EdgeConneX fuels service providers of all stripes with data centers at the edge

EdgeConneX offers data center connectivity in 31 markets across North America, South America and Europe. (Pixabay)

While the "edge" has been a prominent buzzword in telecommunications for several years now, EdgeConneX has been living on the edge for some time.

Herndon, Virginia-based EdgeConneX bills itself as the preeminent global edge data center provider. It has 40 data centers that are operating in 31 markets across North America, South America and Europe. It also has 222 small points-of-presence inside of office buildings and at the same time has provided hyperscale providers with more than 100 megawatts of space.

"Our data centers really serve the gamut from the edge to the core of the networks of the ecosystems we support," said EdgeConneX CEO Randy Brouckman in an interview with FierceTelecom. "The vast majority, in terms of numbers of the data centers. are clearly edge data centers. The model is actually a pure wholesale data center model.

Randy Brouckman, CEO of EdgeConneX

"We were the pioneers of the edge data center when it was not in vogue, when it was not of interest and when people told me 'No, I don't understand that you can't have that size facilities, it's got to be gigantic campuses only.'"

EdgeConneX was founded in 2010, and then it proceeded to build its first 23 data centers in 24 months, which were mainly 1 or 2 megawatts each.

Brouckman breaks down the evolution of the edge in three waves. The first wave started in late 2012 or early 2014.

"We anchored each of those first data centers with the largest broadband eyeball network in the market," he explained. "That became the private peering points for the market to first and foremost to get content brought local at the edge. So that included Netflix, Hulu, Facebook, HBO and YouTube, among others.

"So we actually created wholesale edge data centers and brought forward the content ecosystem together with the largest eyeballs. Think of it as wave one, which is still going on. We're actually seeing an acceleration of that happening now in South America, Europe and other continents. So kind of interesting that hasn't stopped."

The first wave helped decrease buffering by more than 25% while also decreasing abandonment of video viewing by almost 86%, according to Brouckman.

"Wave one just kind of created that whole rich video experience," Brouckman said. "So much so that folks like Facebook put all of their video ad insertion capabilities right down into our edge facilities."

The second wave started to ramp up in 2015 when the cloud providers started making moves to get closer to enterprises at the edge.

"With wave two, we actually brought all the business nodes in from those networks and that allowed us to then bring the cloud providers and the cloud closer to the enterprise," Brouckman said. "That went equally as quickly. Now you see these cloud on ramps in these private peering locations in these edge data centers that were originally content to the consumer become business nodes as well as the consumer aggregation points.

"All of these as data centers are extremely location sensitive. So they're usually located within 2 to 5 kilometers at most of the primary aggregation routers in the market. The reason for that is there is literally fiber together to the aggregation routers in the market. So you end up with this low latency, high bandwidth that's not running over long networks. The results were phenomenal."

Moving the cloud closer edge via the cloud providers' on ramps reduced latency by 50% to 85% versus using the internet to access the cloud. Brouckman said there's also a reduction in cost because enterprises no longer need to buy private line circuits to big cloud instances.

"So we're in the midst of wave two and it's going swimmingly well," Brouckman said. "Wave three at the edge has been the next generation of cloud enabled services. The third wave of edge is localized cloud deployments. These are cloud enabled services were bigger instances of the cloud and special purpose clouds—like gaming clouds, AR/VR type clouds and AI type clouds—need to be much more local or approximate to where the services are being created or consumed."

The third wave, which was well underway by the middle of last year, also provides the fuel behind internet of things deployments, connected vehicles and autonomous vehicles.

Amazon Web Services and Microsoft have both put on ramps into EdgeConneX's facilities while Google has peered with it. EdgeConneX announced a partnership with Colt Technology Services last year.

EdgeConneX also has Comcast anchored in 18 facilities. Phillip Marangella, EdgeConneX's chief marketing officer, said that the cable industry is a valuable partner due to the number of fiber lit buildings it has.

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EdgeConneX works with the full gamut of service providers, from the large hyperscale companies all the way down to Tier 2 and Tier 3 providers.

Marangella said that EdgeConneX makes a point of catering to the customers' needs instead of the "we will build it and they will come" approach.

"We work with our customers to define the size and the exact location," he said. "We give them a choice of two three buildings or a property location. We ask them which they would prefer based on their requirements. Then we go procure that building, convert it and make it a Tier 3  facility and so forth. So that model is very appealing because we weren't forcing them to come to us."

The majority of data center investments in North America are going into five markets: New York, Chicago, Silicon Valley and Los Angeles and Ashburn, Virginia, according to Marangella. But enterprises are located across a wide area of the U.S.

"There are only about 20% of the enterprises in those primary locations while 80% are outside of that and in other markets like Houston, Portland, Phoenix, Denver, and so forth," he said. "And so the cloud guys recognize, 'Hey, we've got obviously a ton of infrastructure in Ashburn and Silicon Valley and so forth,' but if they want to differentiate their services they need to get closer to their end users. Now you see Amazon talking about putting stuff on prem now.

"That's telling all of us that they want to differentiate themselves by getting closer to the end user, the end customer and solving for their problems around performance and latency. Latency matters as you have production workloads that are very chatty, very bandwidth intensive and so forth."

Competitive landscape

Since EdgeConneX offers its data centers across a wide range of customers, Brouckman said it doesn’t have one primary competitor, although Megaport and PacketFabric are competitors in the cloud space.

As a private firm, EdgeConneX doesn't say how many employees it has. EdgeConneX's primary investors are private equity firms Providence and Brown Brothers.

While there are currently various definitions for edge compute, edge access and the edge in general, Brouckman said EdgeConneX has a simplified view.

"Most of our customers think of the edge as where the data center needs to be, where the compute storage and/or conductivity needs to be so that their customers' experience is optimized," he said.