Vapor IO Intros Kinetic Edge Exchange for Network Peering at the Edge

The edge computing startup has partnered with Digital Realty for the first two exchange locations.

Yevgeniy Sverdlik

October 30, 2019

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

Vapor IO has partnered with Digital Realty Trust to build the first two of what it says will be many network peering sites designed specifically for edge computing.

Network-dense Digital Realty data centers in Chicago and Atlanta will soon be home to the first nodes of Vapor’s new Kinetic Edge Exchange, or KEX. It will allow a company in Atlanta, for example, to easily extend its network reach to any of the three Vapor edge computing data centers in the metro and exchange traffic with any other network that terminates at either of those sites.

The special sauce in KEX is a software-defined networking platform that enables users to control and automate provisioning of connections and bandwidth at the peering sites. Once you have a physical cross-connect at one of the KEX locations in a metro, you can connect to other exchange members in that metro and adjust bandwidth on those links as needed virtually, using a Vapor portal or APIs.

The Digital Realty partnership is not exclusive, meaning Vapor will likely strike similar deals with other data center providers that operate facilities where many networks interconnect. But Vapor’s founder and CEO Cole Crawford told DCK he intends to expand the Digital relationship globally.

Vapor, the Austin-based edge data center startup, has been busy building a network of small edge computing sites in multiple metros around the US. The sites in each metro are interconnected by a low-latency network fabric, making them act together as a single virtual data center.

Related:Vapor and Crown Link the Cellular Edge to AWS Cloud Onramps

The company sells colocation services at those sites to customers that want to put computing capacity close to where their applications are being used. A commercial drone operator, for example, can have servers receive, process, and send data to a fleet of drones flying nearby. In a less futuristic example, a video streaming service can cache some of its most popular content closer to consumers and avoid the expense of pushing the content from a data center many miles away.

The drone example could be considered an Internet of Things use case. Generally, it’s IoT that’s widely expected to generate an amount of data so massive, existing computing infrastructure will be overwhelmed. Edge computing is one piece of the puzzle that needs to be solved to address the problem.

Applications applying machine learning to IoT data are pushing the internet’s architecture into what Crawford calls its next phase, or the “third act.”

“That takes a fundamental re-architecture of how we have built the modern internet,” he said in an interview with DCK.

Related:Vapor IO Forms Alliance for Full-Service Edge Computing at Its Tower Data Centers

The internet will be a lot more distributed than it is today, with a computing and network interconnection happening in many more places, and Vapor – along with its partners and competitors – has been busy designing and building this new infrastructure.

Besides the three Atlanta locations, Vapor has three sites in Chicago, three in Dallas, and two in Pittsburgh, Crawford said. They’re not inside the micro-data center shelters the startup is known for. Some are inside large, network-dense colocation data centers.

The company is currently doing “preconstruction” work – permits, zoning, fiber design, equipment orders, etc. – in 12 more markets, Crawford said.

Vapor is known for building its edge data centers adjacent to wireless towers. One of its investors is the US tower giant Crown Castle, which has made it easier for the startup to gain access to tower real estate and Crown’s substantial fiber network infrastructure.

Using servers at the base of a tower to process data from wireless devices connected to that tower is one potential use case, but it has some big obstacles, which mostly have to do with the current architecture of wireless carrier networks.

Crown’s real estate is valuable for Vapor’s purposes, but what makes the Crown relationship even more valuable is the 75,000 route miles of fiber infrastructure that real estate is tethered to, Crawford said.

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