rural landscapeAs a new crop of data center operators focused on edge computing emerges, each one seems to have a bit different focus. For Dart Points, a company started in 2012, that focus is underserved areas, which include but are not limited to rural broadband markets, as DartPoints President and CEO Scott Willis and Chief Development Officer Loren Long explained in an interview with Telecompetitor.

DartPoints sees a wide range of edge computing opportunities but its initial focus largely involves bring “content and eyeballs” closer together by caching content close to end users, explained Long. Content giants such as Netflix, Google and Akamai already are establishing their own edge computing resources to achieve that goal, but as Long explained, content providers may not be able to establish edge computing arrangements with “every little carrier.”

Recently DartPoints established agreements with statewide Iowa network operator Aureon and Iowa provider South Slope Communications to interconnect to a DataPoints edge computing and carrier interconnection facility in the state.

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This enables South Slope, as well as Aureon’s small provider owners, the ability to “get the same pricing, speed, and availability as they would in” a major market, Long said.

Willis also sees edge computing opportunities in telehealth and in industry, as well as applications involving gaming and artificial intelligence.

Willis and Long declined to say how many edge data centers DataPoints has but Willis noted that the company expects to continue to expand. The data centers can take a range of forms, including new construction and using existing buildings, he said.

The 5G Opportunity
As mobile carriers seek to use edge computing to reduce the latency of cloud applications to match the low latency of their 5G networks, DartPoints also expects to serve them. Large carriers such as AT&T and Verizon are establishing some of their own edge data centers for this purpose, but Willis believes the carriers will need to supplement those offerings by using companies like DartPoints.

“Operators tend to begin on their own and over time, will move to a more shared model,” added Long. That’s what happened with cell towers, he noted.

“As long as carriers remain in their own network and do their own thing, it requires content providers to have an individual solution for each of them,” said Long – an issue Telecompetitor also has raised. A neutral third-party edge solution could eliminate the need for content providers to “buy two or three sets of the same thing,” he said.

How far the edge needs to be from end users will vary, depending on the apps that the edge is supporting, Willis said.

“There’s not going to be one single definition of the edge,” he noted. That reality, he said, will drive the establishment of “companies and business models that recognize that they can create a solution that solves the problem of a particular segment.”

Edge Computing in Rural Markets
DartPoints isn’t the only organization pursuing edge computing opportunities in rural markets. Another example is the Rural Cloud Initiative from rural Iowa wireless carrier Chat Mobility and Trilogy Networks, a network-as-a-service provider that has a specialty in edge computing for rural applications. Trilogy’s plan to install its edge computing infrastructure in Chat Mobility’s network in some ways parallels DartPoints agreements with Aureon and South Slope. The Rural Cloud initiative, however, aims to support a somewhat different set of applications, including precision agriculture – perhaps supporting Willis’ prediction that different edge computing providers will pursue different business models based on the applications they support.

The Rural Cloud Initiative seems to have ambitious plans, as it recently announced the formation of an advisory group, which it said would guide the initiative’s efforts to “transform rural America with next-generation digital technologies.”

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