Sharif Fotouh, The Edge, & Compass Datacenters

01/09/2020

INTERVIEW - HAWKTALK 33

Sharif Fotouh, The Edge, & Compass Datacenters

Here’s a great discussion with Sharif Fotouh on how data center user demand is changing the way the market is operating. He is Managing Director with EdgePoint at Compass Datacenters, and he gives great feedback on the edge: what it is, how it works, and how it will change. One of the most interesting discussions we've had on our channel.

This is episode 33 of HawkTalk, datacenterHawk’s discussion series with industry executives. If you enjoy the conversation and don’t want to miss the rest of the series, just hit subscribe on iTunes, stream it on Spotify, or follow us on YouTube.


AUDIO TRANSCRIPT

David Liggitt: I'm David Liggitt with datacenterHawk and I'm here with Sharif Foutoh. Sharif, Good morning.

Sharif Foutoh: Good morning.

David Liggitt: Thanks for joining us here on HawkTalk number 33. So, really excited about that and excited to get your feedback on the data center industry. Obviously you have a very interesting focus around the edge and that type of, I would say, like vertical and the way companies are using that or will use that in the future. So excited to get your feedback.

Sharif Foutoh: Well thanks for having me and I want to say before we get started, congratulations on the 5 year anniversary.

David Liggitt: Yeah, thank you. Thank you.

Sharif Foutoh: It's a heck of a milestone. And It's been cool to see the story of datacenterHawk develop over the years.

AN EARLY LOOK AT GOOGLE FIBER

David Liggitt: Yeah, you bet. Well, I appreciate that. Let's talk about, you have a really interesting background as far as some of the things that you were doing before Edgepoint and before being acquired by Compass. And so talk about your career path and how that really shaped the ability for you to go out and do what you're doing today. I'd love to hear more about that.

Sharif Foutoh: Oh, great question. My career path is kind of, if you imagine one of those Calvin and Hobbes comics with the squiggly line. Definitely not the most efficient route. But I think that variability kind of lended some interesting color. So I've been in the industry for about 15 years now. I started working for a data center, a regional data center operator out of Austin, Texas. And I had a very interesting collection of roles there throughout the years. I was there 6 years. Part of it was operating retail, colocation facilities, but part of it was also deploying for various web properties that was under the same family of companies in data centers all over the globe. And so throughout those 5, 6 years, I kind of never specialized in any one aspect, but rather had, familiarity and experience with, everything up the network and system stack all the way down to power whips and space planning.

David Liggitt: So you got a really wide variety of kind of a knowledge base of the industry.

Sharif Foutoh: Yep, jack of all trades, master of none. And in 2013 I started with Google on the Google Fiber project and back then it was very, very kind of early stage a pretty small team. They had just had Kansas as their city and it was publicly kind of known that it was just a trial.

David Liggitt: Sure. So they were putting their Google Fiber product in that city. Got it.

Sharif Foutoh: Yep. And so I moved out to California, to the Bay area and over the next five years at Google, I built and led the facilities and network deployment program for Google Fiber nationally.

David Liggitt: Wow. What was that like?

Sharif Foutoh: It was actually quite exciting, but at times really challenging. Everything from mundane labeling standards to building templated footprints for various kind of peering functions and that kind of thing, so you could kind of cookie cutter it across the country. But it was really exciting. The mission was exciting. Innovating in a space that's traditionally pretty slow; telecom. And the public was really energized by the product. And so that kind of fed into the excitement. So that that program at Google Fiber encompassed kind of a wide spectrum of facilities, right? So everything from, megawatt deployments within Google's hyperscale facilities for kind of our backend services, regional POP's all over the country to effectively build your kind of national backbone network, for acquiring other networks and peering, and then, most pertinent to what I'm doing today, hundreds of these small prefabricated telecom shelters that were dubbed by the press "fiber huts". And that name stuck.

And so what was really interesting about that fiber hut story is when I started, we had a very rough design that was effectively, 10 to 15 kilowatt footprint barely N+1 with a lot of single points of failure. It was a stretched cell tower shelter right? They called the guys making shelters for cell tower sites and they said, "Oh yeah, we can build you a slightly bigger one and upgrades and components."

And then, over the years, outages, failures, requirements for increased density, variability and footprint, we went from just kind of the typical PON gear, which is passive optical network, we went from just PON gear to including transport systems, to including servers and getting more advanced. We went through multiple iterations of that design on my team. And so kind of what started as 10 or 15 kilowatts. The last design we produced over there was over 50 kilowatts and, solidly N+1 if not 2N in some places.

“I built and led the facilities and network deployment program for Google Fiber nationally...The mission was exciting. Innovating in a space that's traditionally pretty slow; telecom.”
- COMPASS MANAGING DIRECTOR, EDGEPOINT, SHARIF FOTOUH

THE TRANSITION TO EDGE DATA CENTERS

David Liggitt: Interesting. You bring up the point about the iteration of the product and it's one of the things, we were talking before, just about when I started in this space back in '07 and just watching how the physical, larger data center facility has been iterated over the last I don't know, 5, 10 years.

I just got back from Northern Virginia and one of the things we were talking about is just the difference in design, and how different obviously it is today than it was 5 or 10 years ago. And I think when that iteration begins and it's really the product positioning itself for scalability down the road.

And so you basically finished your time at Google and then tell us about starting Edgepoint and that process and what was your mindset behind really wanting to get out there and go do that?

Sharif Foutoh: Yeah, that's a great question. So, let's see, late 2016, the Google Fiber project effectively went on pause, right? There was a change in strategy and the organization kind of halted the expansion plans. And I had this kind of moment of wondering, “okay, we went from racing down the highway to stop. What do I do next?” Right? And what was really interesting, and this is kind of pre a lot of the discussions and conversations that are centered around the edge space now, there was barely a couple of articles and players in that space at the time. And it's really the initial premise was as somebody that was sourcing colocation all over the country from tier two markets, because Google Fiber was specifically targeting tier two markets. I was surprised and shocked by how many markets were underserved from a colocation perspective.

David Liggitt: Interesting. In the secondary markets?

Sharif Foutoh: In the secondary markets, yeah. And look, since that time, a lot of those markets have been solved by players in that space. Your EdgeConneXs and your TierPoints. But what really surprised me was a study we were doing for a specific city. I think it was Minneapolis at the time. And we were going to have to pay an exorbitant amount to a colo provider there to add a second generator. They had one generator for the whole facility. We were going to buy a second generator for the whole facility. So I could take my 150 KW footprint inside. We didn't have a huge footprint requirement, but we needed the redundancy. And I remember walking out of that conference call and my VP was with me and I turned to him and I said, "You know it'd just be cheaper to put a couple of our huts and it would be more robust." And that was months before we went on pause. But that thought kept gestating in my mind.

“I remember walking out of that conference call and my VP was with me and I turned to him and I said, ‘You know it'd just be cheaper to put a couple of our huts and it would be more robust’. And that was months before we went on pause. But that thought kept gestating in my mind.”
- COMPASS MANAGING DIRECTOR, EDGEPOINT, SHARIF FOTOUH

And so when Google Fiber went on pause I kind of locked into that thought. Well, “Hey, I'm uniquely positioned with this experience in producing hundreds of these shelters, deploying them all over the country. All the specific jurisdictional concerns and, going to seismic regions or regions with snow loads, very humid and hot regions”. And so, I thought “That ecosystem, I've really tapped into and understood. And there is an option there to support areas where the capacity, the co-location capacity or facility capacity is in an ideal location”. And that's kind of what turned into Edgepoint.

DEFINING THE EDGE AND IT’S FUTURE IMPACT

David Liggitt: Sure. Interesting. So for those that are watching that don't have a good grasp on what edge is and and you're in it every day and granular with the thought process and the definitions and things that. Do your best to describe, and I think you've kind of done that through your conversation with what you did at Google, but do your best to describe what the edge is and why you believe that there's such a big opportunity, in the future with this type of data center product.

Sharif Foutoh: Got it. What the edge is.

David Liggitt: Just a question we should all laugh about.

Sharif Foutoh: Yeah, it's like religion, politics, and the edge. Let's not talk about these 3 things. No, I mean I like to keep things pretty simple. So on the simplest level, distributing infrastructure is not a new trend. Right? When I started my career, advanced organizations would take a footprint domestically, so to say, in Ashburn, Virginia and maybe West coast, like Los Angeles and maybe Chicago, right? And that was effectively the coverage you needed for those applications. Over time we've seen a boom of secondary markets or other NFL cities that perhaps aren't specifically acquiring subsea cables. But you look at your Atlantas and everything else, they've just boomed, right?

That was the march towards The Edge and that same trend is continuing. And so what was secondary markets? We're now looking at tier three markets. We're looking at big metropolises like Dallas for example, if all your data centers are located in the center of Dallas or in the outskirts, it doesn't do good for the majority of your actual customers. Right? And so that's effectively, it's just an extension of that same trend, right? As bandwidth demands go up, as application performance becomes more critical, you're going to want to locate the capacity closer and closer to the user.

“That was the march towards The Edge and that same trend is continuing.”
- COMPASS MANAGING DIRECTOR, EDGEPOINT, SHARIF FOTOUH

STRATEGY BEHIND IMPLEMENTING THE EDGE

David Liggitt: Yep, so that's a great point. Let's talk about strategy and how you've seen companies do that well or not do that well. One of the biggest growth points in the data center market of the last 3 to 5 years has been the hyperscale market. It's really taken the industry to new levels from a demand perspective, et cetera. But there's also the enterprise user base. These are companies that traditionally have housed their infrastructure inside facilities of their own. They have come out, most of them, half of them into colocation facilities and now have some sort of hybrid approach with their IT infrastructure.

So, this edge idea and what you just described, there is an infrastructure strategy in play where some people are probably doing this well and some people are not. So maybe talk about that. How have you seen companies do that well and approach their strategy well, maybe the enterprise user sector. How have you seen them do that well?

Sharif Foutoh: Specifically in the enterprise sector. I think it's important to kind of... There's the Buddhist concept of “the new mind”, right? Come into the problem with a clean slate. And that's really hard for larger enterprises because you have years of backlog and technical debt, facilities of different ages and infrastructure that's in different stages of its life cycle. And so it really is hard to tackle that problem really as blank slate. But that really is to me and from my perspective, the key to success for those enterprises because there's a lot of different tool sets that are now available. And if you're thinking within the paradigms of 5, 10, 15 years ago, you're probably not going to build an optimal infrastructure, or a topology.

“There's the Buddhist concept of the new mind, right? Come into the problem with a clean slate. And that's really hard for larger enterprises.”
- COMPASS MANAGING DIRECTOR, EDGEPOINT, SHARIF FOTOUH

And so, specifically, you see a lot of enterprises shift and kind of cloudify their footprint. And then very quickly they realize there's kind of a long tail of applications and services that don't make sense in the cloud. They're high bandwidth consuming, really expensive to locate far away. And so, you see them kind of contract and reduce their, enterprise data center footprint as they cloudify. And then you walk through this building and there's 10 or 20 racks and they still have to keep all of the infrastructure running for them.

And so that's really the challenge, that I think we have a new tool to offer. It's like, “Hey, reclaim that real estate, use it for whatever your primary revenue driving activities are. If you're a hospital, use it for patient beds, if you're a manufacturing facility, use it for assembly lines. And we can put a facility in your parking lot that takes six or eight parking spots that's fully 2N and redundant and hardened, and free up all of that space and all the operational costs of that large infrastructure”.

COMPASS’ EDGE APPROACH

David Liggitt: Yeah, let's do a little deeper dive on the product. The Compass edge product, what is it and where can you deploy it? I mean, talk about the actual details around the product itself.

Sharif Foutoh: Okay. I'll try not to get down the rabbit hole on this one, but this is one of my favorite topics.

David Liggitt: Let's go.

Sharif Foutoh: We're really proud of what we've built at Compass. And the key premise is the edge isn't about one or two facilities. And something I've told our board multiple times, anybody can deploy one or two little shelters; little data centers. It's not an astronomical feat, right? The complexity becomes in mass and scale, right? And so I have this kind of "Oh crap" moment when I was at Google, when we ordered a new wave of 50 shelters and we went through the normal pricing discussions and design discussions and finally we were ready, everything was signed off.

We issued the PO and an hour later I got an email, "Hey, we're really excited about your business and attached is a spreadsheet, please put the delivery addresses for all 50 of these shelters and the dates you need them by." And that was my “Oh crap” moment because I realized, well now I have 50 little construction projects to manage, 50 little facility integration and commissioning projects to manage, 50 system deployment projects to manage, cabling, and racking, and stacking. And they were all over the country, right?

So that's the "Oh crap" moment and everybody will hit that point, right? Anybody that's in this edge space, right now we're kind of in the trial and nascent stage, but as the volumes increase, as the market demands grow, people are going to hit that point. And one of the breaking points there is those construction projects are rarely going to happen on the same timing. Construction is ugly and always unpredictable, right? That's just the nature of the beast. And so you can try to fight that, right? But good luck. Instead, what we try to do is, design around that. So, what that means is, we need to be able to ship one of our facilities, one of the Edgepoint data centers to whichever location is ready first.

“Construction is ugly and always unpredictable, right? That's just the nature of the beast. And so you can try to fight that. But good luck. Instead, what we try to do is, design around that.”
- COMPASS MANAGING DIRECTOR, EDGEPOINT, SHARIF FOTOUH

And here's where the problem becomes, because what if one of your locations is in seismic zone four and one of them's in a wind rated area, right? Miami Dade County or something, right? So all of a sudden you're playing this game with the factory where they're going, "Okay, this shelter's ready." And you go, "Oh no, the site that needed the seismic shelters is ready, we need the wind rated one or we need the one with the snow load rating. And you literally are playing musical chairs with the factory trying to consolidate your multifaceted construction schedule with their production schedule. And again I lived through it and it's messy.

And so with our Edgepoint shelter, the key premise is that it's a single consistent footprint that can go into any region. So it's wind rated, it's seismically rated, it's designed for high snow load areas, hot and humid climates, wherever you need to place it in the country, it can go without any changes. And so, it allows a user to buy 200 of them and start 200 construction projects and just-in-time delivery as they come off the line ship it to whatever site is next.

David Liggitt: Yeah. And physically you can put them inside, outside? Talk about that a little bit.

Sharif Foutoh: So technically, you put them wherever you want. With that said, we've primarily designed it to be an outdoor shelter. Specifically because we think from a real estate perspective, it's designed for that highest bar designed to be withstanding the elements, designed it to be a hardened shelters. And then, yeah, if somebody wants to put it into an existing shell, there's no reason it won't work. But on the other hand, again, that consistency in product is key.

SUPPLY CHAIN AND SPEED TO MARKET

David Liggitt: Yeah. Your comments about the production of these units is really interesting because we've seen the focus on supply chain at the big scale and in this space over the last three to five years. I mean, all you'll hear larger data center operators talk about is hyperscale builds or they're talking about supply chain. How quickly can we deliver this? How efficiently can we deliver this? How inexpensive for the user can we deliver it? And it's interesting to see the supply chain conversation on the smaller scale as far as the 100 KW-200 KW range.

Because, I think, what it shows is that speed of delivery and your ability to scale up quickly is super important in both sizes of requirements and just speaks to the fact I think that the users today, the data center user expects or has matured to the point where, they expect that solution to be delivered as quickly as possible. And it's interesting to see you all work through the process of going, “Hey, well now we know we can deliver X of these in this amount of time in these regions and they're all the same”.

Sharif Foutoh: Absolutely. And it's about consistency in delivery, right? I mean speed is obviously important, but at the end of the day there's somebody managing their application performance. They are about to release a new feature and they're looking at their capacity curve and graph and they're going, I need to turn on this new capacity, this compute, this storage, this bandwidth by Q3 or we're sunk, right? Or we're not going to release this new feature. We're going to lose against our competitors that are.

And so really that's the nature of the beast. And just understanding that you're a tail on a very large dog for these organizations and working around those constraints are critical.

HOW INDUSTRIES ARE ENGAGING THE EDGE

David Liggitt: Yeah. When you think of industry verticals, retail, healthcare, technology, financial those types of firms. Have you seen any of those companies gravitate more towards this type of, data center in this approach? Or does each one of those have a different mindset around them? How have you seen the different industry types embrace what you all are doing?

Sharif Foutoh: Yeah. That's an excellent question. I think there's kind of two different segments of verticals, right? Categories of verticals. So one of them is kind of on premise solutions, right? So I'm a university, I'm a hospital, I'm a manufacturing facility. I'm deploying more connected devices. There's more data being generated. That data doesn't all need to be backhauled. Your video cameras, your surveillance cameras around your facility. That doesn't need to be cloudified right? I just need to store 30 days of retention and then throw it away.

And so the on premise solutions is in one category. And honestly, as I look at the edge space in general. I think it's often ignored. A lot of people are instead of gravitating towards the second category, which is that kind of wide mesh, I'm going to deploy 5, 10, 50 of these around a city. And there's usually graphics of like autonomous cars or somebody with a VR headset involved. Right? And definitely at the base of a cell tower, it has to be at the base of a cell tower. And that's in its own category. And that opens up a whole slew of verticals, whether they're hyperscale companies, MNOs, fixed network operators, anybody could technically play at that kind of edge mesh network space.

But to be honest, like while everybody's attention is there, I think there's a lot of applications that we're assuming will require X milliseconds of latency or microseconds of latency. Those applications haven't even been developed much less adopted, much less those requirements flushed out. And so I'm not saying that trend isn't going to exist where performance needs to improve, but from my perspective we're kind of assuming a lot as facility people and infrastructure people as far as what the future will hold.

5G AND THE EDGE

David Liggitt: Yeah. You mentioned 5G. Talk about the impact that the growth of 5g and the maturity of 5G will have on the edge market. And what opportunities does that create for your team at compass?

Sharif Foutoh: Great question again. So everybody's excited about 5, right? It's one more G better than what we have. I mean, it's obviously exciting, especially as mobile traffic keeps growing, right? And so, we're now hitting the constraints of what our mobile devices can support. And we're seeing breaking points and stuff like jitter and latency on the performance on 4G networks. So 5G is super exciting. With that said, 5G, in and of itself, doesn't demand edge computing. So, 5G is a vehicle.

“5G, in and of itself, doesn't demand edge computing. So, 5G is a vehicle.”
- COMPASS MANAGING DIRECTOR, EDGEPOINT, SHARIF FOTOUH

And so if I say, “Hey, I'm going to give you a car that's twice as fast as your current car”, does that mean you'll get everywhere in half the time? Well, no right? You're still gonna obey the speed limit. You're going to be at stop-lights. Now if I say, “Hey, if I give you a car that's twice as fast, but there's a family emergency across town”, well yeah, so that's the need there, right? That family emergency is the need or the application. And so sure, 5G will open the door to a bunch of needs and applications, but which one that will be is still to be seen.

LOCAL CACHING AND THE EVOLUTION OF BROADCASTING

David Liggitt: So it's a great tie in to, what do you feel like the needs are that are coming that will help drive that? So let's say 5G is in place. It's efficient. What are the needs that you all look at and go, “Hey, once these hit, the way we anticipate it really changes things for edge”?

Sharif Foutoh: So first off, we really like to take an application-centric perspective. So let's, let's focus on the top of the stack and then trickle those assumptions all the way down rather than starting at the bottom. So when you think about the applications and you look at the trend, I mean, and we're going to skip past or I'll skip past all their like, surprising statistics over, in the year 2022 data usage is going to be a kazillion petabytes. But we can all agree we're not going to be using less data. And it's probably a safe assumption we're going to be using more.

What's really interesting about our data usage patterns, however, isn't just the quantity. What's specifically interesting about it is that the type of data that we're using is changing. It's evolving. So if you think of the internet 10 years ago or even 5 years ago, those data patterns were largely a broadcast network. The majority of data was video data that was getting sent from central sources and down to our TVs and devices. And before that it was music. And before that it was, email or articles. A broadcast network duplicating, newspaper, radio, TV.

Well now we're seeing interesting data patterns that aren't going top down. They're going sideways, they're going up. If you think my house with my little Nest cameras or whatever is generating as much data as a TV station. Yeah, like I'm effectively a broadcast station at this point. I've got five channels. So, what an interesting traffic pattern. And now the question is, well, does that traffic necessarily need to go over to Ashburn, Virginia or Phoenix?

Now, chances are, I'm down the road in my office and I'm just checking that UPS delivered my latest package. Why is that data getting back-hauled across the country? When you order an Uber, why is that data getting sent out of state? You can't even order an Uber from out of state. You're definitely ordering one nearby, right? So those are local traffic patterns that we're seeing with the data and the data going in different directions. And that to me is what's really going to drive a shift in the facilities and network architectures that support those patterns.

“I'm down the road in my office and I'm just checking that UPS delivered my latest package. Why is that data getting back-hauled across the country? When you order an Uber, why is that data getting sent out of state? You can't even order an Uber from out of state.”
- COMPASS MANAGING DIRECTOR, EDGEPOINT, SHARIF FOTOUH

David Liggitt: Yeah, that's interesting. One of the interesting things, I read about probably three or four years ago, was talking specifically about YouTube and when that platform arose, how it really gave everyone the opportunity to now you've got so many people producing data and it's a similar, you know, you mentioned the Nest cameras, but it's like a similar approach. Now you have these technology pieces that are producing the data and if we put them into use from either a business perspective or a consumer perspective the amount of that data is just exponential. And that's today, let alone, three years from now.

Sharif Foutoh: And it's not just that that old broadcast model was largely supplemented by local caching, which was great, and Netflix has very efficient caching programs and their open connect program is great at intercepting a lot of those requests and serving video very locally. That's how their business model has managed to survive. But again, when you're talking about broadcasting your videos to your grandma across the country or your extended family, all of a sudden that local caching is completely useless. And so the way we've designed our systems infrastructure and topology, it needs to evolve.

HYPERSCALE AND THE EDGE

David Liggitt: Yeah. How has the hyperscale growth and what's happened over the last several years, how has that impacted the edge space? I mean, has that had a positive effect on the opportunities? A negative effect? Neutral, maybe too early to tell. What's your thought on that?

Sharif Foutoh: Oh, it's a complex ecosystem. So I don't know that I'd go so far as to say this is directly causing that. But there's a lot of correlations you can tie. So on one side, and I'm going to get a little more specific, not just hyperscale, but specifically the drive towards cloud, has pushed consolidation. It's pulled out capacity from local areas and has opened an opportunity for a solution that will effectively let your capacity get closer to users. It has driven a little bit of a need.

On the other hand, because those hyperscale cloud players have such an immense network and also their scale. It also gives them the opportunity to potentially get into the edge game themselves and just offer their platform closer. And you can see some of the early kind of bandaids of the edge need, you know, AWS has their Green Grass project, if you're familiar with that.

David Liggitt: No, I'm not familiar with that.

Sharif Foutoh: So this is like, and I hate to call it a bandaid, but that's effectively what it is. It's an IOT device, an IOT aggregation device that they'll ship to your location that's effectively off net. You're a manufacturing facility out in West Texas, you have all these IOT and automated devices, and you want to run everything within the AWS environment, they'll ship you a little box.

And today it's pretty rudimentary and corner-case, but it points to the requirement and the need. And so as that need grows, as those factories get more automated, as more data grows, while that little box is going to grow, and before know it, you're going to have a few racks of it.

FOG COMPUTING VS. EDGE COMPUTING

David Liggitt: Interesting. for the people that aren't as familiar with the edge discussion, people are familiar with cloud computing, we've talked about edge, but there's also terms on fog computing. So help demystify the edge versus the fog from your perspective. And sometimes I feel like the data center industry, well not just the data center industry, but the technology industry just thrives on confusing people. It's like, “Hey how can we....” anyways.

Sharif Foutoh: Oh, no, no, that's, I feel like as the technology industry has grown marketing has become just as key as the actual technology. And so, internet of things turned into internet of everything turned into... But so, fog computing is effectively an implementation of the edge that's effectively a shared resource pool with multiple distributed facilities. So, the simple way to say it is, all fog computing is effectively edge, but all edge computing isn't necessarily fog computing. I could put a single edge footprint that's not connected to a bunch of them, that those workloads are solely homed at one location. That's not fog computing. But there are applications where you could see benefit to shifting workloads to nearby facilities if you have a mesh network of facilities. And what's primarily kind of enabled that is in the network space. Networking, high bandwidth like high capacity has gotten enormously cheap. Like the network devices themselves and the capacities they can handle.

“All fog computing is effectively edge, but all edge computing isn't necessarily fog computing.”
- COMPASS MANAGING DIRECTOR, EDGEPOINT, SHARIF FOTOUH

I mean, I remember when like 10 gig optics were out and it was like insane. And now you're talking 100 or 400 gig and people are pushing terabits. And so that with network function virtualization or NFV has effectively allowed the network to be the backplane now. It's the system backplane. And so now you can connect storage units and GPU and CPU units and build a virtual system. They don't have to be physically located in the same spot. And now that opens up kind of the concept of fog computing as I can kind of sprinkle my capacity around and poach from it as I need.

THINGS TO CONSIDER ABOUT EDGE DEPLOYMENT

David Liggitt: So when a user has a need and either they approach you all or other edge companies, let's say they're a more enterprise user and they might have a need for one of these, but let's say they have the need for 10 or 20 to solve a problem. How quickly can those be deployed based off of supply chain and where they send them? I mean, what should a company be thinking about how quickly you could set up a complex system of these different deployments?

Sharif Foutoh: Complex system. I'll absolutely echo that. It's not just about manufacturing the facilities in time. You have to think about the program holistically. And that's really, I think, where our experience at Compass lends an advantage because it's not simply about spitting out little data centers out of a factory. You have to work on your site, your whole real estate program, and site development program. You have to ask all the questions that data center people generally leave out, which is how are you going to accomplish system integration once a facility arrives? How are you going to commission these remote facilities? How do you ship $5 million of IT to a location where you don't have a facility, a non-addressable location? And look, there's experiences of guys on my team towing an 800 pound router up a dirt path up a hill and this is like a million dollar piece of gear, right? With a little UHaul hand truck, right? Like the rented dolly.

“You have to ask all the questions that data center people generally leave out.”
- COMPASS MANAGING DIRECTOR, EDGEPOINT, SHARIF FOTOUH

And so those are the areas that anybody that's going to be successful in the edge space really need to focus on. Not just focusing on their simple, facility design, but zooming back and looking at a holistic solution that solves for those customers of scale because calling them or sending them that spreadsheet and going, “let us know where you want them delivered”, well, now you're a commoditized product, you're not really an ecosystem.

David Liggitt: Yeah, sure. And it is so strategic with the end game of serving the user better. To your point, I mean, and those are really good questions. We should make sure that we log those in the show notes just on how companies are thinking through their strategy with what they're actually deploying.

And I think what this shows, and your experience certainly proves, is just as the data center user is maturing, it's a really exciting time in our space because it's giving, your work and others' work in this space, is giving people the option, companies the option, to build more efficient systems and ones that serve their business better, that serve their end users better. And so it's, I just think it's a really exciting time and I'm fascinated to think about the next 3 to 5 years and what this space will become.

Sharif Foutoh: Absolutely.

AN EXCITING FUTURE IN TECH

David Liggitt: And, maybe talk about just the future of Edgepoint and the Compass Edgepoint product and why you're excited about the next 5 years in the space and what you think the opportunities are.

Sharif Foutoh: Yeah. So first, as kind of a self professed geek, right? The next 3 to 5 years are going to see just a really interesting array of applications that I'm very selfishly excited in because I hate sitting in traffic and driving my own car. So I'm really excited about all the gadgets coming out. Like life has just gotten better with technology. I can monitor my house, I can unlock my door. I can do so many operations that used to be tedious and very manual, right? So, the applications are exciting and that just excites me as a technologist.

“Life has just gotten better with technology. I can monitor my house, I can unlock my door. I can do so many operations that used to be tedious and very manual.”
- COMPASS MANAGING DIRECTOR, EDGEPOINT, SHARIF FOTOUH

Second, it's really being able to leverage our experience and support those users in understanding kind of the journey that needs to be traveled as their application grows and needs distributed infrastructure. It's again, the lessons I learned over the past five, six years being in a program like this. I can't wait to leverage those for our customers. Because again, not because we're necessarily the smartest people here, but the scars on my back, I'd like to turn those into lessons and get a positive outcome. Lemons into lemonade. And so I'm really excited to be able to work with our customers, and new potential customers, to really lean on that experience, build a program for them that is holistic and show them the advantages that we can bring to the table.

David Liggitt: Yeah. Well Sharif, thank you for sharing your insight with us. And for those that are watching, this is a fascinating discussion because it's very much today, but it's very much looking out at the future of where things are going. And so I just always appreciate people that are willing to share what they've learned through their career path through where they are now. So certainly excited about what you all are doing and it will be fun to watch over the next several years.

Sharif Foutoh: Oh, thank you. It's been a pleasure.



This is episode 33 of HawkTalk, datacenterHawk’s discussion series with industry executives. If you enjoy the conversation and don’t want to miss the rest of the series, just hit subscribe on iTunes, stream it Spotify, or follow it on YouTube.

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