Data center startup offers compute colo at cell towers

Put the compute and network right next to each other, it argues.

angry cell towers
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Vapor IO, an Austin-based data center technology startup, is launching a rather interesting collocation business by offering leased data center capacity at cellular network towers. The company’s argument is that it should offer compute and network capabilities together for maximum edge computing.

The service, called Project Volutus, includes everything from site selection to rack space, power, connectivity, infrastructure management software, and remote hands. The company believes that the need for edge computing capacity will increase as things like IoT, connected and autonomous cars, augmented and virtual reality, and 5G wireless come to market and start scaling.

The company notes that some data center collocation providers have started labeling their regional and metropolitan data centers and interconnect points as “edge servers” but that they are not. Their connection to the wireless network is through multiple hops, central offices and data lakes. It says its True Cloud Edge directly cross-connects to the wireless network with one hop from the radio signal interface for minimal latency.

The company has cylindrical data center enclosures called Vapor Chamber that consist of high density compute plus custom software. Each chamber contains six racks and provides 150kW of power and the necessary cooling infrastructure. Customers are free to choose any type of racks, network connectivity, and power distribution they need.

Project Volutus will allow for fiber runs from the Vapor Chambers at the cell towers directly to the regional data centers for extremely fast data exchange between the two tiers of cloud.

What’s sure to help out the project is its new investor, Crown Castle, the largest wireless tower company in the US. Crown Castle leases towers to all the top wireless carriers, including Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile, and is now a minority investor in Vapor IO.

Vapor is rolling out an early-access program for Project Volutus in two cities, but has not identified them yet.

Vapor is also adding to its executive team. It has announced the hiring of Don Duet as chief operating officer. Duet spent 28 years with Goldman Sachs, where he ran the bank's technology division and lead investments in companies like Square, Docker and Barefoot Networks, along with Vapor IO.

Vapor’s CEO is Cole Crawford, the former executive director of Facebook's Open Compute Project as well as one of the founding developers of the OpenStack cloud operating system.

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