EdgeConnex sees the emergence of edge computing as an opportunity to grow its business by re-inventing itself, yet again. The company has already morphed itself several times to get into successful new ventures in networking.
It got its start about eight years ago, assisting cable companies that wanted to lay fiber to cell towers in order to sell backhaul services. Cell tower owners were being approached by multiple service providers, with each one wanting to dig a trench and lay fiber. EdgeConnex worked with multiple providers to trench just once and put in a single fiber connection that different cable operators could split at the bottom of the cell tower.
Then, its operator customers asked EdgeConnex to help them lay fiber to commercial buildings and office parks. To do that, EdgeConnex had to develop relationships with building owners. After the fiber was laid, it acted as a broker to help service providers sell Ethernet services to the tenants in those North American buildings.
“There are about a dozen big property management companies,” said Phill Lawson-Shanks, chief architect at EdgeConnex. “We negotiated the rights with municipalities and tunneled into buildings. We own that co-lo within that building. We have about 45,000 buildings and cell tower locations.”
But EdgeConnex’s evolution didn’t stop there.
Its cable operator customers then asked it to build smaller-scale data centers where they could store their customers’ DVR videos. These data centers are built close to the buildings where the operators already own fiber connections.
“Working with Comcast, Charter, Cox, we rapidly built data centers, typically where others didn’t build them,” said Lawson-Shanks. “We build our data centers within three to five months, from start to finish.”
The company now has 30 data centers across 27 markets. Lawson-Shanks said the company’s smaller data centers have radically changed how content is delivered. At first, they were for the benefit of cable operators that needed to store DVR content, but then, over-the-top content providers such as Netflix wanted to cache their content in these locations as well, to be close to cable on-ramps.
Now, EdgeConnex is looking at its next frontier — edge computing.
EdgeConnex has developed physical containers for edge computing that can sit on the tops of buildings or other locations and tether back to its edge data centers.
EdgeConnex is agnostic to its network customers’ access technologies. “We provide and manage the buildings and the spaces; our customers are the network providers,” said Lawson-Shanks. “Service providers figure out the architecture they want. Cable tends to metro rings back to large backbones. Cell companies tend to go back to their core.”
The company has also built data centers for some big hyperscale Web companies and gaming firms.
Lawson-Shanks said EdgeConnex’s success stems from its relationships with these customers as well as with thousands of building owners across North America.
He also chalks up its success to the fact that the company saw the need for a different type of data center architecture. He said other data center companies have approached the market with the mentality: If we build it they will come. “We build where people need it and build it quickly and bring in an ecosystem to support it,” he said.
In addition to its physical containers for data center equipment, EdgeConnex also provides data center infrastructure management (DCIM) that monitors things such as power and cooling, reporting back to IT managers through a dashboard.