Data Center Infrastructure

Clouds at the Edge: The New Data Center

A new edge data center and cloud ecosystem opening today in Portland is a clear representation of where the network and cloud are now meeting at the edge and bringing more capability closer to the enterprise than ever before. (See EdgeConneX Partners on Portland Cloud Data Hub.)

Announced today by EdgeConneX Inc. , the Portland Edge Data Center Cloud Ecosystem is a partnership between that data center operator; service providers Electric Lightwave and Megaport ; and technology companies such as Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN), Opus Interactive and ScienceLogic. It brings direct private cloud connections to an edge location which previously were found only in the major Internet peering sites.

EdgeConneX began by building edge data centers for the cable industry, and in the Hillsboro, Ore., area, it created such a facility for the dominant cable provider, Comcast, says Phill Lawson-Shanks, chief architect and VP of Innovation for EdgeConneX. With a preponderance of fiber optic networks nearby -- such as ELIs -- and the need for cloud connectivity as well, that site became an opportunistic build-out for a cloud ecosystem hub, and became Amazon Web Services' first metro connection in the Portland market.

Crucial to the ecosystem's success was the decision to partner with Megaport, the Australian company which deployed its SDN-based elastic interconnection fabric at the Portland site, providing scalable private direct connections to AWS, Microsoft's Azure cloud and more. (See Megaport Brings SDN Fabric to EdgeConneX's Portland Site.)

Hear EdgeConneX's Don MacNeil discuss edge data centers at more at our upcoming Big Communications Event in Austin, TX, May 24-25. You can register now.

Offering dynamic access to private cloud connections was critical, says Lawson-Shanks, and while other companies are developing this capability, he says Megaport was able to move most quickly.

"Anyone can build a box and fill it with colo [colocation facilities that can house enterprise gear] but we are building an ecosystem, supporting and nurturing cloud connections, with AWS Direct Connect and Microsoft and other versions of direct private connections to the cloud," he comments. "That is exactly where those hybrid interactions are happening and that is what enterprises are demanding."

Megaport is in the midst of its buildout in North America and Europe, bringing its on-demand cloud connectivity service to new markets, building on its success in Australia, says Chief Marketing Officer Eric Troyer. Using its elastic SDN-based interconnect fabric, and fiber connections buys or leases, Megaport is offering enterprises on-demand access to high-performance interconnections to AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud and more, through its customer port.

This is different from a cloud exchange, such as Equinix might provide, Troyer stresses. "We can extend the service reach of a cloud exchange, and be complementary to what they do," says the former Equinix and Microsoft employee. "When you think about enterprises -- not every enterprise has the base of talent in terms of network engineers on board who can build a robust telecom-style network, and the clouds aren't in all the data centers. We bring folks like AWS and Microsoft to the doorsteps of data centers where they might not otherwise be available."

Both enterprises and cloud service providers typically use Megaport for transport services or connections between metros, he says. To date, Megaport is in seven North American markets -- Toronto, Northern Virginia, Chicago, Dallas, Silicon Valley, Los Angeles and New York, with plans for further expansion.

As for EdgeConneX, expect to see more announcements like the one of the Portland hub, as it continues to expand its capabilities at the edge. These are still driven by anchor tenants, Lawson-Shanks stresses, and not speculative builds or plans to aggressively court the enterprise market directly.

But as the technology evolves and micro-servers make it possible to put more at the edge with less power and cooling required, there is no reason not to continue building there for what is expected to be a cloud connection boom for some time to come, he notes.

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

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