.
The company’s CEO is Mike Hagan, who previously was Vice President for Colo & Cloud at Schneider Electric. In recent years, Hagan has championed Schneider’s modular and micro data center product offerings.
“This is a game changer for the industry,” said Hagan. “We have an unbeatable value proposition for the MNOs (mobile network operators) and content providers, offering speed to market, repeatability, ease of execution and an op-ex model that helps companies avoid spending the significant amount of capital it would cost to go to the edge on their own.”
Hagan founded EdgeMicro along with Greg Pettine, who has worked with the data center teams at CB Richard Ellis and DCI Technologies. They have developed a containerized 6-rack micro data center that supports 48kW of IT capacity and can be built in a factory and deployed at the base of a cell tower. Each enclosure features biometric security, redundant power and cooling and fire suppression.
Schneider Electric will be the manufacturing partner for EdgeMicro, and will also support the company with equipment, data center operations and maintenance. EdgeMicro says it may have similar partnerships with other vendors in the future.
Evolving Edge Connectivity
EdgeMicro will be a tenant at the tower sites, and provide carrier-neutral colocation services to customers including MNOs and content providers. The company saw an opportunity to bridge the infrastructure gap between data networks and the millions (and soon billions) of mobile devices at the edge.
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“This is a significant milestone in the evolution of Internet connectivity,” said Snowhorn. “What EdgeMicro is doing brings the full power of mobile Internet connectivity to billions of mobile devices at a moment in time when the volume and importance of those devices is exploding. Those devices are the future, and EdgeMicro is making the future possible.”
EdgeMicro says it is working closely with a tower company on the development of its first site in a “major metro area,” and the first module is in production to be deployed on that site.
The arrival of EdgeMicro continues the blending of the data center and wireless sectors. On the edge, VaporIO will team with Crown Castle to deploy a distributed network of small data centers at the base of telecom tower, while DataBank and Vertical Bridge have also announced plans for a similar network. EdgeConneX and Digital Bridge also have significant holdings in wireless towers and small cells in addition to their growing data center operations.
Secret Sauce: Tower Traffic Xchange
EdgeMicro believes it has a competitive advantage in a “technological breakthrough” it calls Tower Traffic Xchange (TTX) developed by Chief Technology Officer Anton Kapela, previously CTO of wireless specialist 5NINES LLC. The company describes TTX as a single-box Local IPAccess solution that combines LTE and related components into a single low-power appliance that MNOs can deploy within their existing LTE network. EdgeMicro says TTX creates an intelligent interface between wireless devices, wireless networks and content—all at the extreme network edge where mobile devices first seek connectivity.
“A key thing to understand is that this is real today,” said Hagan. “The future is here. We have proven technology. We solve real business issues for each stakeholder. We have the skills and relationships that no one else has. We have a global manufacturing partner in Schneider Electric that enables us to scale at will. We have a major customer signed and more on the way. And we have a rollout plan that starts with 400 sites across the U.S.”
EdgeMicro has secured an initial round of funding from private investors, and says it expects to soon begin raising another round of private investment.