Edge data centers continue to receive significant press for their importance both in data center site selection and the technology they deliver. Simply put, the main objective of edge computing is to move the technology required by the end user as close to their device as possible. As the consumer requires more and faster content related to virtual reality, 5G systems, artificial intelligence applications, gaming and other needs on their mobile, business and home devices, these edge computing initiatives are significantly changing data center infrastructure, design and the related real estate. Other technologies coming in the not-so-distant future such as driverless cars, drone deliveries and other Internet of Things (IoT) applications will require this edge infrastructure.

Companies are working to reduce network latency across their networks, which essentially is the slowing of the internet that can occur outside of the major data center hubs. For consumers latency means that their NetFlix shows are buffering, website ordering is slowed and their ESPN NFL gamecasts are dropped, which is no longer an acceptable norm.  As cloud-based corporations such as Amazon, YouTube or Facebook that rely on data-hungry consumers spread out in more remote regions, being able to deliver incredibly fast and reliable bandwidth provides a major competitive advantage.

In addition, these companies are realizing cost savings in their quest to be closer to the user. Traditionally the company would have its core data center real estate consolidated in a major Tier 1 market. The cost to backhaul this content back and forth via long haul fiberoptic lines —sometimes over multiple time zones — can be pricey versus simply deploying a few racks into a nearby colocation data center.

Solutions in edge data center site selection

From a data center real estate perspective, the solutions being provided — from the largest data center categories to some of the smallest — are as varied as the market and the use needed in each case. 

Large companies such as Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Microsoft have built hyperscale campuses in smaller markets to deliver ultra-high internet speeds. These campuses also provide infrastructure redundancy at a significant power savings over larger markets. Such campuses have been developed in less recognizable markets as Council Bluffs, Iowa; Prineville, Oregon; Lenoir, North Carolina; and Reno, Nevada.

Several colocation operators have purpose-built, carrier-neutral facilities outside of the Top 10 data center markets and are actively catering to edge users. The good news for a cloud, retail or social media corporation needing to be in several markets simultaneously is that these companies can potentially provide this need on an expedited basis.

EdgeConnex, as its name suggests, provides colocation services across 25 North American data centers, and more globally, in several Tier 1 markets but also is in smaller markets such as Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Norfolk, Virginia, and New Orleans. In addition, per its website, EdgeConnex also offers over “3,000 national locations across our Edge Wireless and Edge POP portfolio” further extending its edge.

TierPoint, another well-regarded colocation operator, operates a nationwide platform over 35 colocation sites both in major markets including Dallas and Chicago and smaller metro areas such as Tulsa, Oklahoma; Raleigh, North Carolina; Omaha, Nebraska and Kansas City.

365DataCenters is another competitor in edge colocation services with its expanding network that includes Buffalo, New York; Indianapolis and Tampa, Florida.

On a much smaller scale, in the interest of placing data centers to the point of use, there have been dozens of creative ways that this goal has been accomplished such as:

  • Micro data centers, comprised of a turnkey, self-contained single rack that includes all the required power and cooling, to allow it to be installed in a warehouse closet. Adding more of these units provides for easy expandability.
  • Corporations are leveraging their real estate footprint. Amazon has boosted its network with its acquisition of Whole Foods, by installing small POP sites and micro sites at the back of the stores.
  • Cell tower companies have been able to leverage both their towers and the underlying land to allow for modular container-type data centers.
  • Telecom companies, with an in-place footprint of both fiber and central office data hubs throughout smaller metro areas, are marketing the benefits that this existing infrastructure can deliver at a much more local level.

Conclusion

So far there is no right answer to delivering effective edge data center real estate and, in reality, the multitude of solutions are somewhat the Wild Wild West.

As the internet and cloud services penetrate every corner of the global economy, data must reach new populations, filling in the remaining vacant spaces in the data center map.

But in every case, the goal is to maintain fast networks with content storage for the ever-demanding consumer.

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