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‘The big discussion about edge computing is how to make this business financially viable’

'The big discussion about edge computing is how to make this business financially viable'

Brazil’s V.tal is about to have six edge datacenters in operation in two South American countries.

At present, the neutral fiber and connectivity provider created by telco Oi and BTG Pactual/GlobeNet has three such sites in operation, located in Fortaleza and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, and in Barranquilla in Colombia. 

A further two, one each in Fortaleza and Barranquilla, are being wrapped up. And the company also bought land in Porto Alegre, Brazil, for a future edge site.

In addition, V.tal sees potential in transforming hundreds, or even thousands, of its points-of-presence (PoPs, interconnection points and network traffic exchange) into smaller edge sites, known as micro-edge or far-edge.

Overall, the company has 430,000km of terrestrial fiber, inherited from Oi, connecting more than 2,380 municipalities in Brazil. This network currently comprises 18mn homes passed with fiber, and is expanding at a rate of 500,000 homes passed per month, with a goal of reaching 34mn by 2025.

The group also has 26,000km of submarine cables, belonging to GlobeNet, which connect Brazil to Argentina, Chile, Venezuela, Colombia, Bermuda and the US. 

In this interview, V.tal’s CTO and VP of engineering, Cicero Olivieri (in photo), and VP of wholesale, Bento Louro, talk about the firm’s edge datacenter strategy.

BNamericas: V.tal said a second Fortaleza edge datacenter was 90% ready. What’s pending?

Olivieri: We’re finalizing commissioning tests. From a technical perspective, the site is being delivered [this week]. All the data hall part, the equipment, are ready. At the beginning of January, in the first days of the month, it will go into operation.

We already have several customers. We’re delivering the site with the cage [the structure] released to a first customer.

BNamericas: Who are these customers?

Louro: Among our main customers are OTTs [over-the-top internet and content providers]. We cannot comment on names due to confidentiality agreements. But all the main ones you can think of are our customers, whether for our existing sites, in Barranquilla and Brazil, or for our new ones.

The first site [in Fortaleza] is completely sold out, with many contracts having been signed throughout this year. For the second site, some customers have already started to install passive infrastructure, and we’ve already energized part of the services. 

By the end of January, at least one OTT, if not more, will be operating there.

We’re also engaging with ISPs. Some have already closed contracts, some have not. 

The region of Fortaleza, in the northeast, is very prolific with these players. The largest ISPs in that region are either our customers or potential customers. 

Finally, there are also telecom operators, national and international ones, from different branches of activity. Whether operating international interconnection points, or offering their own applications and content.

BNamericas: What is the capacity of the first Fortaleza datacenter, which is already sold out?

Olivieri. Around 1MW.

Our total there in Fortaleza comprises four data halls. We have one of them sold out, we’re well underway with another one and we’ve already kickstarted the installation of equipment in a third data hall, to be ready in the second half of next year.

BNamericas: Hurricane Electric is one of those customers, right? They announced the installation of a fourth PoP in V.tal’s structure in Fortaleza.

Louro: They use our structure a lot, both in Latin America and for Latin America – from the United States, through our submarine cables, to Colombia and to Brazil.

BNamericas: And what is the estimated go-live for the second site in Barranquilla? Was there a delay in this project?

Olivieri: We’re planning to have the go-live at the end of May, beginning of June. This Barranquilla site already has all the masonry up. 

ALSO READ: V.tal to open new Barranquilla datacenter by June

We are in line with the plan. The idea was to deliver the datacenter by the end of March. Like many players, we’re grasping with delays in the global logistics chains, especially regarding generators, electricity, DC power.

Luckily, we have a well-structured purchase process. With that we’re delivering the sites in general as expected, with a slight delay, and aligned with the customers.

BNamericas: How is the logistical situation now?

Olivieri: We were having a lot of delays. V.tal has a very large purchase volume with these infrastructure providers. In addition to the datacenters, we have 3,700 telecommunication PoPs, with generators, etc. My budget is quite big, we’re very important in the negotiations.

And yet there were problems. That has improved. I think the most serious phase of the situation has passed, but it’s still a point of attention in the general planning of companies.

BNamericas: What about Porto Alegre? What’s the outlook for that?

Louro: We’re doing internal studies to hire a project and then start construction. We’re still in the process of internal approvals, preliminary projects, etc. Making a prediction right now is still premature.

We’re talking to clients, who eventually might rush our investment decisions.

We strongly believe in the potential of the south of the country, geographically, as an interconnection point even for the Southern Cone, beyond Brazil.

We already have two of these points in the north of South America, in Colombia and in Fortaleza, and this has proven to be a very proper strategy, including for customers, as we offer an interconnection between them [the sites].

BNamericas: Well, if we think about strategic interconnection points, Valparaíso in Chile also has important international submarine cables and would make up four “corners” of South America for V.tal. Does it make sense to have an edge datacenter there too?

Louro: Wherever our clients demand that we go, we go. That said, we also extended our cable from Argentina to Chile, all the way to Santiago.

Olivieri: At this point, it’s difficult to comment on where we’re going. There was this cable expansion, this opening as a wholesaler in Chile. The edge strategy complements V.tal’s overall strategy, in the sense that edge comes as yet another infrastructure pillar.

Our differential is this entire network, a structure of 3,700 telecom PoPs that are being reworked to operate in a micro-edge and far-edge computing concept. With little investment, even, since the structure is practically ready.

This coming year you’ll see that we’ll be working in other cities, with the search for land, technical evaluation, lining up all the energy transmission part, etc. to expand this network.

BNamericas: Is that V.tal’s advantage over competitors, in your view?

Olivieri: Absolutely. The big discussion about edge computing is how to make this business financially viable. The entire 5G discussion is about making this decentralization feasible. 

Starting from scratch, building sites, without having telecom operators engaged, revenue sources, is very complex. Unless you already have a pre-installed infrastructure.

In some cities we’re betting there will be demand for a 4MW edge datacenter. If this bet proves right, we’ll start to do land banking, land acquisition, preparing to meet demand when the demand arrives.

But we already have this entire structure of PoPs, all these PoPs interconnected in a robust fiber network, with redundancy and low latency. The adaptation is much faster. And on top of that, we bring to the equation all the fiber-to-the-site, FTTH deals we already have with major operators.

BNamericas: Is there a number of edge sites you’re targeting?

Olivieri: No. We’re talking with operators to qualify, from our 3,700 PoPs, which ones are relevant for edge. It’s a bit of a chicken and egg dilemma. What comes first: the contract to build the site or the site to have the contract?

We’re mapping the demand. We want to have these sites qualified and, from there, make it ready for the operator to come when it’s important to their business.

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