When cutting-edge servers complete their service at large cloud data centers, they still have plenty of live left. Soon they’ll be living on the edge.

ITRenew, which decommissions data centers and recycles IT assets, will work with edge computing specialist Vapor IO to offer hyperscale hardware to customers at five locations around the country – with more to come. Options will include a “solution-as-a-service” offering that integrates computing, storage and networking gear in Vapor IO’s edge data modules.

“We’re able to take the systems and racks that come out of places like Facebook or Microsoft or other hyperscalers and make these usable by the broader enterprise, cloud service provider and telco markets,” said Ali Fenn, the president of ITRenew. “Think about them as certified pre-owned BMWs with 20,000 miles on them.”

The partnership is designed to bring affordability and improved sustainability to edge computing. Vapor IO is creating a distributed network of edge colocation sites, housed in micro modular data centers that can be deployed at key points on the network.

“With ITRenew, we’re making it possible to replace on-premises data centers with fully-managed near-premises services,” said Cole Crawford, founder and CEO of Vapor IO. “Essentially, we’re offering an ‘easy button’ for enterprise adoption of 5G and Industry 4.0 applications.”

Edge computing moves data processing and services as close to the end user as possible. The trend is driven by the increased use of consumer mobile devices, especially consumption of video and virtual reality content and the growth of sensors as part of the Internet of Things.

Rack-Scale Systems for a Supply-Constrained World

Creating edge networks requires infrastructure in new places, and the ability to reduce costs through the use of repeatable designs. This aligns with the strategic goals of Vapor IO and ITRenew, whose model is enabled by the rise of open hardware designs used by major cloud and social network operators.

“The hyperscalers refresh (hardware) quickly, while technology enterprises are often running things for 6 to 9 years,” said Fenn. “There’s a big gap there, and because everything is open, we can now enable the roadmaps for infrastructure for all these downstream markets, and we can do that at significant cost advantage, and a significant sustainability advantage, because you’ve avoided a whole bunch of new manufacturing.”

ITRenew has productized these pre-owned systems in its Sesame program, which offers rack-scale solutions that can be rolled into an environment and quickly brought online.  The racks are pre-configured for common workloads.

“In this increasingly supply-constrained world, there’s another advantage – it is available right now,” said Fenn. “We’re hearing enterprises say they’re (facing delays of) six months or eight months. That doesn’t work, because they’re trying to scale their business and it has to go faster, not slower.”

Extending the life of these systems can shift the cost of servers and storage, but also has major sustainability benefits, creating a “circular economy”- a closed loop system that provides a longer life for IT equipment, reducing waste and pollution without generating new carbon or pulling scarce resources from the ground.

Rearchitecting the Internet, From Edge to Core

In its approach to the edge market, Vapor IO has taken a broad approach that combines a focus on software-driven management with expertise in networking and data center hardware – including its distinctive round Vapor Module rack enclosure. Vapor IO’s Kinetic Edge network design uses both wired and wireless connections to create a reliable, low-latency network of colocation sites.

The Vapor IO module at Mercedes Benz stadium in Atlanta. (Photo: Vapor IO)

Vapor IO also worked with VMware to launch the Open Grid Alliance, where it will team with ell Technologies, DriveNets, MobiledgeX, and PacketFabric to pursue an edge-centric vision for “an evolutionary rearchitecting of the Internet.”

By deploying data center infrastructure near retail and industrial centers across the country, ITRenew and Vapor IO can power private wireless and on-premises computing without the need for enterprises to invest in their own infrastructure.

“The cloud made everyone recognize the value of the easy button, as well as what it means to shift your CapEx and OpEx budgets to service-oriented infrastructure offerings,” said Crawford. “ITRenew has a massively robust capability in terms of data center services, and offers ‘one hand to hold’ for the logistics and supply chain and all of the things that would normally be handled by an OEM.”

The solution will be available in Vapor IO facilities in Atlanta, Dallas, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Pittsburgh, with the goal of eventually expanding nationwide.

Vapor IO is now online in six markets, which each feature more than one deployment. Crawford says the company has construction underway on another 26 sites, which typically involves fiber trenching, pouring a concrete pad to support the pre-fabricated data module, which is factory built and then delivered to the site. He says the national buildout of the Vapor IO network has been able to continue moving forward during the pandemic.

“We’ve actually found the construction aspect to be manageable during the last 18 months,” said Crawford. “What has changed a bit is delays in long lead items in the supply chain. I think that’s true in every industry right now.”

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