Vertical Bridge is combining its physical assets — towers, excess lands, power, fiber, HVAC and land development services — with the expertise in design, operation and maintenance of modular database locations to offer a new service, which it calls Edge to Suit™. The result is the deployment of edge data centers at existing telecom sites as well as at non-telecom locations.
Bernard Borghei, Executive Vice President of Operations & Co-Founder of Vertical Bridge, told Inside Towers that building out edge data centers is a logical evolution of the company’s tower development capabilities, which include identifying, permitting and titling real estate and building telecom infrastructure sites.
“Those are transferable and translatable skill sets and services on the development side,” he said. “It was very easy for us to accommodate and integrate edge data center locations into that program.”
Vertical Bridge maintains a healthy new build tower program, according to Borghei, building 500 to 600 new sites nationwide every year. The acquisition of EcoSite last year added to Vertical Bridge’s development expertise, he said.
“We are experts in finding locations, securing land and developing them through the permitting processes,” Borghei said. “We can take that vast expertise and utilize it to build out edge locations where the network architecture requires it.”
Vertical Bridge relies on other companies to supply the expertise in design, operation and maintenance of the edge data centers. As a portfolio company of DigitalBridge, Vertical Bridge has plenty of sister companies it could possibly partner with, including Agile Data Centers, Aptum Technologies, DataBank and Scala Data Centers.
In particular, Vertical Bridge has partnered with Databank, and its subsidiary EdgePresence, to develop and deploy edge solutions. “They bring in their technical expertise and their platform that’s already deployed, and we are bringing in our development and deployment services to make edge data centers happen,” Borghei said.
Vertical Bridge is marketing its Edge to Suit™ product to both the carrier community and to enterprises, especially large scale enterprises with multiple locations across the country that are looking to edge architecture to gain operational efficiencies. The tower company already has business relationships with enterprises, aside from its relationships that it has with the carrier community, Borghei said.
“As an organization, we continue to evolve, grow and scale,” he said. “We’ve been looking at the non-traditional carrier clients for the past four or five years, through our in-building wireless program and through our edge program.”
Vertical Bridge’s relationship with its sister data center companies has marketing benefits, as well, providing more potential enterprise customers that might be looking for edge data centers.
“So the notion of being part of the DigitalBridge family of companies gives us an expanded reach beyond just our traditional verticals in which tower companies have traditionally operated,” Borghei said.
Borghei said the tower industry labors under the misunderstanding of what an edge architecture looks like and where it should be located. Edge computing does not necessarily have to be located at the tower, but it must be as close to the users and generators of the data as possible to allow ultra low latency and reduced backhaul costs, he said.
“In reality, if you take time to understand the technical needs, requirements and specification of an edge architecture, the edge has to be where the data is being generated, where it’s being collected, analyzed, and actioned,” Borghei said. “So, the only thing that is required, really, is power and fiber.”
Vertical Bridge was one of the first companies in the tower industry to discuss the trend toward the deployment of edge architecture as part of the convergence of wireless and wireline technologies. In 2014, after the sale of Global Tower Partners, Marc Ganzi, Co-founder and CEO of DigitalBridge and Executive Chairman of Vertical Bridge, began openly talking about convergence and laying out his vision for the DigitalBridge portfolio, which today includes 22 portfolio and affiliated companies across the digital infrastructure ecosystem, comprising more than 440,000 tower sites, 80,000 small cell nodes and 100 data centers, plus a fiber network of over 130,000 route miles.
At the Tower and Small Cell Summit in 2015, he told the audience it would need to provide multiple types of architecture in the future, including small cells, interconnectivity, backhaul, co-location, and cloud and hosted services, as well as macro towers.
Borghei emphasized that, as the largest privately held tower company in the United States, Vertical Bridge will remain the most active in its tower portfolio. However, edge data centers are not just something the company is dabbling in, either. “We do have paying clients in this sector,” he said. “Our existing people will be involved with it. We will allocate resources to programs like this, as they scale and as they grow.”
By J. Sharpe Smith, Inside Towers Technology Editor