Living On The Edge

In an exclusive one-on-one conversation with Josh Snowhorn, Founder & Advisory Board Member, EdgeMicro, IG Magazine Editor-in-Chief Jasmine Bedi uncovers what it is like to be living on the edge!

From your time at Terremark, CyrusOne, and now at EdgeMicro, can you talk about the most rewarding part of your journey so far?

The most rewarding part has been the friendships! If you look at the interconnection market and the data center business that I’ve been involved in over the last 20 years, the social connections and the ability to intertwine the relationships has been crucial to the success of not only my career but also to the industry.

Edge means different things to different people, what does the edge mean to you and why is it important in today’s world?

Lately, people have been calling the edge a lot of different things. They have been saying edge is the mobile device that is in my car right now, or it could be an IoT device or drone or a car going down the road or anything that you can imagine. Of course, all of it is true and it could also be the space station, or Mars Rover, but when you look at all that it entails Ð it is the infrastructure to interconnect and support the ecosystem. As it exists today, that ecosystem is being backhauled to existing core Internet infrastructure via wireless towers.

As we transition over to the next few years into a 5G world and beyond, it is going to require a very different infrastructure to support low latency and servers and routers and other networking units that are farther out to where the consumer user is of that service, whatever that eyeball might be.

Where do you see technologies such as IoT, autonomous cars, AI, and machine learning impacting the most in terms of connectivity and data centers?

I am actually not a huge fan of the phrase “IoT”. Internet of Things refers to addressable devices, however people use it as a catch-all to kind of broadly define some kind of a bandwidth use. I think that connected devices are interesting but even as an aggregate, generally the addressable devices don’t necessarily in of themselves generate massive traffic. So I dispute that catch-all phrase a lot and spend a lot of time on panels making sure that people are clear on that.

AI learning is very interesting in that you have a compute called a MEC (Mobile Edge Computing) kind of requirement, be it grid computing amongst devices or actual computational power geared to the user. This maybe goes back down the path to a big Internet Exchange in a cloud data center, but AI is something we are going to certainly see more. I don’t want to shut down IoT completely, but I think at an aggregate when you start seeing billions of devices, that certainly getting relevant and measurable traffic will add up. The question is whether or not there is a business case to address it.

Josh’s Sports Lifestyle

With data centers going “vertical” and more smaller footprint deployment of “edge data centers” happening around us, what trends to you see from a data center model perspective?

I think you are seeing a lot of consolidation in the marketplace. Large entities like Equinix are the dominant player in the Internet Exchange business and certainly one of the biggest providers in the country. There are also companies like Digital Realty, CoreSite, CyrusOne. You also have a massive amount of private equity firms looking to scoop up either undervalued or unused assets. Some of these acquisitions are inter-logical, some of them are trying to add services on top of it. So I think you will see a lot of that happening.

But the question is whether we are going to see the brick and mortars with small site deployments of 5K-10K sq. ft., and whether that makes sense. Or whether we are going to see telecoms finally using their central offices that already exist, spending the capital and modifying them and maybe making them neutral, and maybe that will bring some benefit to the edge community. I think more than likely you are going to see containerized or modular infrastructure located near or adjacent to those central offices at a much lower cost interconnecting to the eyeballs in those systems. You will see very few new brick and mortar sites going up.

How will 5G change the landscape of the mobile backhaul and the delivery of applications?

That’s a topic being talked about a lot. There is discussion of potential 10x bandwidth increase from a backhaul perspective in a saturated 5G market. Certainly you won’t see that on Day 1 and certainly you won’t see that until everybody has a 5G device, which none of us can actually have today; the first devices for consumers haven’t even come out. You are going to be seeing connected offices, connected vehicles, and various other forms of connected devices.

There is going to be a tug of war as to who is actually going to pay for the long haul services. Certainly Sprint, AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon and other mobile carriers around the world are going to pay the capital cost upfront to deploy this infrastructure, and you will see competitors come up and the landscape open up a bit from an unused spectrum perspective. In turn, those carriers are going to look to monetize their investment, possibly with consumers who want more bandwidth and are willing to pay higher prices.

Ultimately wireless companies may see content companies pay a premium to be on the 5G network. This is going to bring a lot of arguments around net neutrality, and potentially a lot of finger pointing. It is going to be expensive, and putting infrastructure and content closer out to consumers within markets even as small as 100K people will start to make sense because the backhaul 10x increase will be quite dramatic.

Are we doing enough as an industry when it comes to convergence – whether it is mobile, data centers, terrestrial fiber, subsea fiber – and what does this convergence mean to you?

As an industry at this point, everybody has got a toe in the water. The big players are the big players and the existing players are all trying to see how they fit within the ecosystem. There are a lot of questions about whether they are going to make money at it, and whether there should be more capital. But I guarantee you that every single Wall Street analyst, every single investor and every single PE firm investor are asking questions of those companies, and asking them “what are you going to do about the Edge”. So they are closely watching the space, but I think nobody is taking the leap yet from the perspective of deploying giant infrastructure.

We hear that you love cars and racing. How did this interest start? What were your favorite cars that you have owned?

In 1970, when I was born in Berkeley, California, you see a photo of my mother holding me as a baby, and the car that I am being driven home in is the Aston Martin Vantage, which is the iconic James Bond car in the 1960s. I’ve been trying to find that car to buy it, but I haven’t had much luck so far. It is my dad’s former car. I’ve always had a love of cars, certainly through my father. Certainly as you are a boy playing with toys, looking through magazines and desiring anything that has an edge, that is fast, has a lot of power, that is exciting — has always been a thrill for me. So, it has been a family thing.

The McLaren really started through a friend of ours, a gentleman named Will Martin. Will is retired from Facebook and was very successful after their IPO and bought himself a McLaren. I got my very first ride in one with him. Of course, McLaren is an iconic brand. McLaren F1 is the fastest car in the world. I’ve always desired them. So I got my test drive with Will and then he was attending a NANOG meeting in Dallas, and he suggested we go to the dealership in Dallas for a test drive. The dealer took me for a test drive and let me drive for an hour. And I was absolutely sure that I have to have it. So, I got my first one in 2012, and since then I’ve bought five McLarens and I have more on the way.

Any other passion that you have that you’d like to share (in addition to your love for cars)?

I’ve been a surfer for going on 37 years now. I grew up in Florida and was lucky enough to live right on the beach, so every day I was in the water. I probably didn’t do too much of my homework because the waves were more important at the time. I actually was competitive and was sponsored by companies for years with free surfboards, wetsuits, sunglasses and all kinds of gear that you can imagine. When I was around 24 I started snowboarding as well. I moved out to an area where I spent a lot of time on the mountains. I used to work as a photographer when I was much younger. I still pursue those sports with a passion. Whenever we have industry events, particularly Pacific Telecommunications Council (PTC) in Hawaii, you will find me paddling out in the water in the morning or during lunch time or whenever I can between meetings so I can enjoy the beautiful waves. That’s hopefully a sport I can do until I am very old.