Vapor IO, VMware, and Zayo are Building 'Multi-Cloud Services Grid' for Edge-to-Edge Connectivity

The Open Grid Alliance's vision of an edge-first internet is becoming a reality with the announcement of Multi-Cloud Services Grid.

Christine Hall

June 9, 2021

4 Min Read
Optical cables connected to a switch in a data center

Only a month after forming their Open Grid Alliance, Vapor IO and VMware announced they are building a Multi-Cloud Services Grid, which would be the first implementation of the alliance's vision of an edge-first "open grid" system.

The services grid combines two separate projects, both announced at the same time: Vapor IO's Kinetic Grid platform, which enables direct edge-to-edge connnectivity within Vapor's expanding national network of small data centers located at the feet of or in close proximity to cell towers, and an integration between Vapor's platform and VMware's Telco Cloud Platform.

In addition, Vapor announced that it has partnered with the fiber network operator Zayo to use its network for connectivity between the metro regions it serves. (It already has fiber connections from various providers within each metro region.)

The Open Grid Alliance is a consortium of six tech companies that in addition to VMware and Vapor IO includes Dell, DriveNets, MobiledgeX, and PacketFabric. They have tasked themselves with making the internet more efficient by changing its architecture in a way that enables direct connections between edge locations to reduce latency and transit costs associated with backhauling all data through centralized cloud or on-premises data centers or telco central offices.

"Today’s internet is too static, too siloed, and too unpredictable to deploy latency sensitive applications, such as immersive gaming,” Kaniz Mahdi, VP of advanced technologies at VMware, said in a statement. “What we need instead is a grid that can virtualize and stitch together edge resources across multiple clouds and locations for any given set of latency and jitter constraints."

Vapor IO's Kinetic Grid

The only part of the Multi-Cloud Services Grid that's ready for prime time is Vapor's Kinetic Grid. Built on top of its Kinetic Edge interconnection platform, it is already up and running in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, and Pittsburgh, with plans to go live in Las Vegas and Phoenix soon.

Eventually, according to Vapor, the grid will be expanded to include all 36 metro regions the company has planned.

Cole Crawford, Vapor IO's founder and CEO, told DCK that customers in one city needing to connect with a server at an edge location in another will have options for routing their connections through Zayo's network. A data packet leaving Las Vegas for Pittsburgh, for example, could be routed through Chicago, or through Phoenix and Dallas first and then through Chicago or Atlanta.

"That becomes very powerful from a route resiliency standpoint or a data velocity standpoint," he said. "Depending on why you want to send a packet somewhere, you've got multiple options, and you can weigh those options for how to send or receive that traffic. That could be latency, that could be bandwidth, or it could be both latency and bandwidth. It might just be purely economics -- it might just be backhaul cost."

This sort of decentralized networking is where Zayo thinks the internet is going, Joel Daly, senior VP of product and innovation at Zayo, said.

"If you take a look at what's happening in the marketplace right now, with everything that's happening with 5G, the applications, and the data intensity, there's a requirement to bring the application closer to the end user," he said. "More importantly, when we go through this story, it is the application mobility aspects that are out there, and definitely, by providing the highway capabilities, we have to be highly integrated with Vapor and with VMware." 

VMware and the Telco Connection

Whether the Multi-Cloud Services Grid becomes a real thing instead of just a perk for Vapor's colocation users will probably depend on whether VMware is successful in getting telcos onboard through the integration of Kinetic Grid with its Telco Cloud Platform, which brings modern cloud-native technology and automation to the table in a way that meets CSPs needs.

Stephen Spellicy, VP of product marketing and solutions at VMware, told us that the lower latency and higher resiliency of a decentralized service grid will be especially important to CSPs as more last-mile users begin using more compute-intensive online applications.

"I'm talking about the next generation of applications which are going to require massive amounts of compute and IO in order to deliver on the requirements of that application," he said. "Things like immersive applications for gaming, virtual reality, augmented reality, where the compute impact is very high. Having this high-performance edge-to-edge network that feels and operates as if it's all on one big network is enabling us to move the resources from that mesh to where it's needed at the time it's needed."

Using the services grid with automated systems built into VMware's platform would also help telcos avoid traffic bottlenecks and reroute traffic without interruption on the fly in case of a failure along the data route during a video game or online conference.

VMware said it'll first make its grid connected platform available in Las Vegas, Atlanta, and Dallas later this year.

About the Author(s)

Christine Hall

Freelance author

Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001 she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and began covering IT full time in 2002, focusing on Linux and open source software. Since 2010 she's published and edited the website FOSS Force. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux.

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