Vapor IO Secures Funding To Deploy Its Edge Computing Model Across The Nation


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Vapor IO, a startup looking to usher in a new model of edge computing, has secured funding to implement nationally its vision for offering co-location services from networks of micro data centers.

Founder and CEO Cole Crawford said the C Round revealed Wednesday, the amount of which he did not disclose, will enable Vapor IO to expand into more cities an integrated service called Kinetic Edge that it first debuted in Chicago.

The funding round was large enough to provide the capital "to build out a meaningful co-location business," Crawford said, which is a proposition chock-full of expenses.

[Related: 9 Ways Artificial Intelligence Can Be Used To Bring IoT, Edge Computing To Life]

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Berkshire Partners led the round, joined by current investor Crown Castle, the country's largest cell tower operator.

Vapor IO and Crown Castle had previously launched Project Volutus—five interconnected micro data centers in Chicago that showcased the potential of its edge hosting model, Crawford said.

With the latest funding, Vapor IO will buy the existing Volutus facilities from Crown Castle to ensure it provides services agnostic of cellular infrastructure operators.

The Austin, Texas-based startup emerged from stealth in 2015 with a combination of chamber pods, server racks and open software designed to situate infrastructure on the network's edge — close to users in dense urban environments and wireless network towers.

Kinetic Edge advances that modular data center approach with upgrades in open and proprietary software and interconnection capabilities deployed in its secured enclosures. Users can manage their infrastructure through the startup's Vapor Edge Portal and Synse telemetry system.

A new paradigm for edge computing is needed to power autonomous cars, smart cities, virtual and augmented reality, industrial Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, and network functions virtualization, Crawford said.

Those technologies are all contributing to a "data deluge happening at the edge that's going to require a different network architecture," he said.

The advent of 5G networks will further challenge existing internet infrastructure that's been built over the last two decades with a design architecture that doesn't adequately support emerging 5G technologies. With its tens of thousands of towers and fiber cable assets, Crown Castle has "has one of the best hands to play when thinking about next-gen 5G," Crawford said.

Vapor IO isn't ready to talk customers yet. But the company has built capabilities specifically for telecoms, he said, and can uniquely meet requirements of web services companies, cloud providers, and CDNs.

The small-footprint data centers are designed as physically and logically multitenant solutions that integrate into wireless and wireline networks. The startup is leaning heavily on software-defined networking, an essential component for making edge infrastructure feasible, Crawford said.

Vapor IO will also soon introduce software-defined peering, allowing customers to interconnect services from network providers without having to physically plug cables into ports.

"Telcos and new economy companies" want to be able to do network handoff and network offloading over common APIs and abstraction layers, Crawford told CRN.

Vapor IO chambers, which can house compute and storage infrastructure for two dozen customers, come in several form factors to accommodate location requirements. That flexibility allows deployments in dense areas, where customers can leverage high-bandwidth urban network fiber for low-latency communications, and ease data ingestion challenges.

To guide where it leases land and places modules in any given geography, the company has developed a site-selection algorithm that ingests some 100 data points.

"This is the internet that Vapor wants to build," Crawford said, one that creates a logical data center footprint by connecting decentralized and disaggregated physical facilities.

By the end of the year, the service will be deployed in two more American cities across 13 sites. Vapor IO expects to be developing more than 100 Kinetic Edge facilities coast-to-coast by the end of 2020.

Vapor IO is currently only doing direct sales, but the company expects to start building out a channel program in 2019, Crawford told CRN.