The Edge

EdgePresence Joins Rush to Build Mini Data Centers for Tower Companies

A Jacksonville, Florida-based startup is working with tower companies to set up edge-based data centers in smaller markets across the country. EdgePresence already has tenant-ready sites available in two markets: Jacksonville, Fla., and Austin, Texas. And by year-end the company expects to add sites in Boulder, Colo.; Las Vegas; McLean, Va.; and Waycross, Ga.

EdgePresence CEO Doug Recker is a veteran of the data center business. He founded Colo5, a disaster recovery and colocation firm that was acquired by Cologix in 2014, and started Modular Life Solutions in 2017. That company's mission is to develop solar-powered modular units to be used for disaster recovery and disaster-preparedness. Recker still operates Modular Solutions but spun out EdgePresence to create a separate micro-data center business earlier this year.

EdgePresence calls its micro-data centers EdgePods. EdgePods are designed to be anchored at the base of cell towers but can also be placed on enterprise campuses and at other locations.

Recker declined to reveal which tower companies EdgePresence is working with but said that most tower firms are interested in partnering with the firm because running a data center isn't part of their core competency. "They don't understand the data center business," Recker said. Wireless communications towers are perfect locations for mini-data centers because they have power and connectivity. Plus they are secure but accessible for maintenance.

Another big advantage of working with tower companies is that many firms own the land where their towers are located. That means EdgePresence doesn't have to embark on a lengthy permitting process to get approvals for the mini-data centers.

By placing these edge-based data centers at the tower site, EdgePresence is essentially moving the cloud servers closer to the user equipment and therefore reducing latency and mobile data costs.

Although Recker says EdgePresence is well positioned for 5G because wireless operators will likely need edge connectivity for caching and storing data locally, he also says the company isn't dependent upon 5G to succeed. It already has a viable business model that caters to managed service providers and IT managers that need to store data locally or don't want to incur the additional costs of transporting data back to data centers in bigger markets. "My target market is not the Fortune 100 companies. It's the local insurance agency, or real estate offices or doctors' offices. It's anyone that can't afford to lose their data," he says.

The potential market for edge computing is large. According to the 2018 Forrester Analytics Global Business Technographics Mobility Survey, 27% of telecom decision makers who responded to the survey said that their firms are either implementing or expanding edge computing in 2019.

A growing crowd
EdgePresence isn't the only edge computing firm that wants to partner with tower firms. Vapor IO works closely with Crown Castle, a big US cell tower firm, to develop an edge-based data center colocation business. Crown was an investor in Vapor IO.

In addition, American Tower acquired data center firm ColoATL earlier this year. Similarly, SBA Communications purchased a data center in Chicago called New Continuum in August in order to learn about the edge computing opportunity. SBA also has an agreement with Packet to run an edge computing location for SBA in Boston.

Other companies building data centers of various sizes in edge locations include EdgeMicro, EdgeConneX, DataBank, Compass data centers, Baselayer, Switch, DartPoints, vXchnge and 365 Data Centers.

As smaller companies work to build new data center locations, the industry's bigger data center companies have also been growing their footprints. According to new data from Synergy Research Group, the total number of large data centers worldwide operated by hyperscale providers increased to 504 at the end of the third quarter, having tripled since the beginning of 2013. The firm said the US accounts for almost 40% of the major cloud and internet data center sites around the globe.

— Sue Marek, special to Light Reading. Follow her @suemarek.

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