Moving data to the edge has been a mantra over the last couple of years, and today we have another company launching a unique take on it. Vapor IO has unveiled Project Volutus, an undertaking that will put micro data centers right at the cell tower site.
The thesis is that with some truly bandwidth-heavy applications like autonomous driving, IoT, decentralized machine learning, and augmented reality, the need for computing power closer to the user can only go up. And in today's mobile world and tomorrow's 5G infrastructure, the closest you can get and still be on the ground is the cell tower itself. So why not put some computing and storage there where you can get sub-10ms-round-trip latency?
With the right software and the benefits of today's automation technologies, they hope to enable customers to scale up a distributed infrastructure nationally. Just how they build the business model and surrounding ecosystem that can manage such hardware on that scale will be an interesting thing to watch.
The first step will be to roll out the capabilities in two cities this year and work out the kinks. The main piece of the puzzle in terms of hardware will be their Vapor Chamber, manufactured in partnership with Flex and with native support for Intel's FlexRAN reference design. Vapor IO's software and commercial packages will help manage the units remotely.
Vapor IO has some key backers that will help them get the ball rolling. The tower and fiber operator Crown Castle is not just a partner but has invested in a minority stake in the company. With their combination of tens of thousands of tower locations and extensive metro fiber depth, they are a perfect fit for this sort of infrastructure if the business model proves out.
They are also bringing in some extra talent to help drive the project forward. Don Duet, who formerly headed up the technology division of Goldman Sachs, will be taking on the president and COO role. He'll be bringing the low latency application and data center infrastructure knowledge he honed working on Goldman Sachs' network and computing infrastructure out to the edge.