Vapor and Crown Link the Cellular Edge to AWS Cloud Onramps

Edge computing colo network in Chicago now has an “easy button” for private links to the cloud.

Yevgeniy Sverdlik

April 24, 2019

4 Min Read
A Vapor Edge Module at a cell tower (a rendering)
A Vapor Edge Module at a cell tower (a rendering)Vapor IO

Customers of Vapor IO’s first live set of data centers for cell tower-connected edge computing, located in Chicago, can now connect their infrastructure to private network onramps to Amazon Web Services.

They can do that by buying a connection between a Vapor site and an AWS onramp at one of the interconnection sites operated by Vapor investor Crown Castle, one of the largest wireless-tower and fiber infrastructure owners in the US. The new service essentially makes it possible for Vapor’s edge colocation customers to use Crown’s previously existing cloud onramp service called Cloud Connect leveraging Crown’s fiber network.

Most of the edge computing infrastructure use cases builders of this infrastructure have been talking about include edge computing sites working together with traditional cloud infrastructure in large centralized data centers. In its simplest form, the idea is that the most latency-sensitive processing will be done at the edge – close to where data is generated or where content is consumed – while also communicating with a centralized cloud elsewhere, without having to send all the data back and forth, suffering greater latency and long-distance data backhaul costs.

Therefore, an edge colocation service like Vapor’s should naturally be more useful if there is an easy way to connect the edge infrastructure to the cloud. And that’s what Vapor and Crown are doing here.

Related:As Deployments Kick Off, Edge Computing Startup Vapor IO Hires a COO

Vapor’s first live network of edge data centers, something the startup calls Kinetic Edge, is in Chicago, so that is where the cloud onramp service is first available. But Vapor and Crown plan to have it in all the subsequent Kinetic Edge locations that come online.

Next on Austin-based Vapor’s Kinetic Edge rollout plan are Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, and Seattle. The company says it will have more than 20 US metros wired up with Kinetic Edge infrastructure by the end of next year, eyeing 80 more after that.

One of the most obvious current use cases for the service is mobile gaming, where it can help reduce the jitter that results in lower FPS rate (frames per second). “Gaming is a huge use case for this,” Cole Crawford, Vapor’s CEO and founder, told Data Center Knowledge. “The ability to locally process some amount of the games will massively reduce the latency.”

“Imagine a localized process running directly connected to a radio access network for a mobile game,” Crawford said. “There’s all sorts of goodness in that.”

Better user experience for gaming and content delivery, lower data backhaul costs, help with data sovereignty requirements, and, further down the line, things like autonomous robots, self-driving cars, and augmented reality are all the standard edge computing use cases that need cloud onramps.

Related:Vapor IO Raises PE Funding, Buys Out Nascent Edge Colocation Business from Crown Castle

Say you need a cloud onramp in Austin. Today, you probably have to pay one of the traditional carriers to link you to the nearest hyperscale onramp – 200 miles away, in Dallas. If Vapor were to set up a Kinetic Edge network in Austin (a Kinetic Edge in a metro consists of multiple small cell tower-connected data centers interlinked by a fiber network and acting as a single virtual data center) it would become an “easy button” for getting to the onramp, Crawford explained. Austin is not one of the markets Vapor has announced plans to enter so far.

An added benefit for a city like Austin would be an opportunity to peer with other Kinetic Edge customers, he said. Peering is part of Vapor’s model, so its customers in any metro can easily interconnect with each other if they need to. Traditional “peering in Austin isn’t something that’s on the table today,” Crawford said.

The amount of bandwidth on Vapor’s cloud onramps will vary depending on the market you’re in, but “everything up to 10 Gig (per second) would be possible,” he said. The cost will depend on the amount of bandwidth, the amount of redundancy in the connection, but also vary from metro to metro, Crawford explained. He declined to share specific pricing examples.

Vapor will not charge for physical cross-connects at its sites, he said. You will have to pay Crown and AWS all the standard fees associated with cloud onramps, including cross-connects, backhaul to AWS, and AWS Direct Connect fees themselves.

In Chicago, Vapor will take your traffic to the carrier hotel at 350 Cermak in Chicago, which is on Crown Castle’s list of AWS Direct Connect locations for its Cloud Connect service. For resiliency, Vapor can also backhaul traffic to the carrier hotel at 600 S Federal in Chicago, where traffic can also get on the internet backbone as a failover.

Crown offers Cloud Connect to Microsoft Azure and Office 365 onramps as well. Those aren’t available to Vapor customers today, but they may be in the future. Crawford said he would love to offer similar services for other hyperscale cloud platforms.

Correction: Vapor will take your traffic from its Kinetic Edge data centers in Chicago to 350 Cermak, not to 600 S Federal as this article previously said. It can backhaul it to 600 S for redundancy if necessary, the company clarified.

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