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Vapor IO Emerges From Stealth Mode Ready To Disrupt The Data Center

The company, founded by an OpenStack pioneer, is selling infrastructure designed for low-power, small-footprint data centers on the edge.

Vapor IO, a startup based in Austin, Texas, that emerged from stealth mode on Tuesday, is betting that the data centers of the future -- the ones that will power the Internet of Things -- will be compact, geographically dispersed and intelligent.

Cole Crawford, Vapor IO's founder and CEO, said the technology his company developed over the last nine months -- a hyper-collapsed server rack, management and analytics software, and open-source server monitoring solution -- was born out of where he sees the industry headed.

"If I'm forecasting correctly, I kind of see a tale of two clouds," Crawford, one of the founding members of the OpenStack project, told CRN.

[Related: 2015 Data Center 100: 20 Designers and Builders]

There's "the one cloud we all know and love, the one we always use," which, these days, often resides in a server farm that consumes 100 megawatts of power.

But another cloud is emerging, Crawford said, one that is geographically desegregated. That cloud exists in data centers that are more manifold, with smaller footprints and located in denser urban areas, on the edge of major networks. Data centers of that form factor, consuming maybe one or two megawatts, will power the emerging Internet of Things, he said.

"You're not going to put 100 megawatts into urban infrastructure, in Downtown New York or Chicago," Crawford said.


That next-generation cloud requires a more apt technology, one that takes advantage of the economics of density. Crawford said that's what Vapor IO is set to deliver.

Industry analysts predict by 2020 we will see some 40 billion connected devices around the world producing a whopping 40 zettabytes of data. At current disk densities and form factors, you would need to stack drives beyond the moon and back to store that information.

"We're going to have to do more with less, but we're going to be able to do more with more," Crawford told CRN. What he means is that data center providers will be working with less power and less physical space at any one site, but they will have many more locations from which to choose.

The big public clouds are driving the cost of hardware lower and lower. As hardware becomes cheaper and more ubiquitous, interfaces will need to talk at a much greater scale.

That new paradigm will require a big data analytics platform to manage infrastructure in a low-touch manner, which Crawford described as "more like cattle, and not pets." When considering the Internet of Things, he revised the metaphor to "more like insects."

"We need to generate an abstraction layer that allows you to talk to your rack and your data center much more holistically," he said.


That's why he believes it’s the right time to bring Vapor IO to market.

"I think it’s the perfect time to disrupt the industry at lower levels than the IT equipment itself. I don't think you're going to see another new Dell or HP. I think that battle's been fought," Crawford said.

The physical component of Vapor IO's solution is the Vapor Chamber, a futuristic-looking, hexagonal superstructure about 9 feet in diameter. Chamber offers a hyper-collapsed design for consolidating servers in a rack to achieve physical density.

Vapor Chamber is designed for easy setup and deployment. It's delivered ready for users to hook up external cooling, turn on, and start loading the OS and other software components.

"The economics of what we're building out, with all the physical infrastructure, including IT infrastructure in the middle, we deliver this to you at a price significantly lower than going to a greenfield site and building a purposeful data center," Crawford told CRN.

Vapor Chamber can suit the needs of managed service providers hosting infrastructure for many clients, or individual enterprises.


Vapor CORE delivers the intelligence layer of software for managing operations. CORE is built on top of a technology called Open DCRE (Data Center Runtime Environment) that allows users to implement simple sensors for monitoring underlying operating environments.

Vapor IO developed Open DCRE and has contributed it to the Open Compute Project.

Vapor IO's first customer is the Union Station Technology Center, a former railroad depot converted to a data center hub in South Bend, Ind.

The startup will be licensing its technology and bringing it to market initially through two partners: manufacturing and distribution giant Jabil, and systems integrator StackVelocity.

PUBLISHED MARCH 11, 2015

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