“The Edge is Going to Force a Transition” | Stackpath’s Francisco Romero Previews CAPRE’s Texas Data Center Summit

AUSTIN, TX — Francisco Romero is the Chief Operating Officer at StackPath. Francisco leads StackPath operations including data center ops, procurement, deployment, and support. Prior to StackPath he led IBM Cloud Infrastructure Operations which included Infrastructure Data Center Operations, Networking, System Operations, Procurement and Inventory, Customer Care, and FP&A. Prior to that, he was with SoftLayer, held various roles at EDS/HP developing product portfolio strategies and driving margin improvement programs, and McKinsey & Co. Francisco will be a featured speaker at CAPRE’s Texas Data Center Summit Next week, so we connected with him to discuss the implications of Texas’s next data center evolution — life on the Edge.

CAPRE: Tell us about StackPath – what was the genesis of your firm and what is your differentiator?

Romero: StackPath started 3 years ago with a mission to secure the internet, as the world becomes more dispersed and workloads move closer to the end-user. Hybrid and multi-cloud architecture creates a whole host of security problems, and that was a problem we were running into, as companies transitioned to the Cloud. So we started with a mission of helping companies fix that problem. Today not only are we delivering services to secure the movement information, we provide tools in the form of storage, compute and network capabilities for anyone to come build whatever application they want, closer to the Edge.

CAPRE: So where are you active geographically?

Romero: Today we’re focused on the major internet exchanges around the world in major cities such as Los Angeles, Ashburn, New York City, Miami, Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, Phoenix, Silicon Valley, as well as Frankfurt, Paris, Madrid, Amsterdam, London and Dublin. We are in the process of extending the Edge into the service provider networks around the world. We’re hoping to extend into three or four major telcos in Europe and the U.S. in the near future.

CAPRE: What are you looking forward to about our upcoming summit?

Romero: We want to share our perspective about the Edge – it’s on everybody’s mind, but it’s still ill-defined. There are a lot of perspectives out there. Having an open discussion about how we view it and why we think about it the way we do is a great way of clarifying what it is and how to approach it. One of the difficult things about thinking about the Edge is understanding what various use cases to which it brings value. It’s value is for modern workloads and operations, not traditional ways of doing things.

CAPRE: Talk to us more about that, the trajectory of the Edge and where the value proposition will come from.

Francisco Romero, Chief Operating Officer, Stackpath

Romero: The Edge is going to force a transition – it doesn’t make sense to just dump a database at the Edge. That’s not going to add value. It’ll be very interesting to see what the up-and coming workloads will be, so that we can start getting those onto the platform. There’s a lot of discussion about IoT, and advanced media and video delivery, as well on the security side – such as how to protect “dumb” devices. A lot of things are brewing that will allow a product like ours to bring value. But it’s definitely not going to be traditional workloads.

CAPRE: Why is the Edge so critical for the Texas data center arena? How will the Lone Star State leverage the Edge?

Romero: The only exchange in Texas is in Dallas. For the most part, all content delivered in the region is cached here. If you’re deploying a software download in Houston, San Antonio or Austin, it gets back-hauled to Dallas. This makes things very expensive in terms of capacity required to carry that traffic. There’s been some discussion about forming an exchange in Houston – it’s one of the largest cities in the U.S., but it doesn’t have one yet. So the Edge is becoming important to think about how to process that traffic locally in places like Houston.

CAPRE: And what about on the tech side – what applications are pushing the boundaries of compute?

Romero: Well, there are a lot of interesting things going on in Austin. There’s a big effort on drones, for example. And that technology relies on the interaction between the drones and the environment around it – whether that’s IoT sensors or other kinds out there that requires compute close to where the drones are. So we’re doing work to figure out how to architect that in a way that is resilient and robust and reliable.

CAPRE: What do data center operators need to keep in mind about the Edge?

Romero: The Edge is going to be defined as much by the physical location of the data processing center (which is likely to be a very different facility), as by the network connectivity. If my phone is on an AT&T network in San Antonio, and I’m trying to pull content from my buddy on a Verizon network, my request is funneling all the way up through Dallas to pull the data back to Houston. If I deploy a local compute node inside the AT&T network inside San Antonio, it still doesn’t solve the problem. The hand-off is still in Dallas. So the Edge will be where the hand-off happens, and we want it to be closer to where the users are – from a network perspective, not just a physical location perspective.

So having an Edge node in San Antonio, performing the function that you want an Edge node to perform, means you have to have that connectivity into major networks, to do the hand-off there. That’s something that data center operators (both traditional and micro/container data centers) need to navigate – just having it physically located in a market doesn’t mean you can access the network and connectivity you need to actually do something with that piece of data.

CAPRE: So what will be the catalyst for the Edge? When will the Edge finally “arrive”?

Romero: We think the biggest catalyst around the Edge will be 5G deployment, given the bandwidth and the number of endpoints to be managed. As that roll-out continues and we get more and more coverage as well as users, it will really accelerate things. Until that happens, there might not be a ton of reasons to push hard on the Edge – but that will be a catalyst that really accelerates things, and we expect that to happen in the next 2-3 years.

CAPRE: Got it. Thanks for your time Romero. We’ll see you in Austin!

Hear more from Francisco at CAPRE’s Texas Data Center Summit November 14, on the 11:00 am – 11:45 am panel “Micro Data centers in Tier 2 and Tier 3 markets: Which markets are set to pick up and what’s driving adoption?”

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