Where’s the Edge? It’s Here…It’s There…It’s Everywhere.
In part two of our series, “How Web 3.0 Will Forever Change Your IT infrastructure,” we explored how software is fundamentally reshaping IT infrastructure and transforming the experience of managing it. In this third and final installment, we look at the other major evolution Web 3.0 is driving within IT infrastructure: a move to the “edge.”
Over the last few years, the edge has become the most talked-about aspect of IT infrastructure, largely driven by the arrival of the first 5G networks. As a result, the vision of the edge that has predominantly taken hold is one of small, modular data centers—sitting at the base of cell towers to speed the delivery of content and application data by being “one hop away” from end user devices (i.e. cell phones). This is a misleading over-simplification.
The reality is more complex, akin to The Blind Men and the Elephant fable. It is now clear that the edge means something very different, depending on one’s perspective.
The Edge: Driven by Geographic, Application, and Latency Requirements
In one sense, the edge is geography-specific. Today, much of the Internet’s content is still centralized in data centers located in tier 1 and 2 metros. Emerging IoT applications and sensors may someday create the need for an edge that can support compute and storage in remote locations, but it’s just as likely the edge will continue to be built out in large cities as well. This is the edge that is actually getting the most traction today, as hyperscalers, like AWS, establish their first forays into the edge in large metros such as Los Angeles. This makes perfect sense and follows the simple logic of the famous bank robber Willie Sutton, who when asked why he robbed banks, replied, “Because that’s where the money is.” Large metros are still where the majority of users and data are located.
In another sense, the edge is application-specific, and the configuration of its infrastructure varies accordingly. The edge for a hyperscaler that’s building a new availability zone in a tier 2 metro requires several thousand square feet of space and several MW of power, but this doesn’t warrant building a dedicated facility.
Instead, an existing, multi-tenant data center (MTDC), like DataBank’s, provides the ideal solution. For a network provider looking to deploy new 5G towers—or extend an undersea cable landing further inland—the edge may require far less space and power. It also might be in a unique location where no data center is available. In that case, a modular, micro-data center —with half-cabinets and kWs of power is the perfect option – such as the EdgePresence platform in which DataBank has invested.
There is also an element of the edge that is performance/latency-specific. For instance, video and e-commerce applications may continue to be adequately served by data centers, cloud platforms, and CDNs in the tier 1 and 2 metros where they exist today. Those applications perform fine even with the 15-100ms of latency that occurs between a user and a server hundreds of miles away.
However, augmented reality or gaming applications that require sub 15ms response times may need to reside far closer to end users. Here again, that could be a modular solution in one geography or a large MTDC in another.
A Ubiquitous, Multi-Modal Edge in Three Platforms
This is why, at DataBank, we think of the edge as ubiquitous—everywhere and multi-modal—existing in different forms, depending on the business and application it’s supporting. Our notion of a Digital Asset Allocation strategy is rooted in the idea of helping IT leaders ensure their applications and data are deployed on the right platform, at the right edge, at the right time, and for the right audience. To support this strategy, we developed three specific edge platforms:
- Our Hyperscale Edge provides a geographic footprint ideal for webscale cloud, content, and compute resource providers seeking to build or expand their availability zones in tier 1 and 2 metros. This will establish their edge for the next 10-15 years. DataBank’s 60 data centers in the U.S. are spread across 25 tier 1 and 2 metros, putting our entire U.S. portfolio within 50 miles of half the U.S. population, providing best-in-class reach and scalability. DataBank typically deploys multiple facilities within a metro, and many of them (our legacy zColo sites) are integrated with Zayo Networks fiber. This means hyperscale customers can build multi-node availability zones in a metro with uncongested access to long-haul networks that connect to other availability zones.
- Our Interconnect Edge gives network providers, SaaS developers, and enterprises seeking a hybrid IT strategy the open and neutral-access interconnections their applications demand. DataBank maintains 20 major interconnect locations in 13 markets that support over 30,000 cross connects. These include some of the most notable carrier hotels such as 1 Wilshire in Los Angles, 111 8th Avenue, and 60 Hudson in New York City, 1950 North Stemmons in Dallas, and 1500 Champa in Denver. These interconnect hubs and our multi-node cloud on-ramps provide unfettered access to dozens of cloud platforms, hundreds of carriers, and thousands of miles of fiber. Also, with new advancements in our portal, customers have software-defined control of this ecosystem, allowing them to tap into any cloud platform provider, carrier, or enterprise application partner quickly.
- Our Low-Latency Edge meets the demands of customers who need to support extremely latency-sensitive or geography-specific applications. DataBank utilizes the EdgePresence modular, micro-data center platform, which provides fully secure, SOC-2 certified containers with redundant 48kW power sources, 300+ square feet of raised floor capacity, 10 racks (or 20 half racks), and four 5-ton cooling units. These EdgePods can be deployed virtually anywhere in a matter of days or weeks, rather than months, and they tether to existing DataBank facilities. This allows applications and interconnections to be established beneath 5G cell towers, at cable head-ends, or anywhere an application needs to be put, and as close to user populations as necessary for minimal latency.
DataBank Corners the Edge
With these three edge platforms, DataBank is poised to help any company meet the edge demands they have today and tomorrow, regardless of application or location. We don’t stop there, though. Our Data Center Evolved model provides all the options you need to make sure your infrastructure at the edge is managed, secure, and compliant. In addition, our Customer Portal gives you all the visibility and control you want to make sure your applications are on the right infrastructure, at the right time, in the right place, and for the right audiences.