Compass Quantum, a business unit of Compass Datacenters, has been making waves in the edge data center market in 2023 with its innovative approach to financing, designing, manufacturing and deploying edge infrastructure.
Quantum’s business model focuses on filling a need for localized and affordable data center services anywhere that customers need these solutions. This not only quickly adds incremental capacity at traditional sites for data center facilities but also means Quantum deploys capacity on top of buildings, in parking lots, in parking garages, in rural areas or elsewhere. Quantum is also doing this with an innovative financial model that provides a high-quality solution via a cost-effective cost structure.
The company’s latest Quantum mode started production in Colorado earlier this year, marking a significant milestone for the company.
Compass Quantum’s White Space as a Service offering enables organizations to easily augment their edge data center capacity. This service package includes 100kW+ modular data centers, providing complete functionality without additional capital investment, headcount or operational changes. With scalability to meet capacity requirements, Compass Quantum ensures quick deployment within months, regardless of geographic restrictions or staffing limitations.
EdgeIR spoke with Tony Grayson, the general manager of Compass Quantum, to gain insights into his company’s perspective on the evolving edge data center market. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
EdgeIR: Can you describe how your edge data center construction process differentiates from other modular data center providers?
Tony Grayson (TG): We wanted something that was more sustainable than concrete and steel. We partnered with Owens-Corning to develop a composite that was more sustainable, saving approximately 90 tons of savings compared to a steel structure. Another good thing about the composite: it’s 100% recyclable. We reuse all the dust in the material during the CNC process and you can recycle the whole thing. You will never see anything we build end up in a landfill.
The second thing I wanted was something strong and rugged. The composite can handle a 250-mile-an-hour wind load; it’s certified to be a category 5 (F5) tornado shelter, which means it can be used for emergency management following natural disasters. It also has excellent ratings in ballistic and blast testing, which is valuable in protecting infrastructure against disasters and sabotage.
I also wanted to use mass customization in the process to drive down costs, but also provide a better time to market. Mass customization is the process of delivering market goods and services modified to satisfy a specific customer’s needs. It combines the flexibility and personalization of custom-made products with the low unit costs associated with mass production. It’s like a Dell computer where you can’t choose the case and motherboard, but you can choose everything else. You can still customize, but we are able to drive down the price while increasing quality. We also have a whole system that can remotely monitor and control the unit that’s been developed by Compass.
EdgeIR: How does the construction process impact how long it takes to build one of your data centers? the total cost of ownership?
TG: We could build one in weeks rather than months.
Also, we deploy on piers, not concrete pads; as a result, we can actually install it in hours. In most cases, there is no geotech survey, no land grade and no civil permitting involved. There’s no reason why we can’t do an order to install in 90 days for a unit with basic customization.
Because the unit is built with a composite, it won’t rust, it won’t decay and you can always re-use if needed, your TCO timelines are pretty long. Instead of looking at a module life of 10 or 15 years, we’re looking at multiple decades of viability – even more with retrofitting.
EdgeIR: Describe your approach to enabling the day-to-day operations of an edge data center. How’s this going to work for an enterprise customer?
TG: What we’re trying to do is solve all those problems for the customer…we front the cost of deployment and the day-to-day operations through a cost-effective monthly services agreement.
We want to enable companies to be successful and will take care of the stuff that most organizations do not have enough staff or expertise to do themselves. We provide it through our turnkey white glove service.
EdgeIR: In terms of your business model, tell us how you’re seeing customers invest in edge data centers.
TG: Companies are unsure what the future holds. So why not do an operating lease that doesn’t count against your capital budget and that you can always walk away from in four to five years?
We customize, manufacture, transport and install it. We will install and operate it for a customer all under their terms, and we have our own 24/7 NOC to do security monitoring.
EdgeIR: What are the notable use cases? Is selling these to telcos an option or what are the other use cases and deployment scenarios? What are you seeing in the market in the next 18 months or so?
TG: It’s probably not the edge people originally thought, which is pushing compute out to the rural network edge. You can find edge in metropolitan areas right now. We’re seeing several patterns, the first one being a hub-hub-spoke model where the second hub is an aggregation point that’s closer for [applications that are] more latency sensitive.
To improve broadband in rural areas and disadvantaged areas, they’re also building aggregation points that are 100 to 200 kilowatts up to the megawatt range. Eventually, those have to spoke out for IoT. So, think of smart cities, smart cars, any kind of local compute that needs to fronthaul to that first hub, and then get backhauled to the second hub. This is very different from the hub-spoke that’s been in the past.
The second way we’re seeing it right now is via customers that need HPC in a local area driven by factors such as security concerns, network pricing, latency, IT manning, or even simply getting the power per rack density to handle it.
If you have an MRI, for example, they can compare it against an MRI database and give you a prognosis to the radiologist. That would be a lot of data to move over the networks for a cloud. It’s more cost-effective to put something like that on-prem and just run that. But we’re talking 40 to 50 kilowatt racks and the typical AV closet is not built for that. So we’re starting to see that HPC node aspect of it.
The third way we’re seeing it is when the government is developing a tactical edge or redoing its network to be more cloud and edge focused. There are more federal and state government deployments as they try to have a more distributed architecture on their network.
The fourth trend I am seeing is in telecom which is focusing its roadmap on private 5G, true 5G and beyond. However, the traditional telecom hut can’t handle the increased number of racks or density, so utilities are looking for help. There are thousands of these facilities across the U.S. alone, and our solution provides a cost-effective, sustainable and easily-scalable way to replace those facilities.
The fifth way is for companies who are taking advantage of their land, power and/or fiber to offer solutions to local customers.
The last trend I’m seeing right now is the death of the AV closet. We’re getting to a point now in architecture that you can no longer put these 8-to-10 kilowatt high-density racks in a closet. People are looking for on-premise or near-prem solutions; the only real choice they have right now is retail colocation. But retail is space constrained in many markets now, so customers are looking for different solutions. In short, we believe our potential market right now is pretty much anyone outside of a hyperscale company.
Compass Quantum | DCIM | edge data center | managed services | modular data center | remote operations