Our theme this month is site selection. From electricity costs and network infrastructure to the available pool of skilled workforce, data center site selection is one of the most complicated and important business decisions a company makes. Data center location affects everything from the cost of doing business and overall company agility to the quality of user experience. And, like every other aspect of the data center business, where companies choose to put their critical IT infrastructure and why is changing because of … you guessed it: the Cloud. This month, we’ll examine these trends more closely.
If the edge of the internet is in the data center that’s closest to you where Netflix and YouTube cache their most popular content, the edge of the enterprise cloud is the data center closest to you where your cloud provider’s infrastructure is.
EdgeConneX, a company that presents itself as an edge data center provider that specializes in expanding edges of both kinds, recently helped Amazon Web Services move the edge of its cloud closer to users in Portland, Oregon, in what is likely to be a sign of things to come.
At least as far as the US is concerned, AWS and other big cloud providers already have infrastructure in all the top markets. However, there are still lots of markets like Portland, which have a high concentration of companies that use or want to use public cloud services, but where the big cloud providers have yet to establish physical presence.
As the top wholesale data center providers race to ensure cloud providers have enough capacity in the core markets, EdgeConneX, and other providers, are going to extend the cloud’s edge to markets known as secondary.
“The cloud is absolutely taken care of at the core,” Clint Heiden, chief commercial officer at EdgeConneX, said, referring to top data center markets like Northern Virginia, Dallas, or Silicon Valley. “What you’re seeing is the first of many things to come. The cloud is pushing to the edge.”
The EdgeConneX data center in Portland, which came online last year, has become the first physical location in the Portland area where customers can connect directly and privately to the AWS infrastructure via a service called AWS Direct Connect. Until now, Amazon’s other Direct Connect locations in the Pacific Northwest were limited to two Equinix data centers in Seattle. Other Direct Connect locations on the West Coast are in Equinix data centers in San Francisco, CoreSite facilities in Los Angeles, and a Switch SuperNAP in Las Vegas. All the West Coast sites connect to the core AWS data center cluster in Oregon, which hosts its US West availability region.
Over the past two years, EdgeConneX built out an extensive edge data center empire spreading across 23 secondary US markets that lacked major interconnection hubs like CoreSite’s One Wilshire building in Los Angeles, 60 Hudson in New York City, or some of the Equinix facilities in Northern Virginia and Silicon Valley. The pins on its map include cities like Sacramento and San Diego, California; Salt Lake City, Utah; Denver, Colorado; Minneapolis, Madison, Memphis, and about a dozen more locations around the country. Earlier this year, the company also announced its first non-US data center in Amsterdam.
Comcast and Cox Communication are investors in EdgeConneX as well as its customers, which is key to understanding the company’s model. It establishes hubs in underserved data center markets where content and cloud providers bring their infrastructure and from where they connect to network providers like Comcast and Cox, who then connect them to the end users that live in those areas. This reduces data transfer costs for content and cloud companies – who otherwise have to pay to move data from far-away hubs – and improves user experience in the edge markets.
Comcast, in fact, is the reason EdgeConneX has a data center in Portland. The cable company had a high concentration of both consumer and enterprise customers in the market and needed an edge location there, Heiden said. While Comcast was the anchor tenant, it isn’t the only carrier in the data center, which also hosts infrastructure for Charter Communications, Level 3 Communications, Zayo Group, XO Communications, and Electric Lightwave.
Portland, with its relatively high number of enterprise, gaming, and IT companies, is an attractive market for service providers like AWS. But connecting to cloud data centers in Seattle or San Francisco may not work for some of those users’ applications, said Phillip Marangella, VP of business development at EdgeConneX. Marangella joined late last year, following more than a decade spent in senior roles at companies like Verizon, Equinix, and CoreSite.
It’s important for cloud providers to get as close to their target enterprise customers, so they will continue extending their infrastructure into markets beyond the traditional hubs, such as Portland. “At the end of the day, cloud is still I its infancy, and all the cloud providers are racing to the edge,” he said.