EdgeConneX’s Phill Lawson-Shanks: The “Edge” is Being at the Most Connected Point, Clients Keeping it Local

Oct 5, 2017
by Josh Anderson

DENVER, CO – Phill Lawson-Shanks is the Chief Architect & Vice President of Innovation at EdgeConneX. Mr. Lawson-Shanks has been at the forefront of designing and deploying industry leading solutions in both the UK and the US for over 25 years. Prior to joining EdgeConneX, Phill was CTO of Virtacore responsible for data center build-out, network core architecture and systems to accommodate the migration and consolidation of thousands of clients and infrastructure. Phill’s team also designed and deployed the world’s largest VMware-based Public Cloud. At Alcatel-Lucent Phill served as Chief Strategy Officer where he led their effective transition to the cloud, virtualizing many of their programs and creating meaningful time and cost savings. As Founder, VP and GM of Digital Media at MCI (now Verizon Digital Media Services), Phill created the division and received several related patents in the process. At CapRE’s Denver Data Center Summit this Sumer, he participated in a Q&A led by Ms. Kylle Jordan of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, titled The Impact of Demand Drivers for the Edge in the Colorado Data Centre Market, Including: AI and IoT. Below is a snippet of that Q&A, continuing a story Phill shared about how EdgeConneX’s earliest foray into the industry revolved around connectivity for DVRs in the Houston region (check out that article for the full story).

LAWSON-SHANKS: ….Houston very quickly became the head end point, the most connected point, to 70-80 percent of all of the eyeballs in the market. So instead of all of the traffic heading up to Dallas and then come back again, it’d just stay locally in the Houston market. This customer then asked us to do it again. But that turned out to be a different model. We looked very quickly into how we could scale this business. We decided to be scalable. And since we didn’t have any pre-existing infrastructure, we just had a blank slate, instead of looking at a data center that had the right methodologies to follow, we took the view that we could repurpose a building very, very quickly, and turn it into a highly scalable, highly redundant data center platform.

So we did that 23 times in 24 months in the whole American market. With anchor tenants that came into make us the most connected point in our marketplace. Then the over the top video guys came and put their equipment with us. The search engine companies came and put their technology with us. By their design, new technology to get close to that marketplace. And so we very quickly became the Edge. We coined the term edge data center two years ago, and we did some very strategic gorilla marketing to start pushing out “the Edge.” In talking about the Edge, it’s all about being that point where the connection to whatever device you’re using gets to where it needs to get to. So in Minneapolis-St.Paul for example, there was a company – not really a competitor – that built a data center for the local market, and they called it an Edge data center for a local market business.

And we actually sent them a cease and desist because we actually had a trademark on it. But in debating that and looking at it, we did some trace routes on the data going to and from that data center. And even though it was in that market, the data was coming up to 350 Cermak in Chicago and then coming back to the market to serve to their customers. So even though the physical servers were in the market, the data path was going way out of state and in again. So again the Edge is really defined as being the most connected point to whatever device it is, and today most of the devices are offices and homes. And now local is really springing up. I think that it’s getting that content and keeping it local.

Jordan: Let’s talk about local demand and drivers. You’ve eluded this to a little bit with the sites you’re currently located at and where you want to go in the future. But for you guys, it sounds like customers can choose where you go next. Is that true?

Lawson-Shanks: We work speculatively. We’re built for the mega tenant. And we build to service their requirements. So the first set of customers that we had, they needed to get their company’s DVRs in their market, and get all of their other traffic off of their micro, so it could be fed locally from their market. So because of our previous business with ethernet, we had the most extensive network match for all of the network providers. We knew exactly where the routes were. We knew where all of the slice points were. We knew if it was on the right side of the road…

Stay tuned for more insider analysis from Lawson-Shanks in the coming days, as CapRE continues to post snippets of this riveting Q&A.

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