Vapor IO to Bring Cloudflare to the Edge in 36 US Cities

The deal is a big win for the edge data center startup amid an ambitious nationwide buildout.

Yevgeniy Sverdlik

January 22, 2020

4 Min Read
Cloudflare CEO and co-founder Matthew Prince
Cloudflare CEO and co-founder Matthew PrinceS3studio/Getty Images

Cloudflare, the company known for its CDN, web security, and DDoS mitigation services that more recently also launched a cloud computing service, has signed a deal with Vapor IO to extend its infrastructure to 36 cities where the edge computing infrastructure startup is planning to have presence by the end of next year.

So far, Austin-based Vapor has built its edge data center networks in four metros: Chicago, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, and Dallas. It’s currently in “pre-construction” phase in another 16 municipalities, planning to launch in most of them this year. The rest of the planned 36 cities are due to come online in 2021.

Getting its network nodes as close as possible to as many internet users as possible has been core to Cloudflare’s business. In addition to caching customers’ content close to their users on its CDN, its distributed network can “absorb” a large-scale DDoS attack or block a cyberattack from spreading far and wide.

Its cloud service is called Cloudflare Workers and can also benefit from a more distributed edge computing network. Using it, a developer can deploy code to all the company’s data centers at once, according to Cloudflare. As of the end of 2019, the company had 200 such locations across more than 90 countries, after having added 35 cities that year.

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The Vapor deal will substantially boost the Cloudflare network’s already wide reach in the US. The 16 cities Vapor intends to wire up next are: Austin, Boston, Charlotte, Columbus, Denver, Houston, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington DC.

Expanding its capacity can put Cloudflare Workers in a better position to compete with cloud giants like Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure. One of the Workers offerings is serverless computing. Also offered by the hyperscalers, serverless is a way to abstract computing infrastructure so that developers can deploy code and not think at all about what kind of physical or virtual servers it runs on or where those servers are located.

If it adds all the Vapor locations to its network, Cloudflare will be able to tell developers with latency-sensitive workloads that their applications will instantaneously deploy to 36 additional edge locations all around the US. It currently has close to 50 across North America. For comparison, AWS’s edge network in North America has more than 70 locations – that’s in addition to the full-fledged cloud availability regions on both coasts.

Vapor also announced that it can now tap the final of a series of tranches its last $90 million funding round was split into, chief marketing officer Matt Trifiro told Data Center Knowledge. Its access to the final portion of the funds was contingent upon reaching the milestone of launching in the four initial cities, he explained.

Related:Edge Computing: AT&T Says the Edge Isn’t Where You Think It Is

The startup originally announced the Berkshire Partners-led private equity investment in 2018 but didn’t reveal the amount raised.

Vapor’s name for its infrastructure in each city is “Kinetic Edge.” It consists of several 150kW or 180kW data centers placed strategically around the city and interconnected by a private, Vapor-controlled fiber network. Together, this infrastructure makes up a single “virtual data center,” which is connected to one or more local network exchange hubs.

The company also connects these Kinetic Edge networks to the networks local wireless towers are on to shrink the distance wireless data has to travel between end devices and backend computing infrastructure. When fully built out in a city, “we would like to be 10 to 15 kilometers from every meaningful cell tower,” Trifiro said.

While physical proximity is important, it doesn’t play the biggest role in reducing network latency. While the distance between Pittsburgh and Dallas can add a substantial amount of latency, for example, latency added by the distance between two towns within the Dallas Fort Worth metro is negligible for most applications.

What adds the most latency within a single region is the number of network hops data must travel to get from A to B.  So, much of what Vapor does as it stands up each Kinetic Edge is creating new network routes within a region that have fewer network hops than the existing ones, which are usually a tangled mess, Trifiro said.

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