Cell tower
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Vapor IO to Sell Data Center Colocation Services at Cell Towers

Wireless-tower giant Crown Castle takes minority stake in data center startup

Expecting development of the Internet of Things to drive demand for edge data centers that aggregate device data close to the devices themselves, Vapor IO, an Austin-based data center technology startup, is launching a colocation business, offering leased data center capacity at wireless network towers.

The company also has a new investor. Crown Castle, the largest wireless tower company in the US as of last December, has taken a minority stake in the startup. Crown Castle leases towers to all the top wireless carriers, including Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile. The companies did not disclose the size of the investment.

The service, called Project Volutus, includes everything from site selection to rack space, power, connectivity, infrastructure management software, and remote hands. The bet is that companies like content and cloud service providers will only get hungrier for edge computing capacity as technologies like connected and autonomous cars, augmented and virtual reality, and 5G wireless become a reality and start scaling.

Vapor IO announced the launch of Project Volutus and the investment by Crown Castle Tuesday. Simultaneously, it announced the appointment of Don Duet, former head of the technology division of Goldman Sachs (Vapor’s first investor) as president and COO.

The company will deploy its cylindrical data center enclosures called Vapor Chamber at wireless towers as customers sign on, Cole Crawford, Vapor IO founder and CEO, said in an interview with Data Center Knowledge. “Like any colocation company, we will be customer-driven,” he said.

Each chamber contains six racks and provides 150kW of power and the necessary cooling infrastructure. Vapor announced a hardened version of the chamber, designed specifically for wireless-tower deployments, earlier this year.

More on the Vapor Chamber: This Startup Challenges the ‘Data Center Aisle’ Concept

Like traditional colocation, the sites will be multi-tenant and carrier-neutral.

Contract manufacturer Flex will make Vapor Chambers for Project Volutus. Both Flex and Vapor are sponsors and active participants in Open19, the LinkedIn-led data center standard organization. While Vapor prefers that the chambers Flex produces for its colocation business are Open19-compliant, customers are free to chose any type of racks, network connectivity, and power distribution they need, Crawford said.

Vapor is rolling out an early-access program for Project Volutus and has identified two cities where users will be able to try the technology but hasn’t publicly named them yet.

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