EDGE EXECUTIVE INTERVIEW – EVAN ACHILLOPOULOS, ACROMOVE
In the lead up to Edge Computing World, we’re taking some time to speak to key Executives from the leading companies supporting the show. Today we’re talking to Evan Achillopoulos, CTO and Co-Founder at Acromove Inc.
Tell us a bit about yourself – what led you to get involved in the edge computing market?
My first computer was a gift from my father of a Sinclair ZX Spectrum back in the 80’s. I taught myself Basic programming when I was 15 years old. Since then, being a serial entrepreneur, I have done a lot of work around dataflows and workflows. In 1996 I started working to digitize TV productions with the vision that one day all the videos will be files that would be managed and edited as sound files did in these early days. Almost immediately I realize that bandwidth, latency, and size of files will matter in the future. I’ve come a long way since then pioneering digital studio production workflows where I also realize the power of portable systems in on-location deployments to process video/imaging data at the Edge.
My first “Edge” product (though it wasn’t called that at the time) was a portable Fiber Channel disk array that was able to run on batteries and operate everywhere, even in a jungle. Then I realized that Cloud really requires local processing/storage and that will evolve to Hybrid Cloud and the Edge. At that point my 2014 startup evolved to what Acromove is today. We can say that I had always an eye on the Edge with a very innovative approach.
What is the company uniquely bringing to the edge market?
Acromove is introducing “Edge Cloud in a Box” (ECiB) at the Edge Computing World 2021 virtual conference. The beauty of the cloud is that you don’t have to worry about your own hardware or datacenter anymore – someone else handles it all for you. But increasingly, the market is demanding computing at the edge in the customer facility or in the vicinity of the end users for response time, resiliency against network outages, cost, etc. Unfortunately, what this means is that customers must get back into the IT hardware infrastructure game to build and manage their local small compute facilities. The “Edge Cloud in a Box” brings hassle free, headache free features and benefits of the cloud to the Edge – to the customer facility or where an Edge datacenter is needed.
“Edge Cloud in a Box” is “just enough” of a Cloud on-prem and yet it acts in the same transparent way as the cloud. You plug it in, run your business, and forget about it, just like you do with the public cloud offerings. No complex hardware acquisition, site preparation, or support teams. The ease of use and benefits of the public cloud come to the edge with our new products.
To make that dream a reality, a series of technologies are needed in a single box that is so small it can be carried and installed by a single person anywhere it is needed. Acromove’s “Edge Cloud in a Box” is fully autonomous (“Plug-and-play”), shippable and swappable by non-experts, scalable from a single device to a large cluster or scaled-down within minutes by non-experts. It provides a full root-of-trust custody chain and is totally secure with the ability to identify external threats and protect the data even in transit and without power. It needs to be weatherproof and shockproof for obvious reasons and integrated with all the Edge “mechanics” used on site like routers, LTE, WiFi mesh, managed UPS power, and act as a gateway to all local devices. Our “Edge Cloud in a Box” products can be used with every managed service like IBMs Edge Application Manager, Microsoft Azure HCI, NetApp Edge Stack, etc.
The “Edge Cloud in a Box” is a system of three building blocks – a storage-optimized device, a compute-optimized blade system, and a network-optimized switch and router package used to easily set up large computing clusters. These building blocks are deployed with minimal external costs replacing the need for location provisioning, racks, containers, HVAC and UPS systems, remote management systems, backup routers, etc. We are introducing this system in an affordable IaaS consumption model solving the geographic dispersal problem that the Edge ecosystem will face very soon.
Tell us more about the company?
The Acromove name comes from the Greek word “Άκρο” (Acro) which means “Edge” and the word “Move” that represents the first design principle for our systems to be easily moved or relocated where and when they needed most. So Acromove literally means the “Moving Edge”.
Acromove Inc is a Greek American startup. We incorporated in 2017 with our head office in Los Angeles and R&D and manufacturing base in Athens, Greece. Sales and marketing are done out of the US office and all our engineering and product development is in Greece.
Our first client was IBM with our ServerPack 35™ product, a direct competitor of AWS Snowball that is the basis of the IBM Cloud Mass Data Migration Service. Today dozens of devices move petabytes of IBM customer data across the Globe daily. We provide 24/7 support and hot spare devices in 14 regions around the world, from Brazil to Australia, USA to Norway, India and Japan. Our devices are FCC, CE, KC (S.Korea), BIS (India), VCCI (Japan) and RCM certified.
The Acromove engineering team designs and manufactures all our own unique electronic and mechanical parts. We develop the integrated circuits, firmware, and proprietary secure communication protocols for our boxes. In addition, we develop our patented AcroTrace™ remote management and security platform with all associated APIs that are used to integrate with client orchestration and DevOps systems. Multiple patents have been filed in both hardware and software with 3 already granted + 5 pending approval.
How do you see the edge market in Europe?
Europe is leading the way for Edge Cloud by setting the scene with a very unique project. I’m referring to the Project Gaia-X, a federated cloud Edge infrastructure framework that I believe will bring EU to the front of Edge Cloud development worldwide.
But the challenges of the deployment of the Edge and 5G markets are many. The biggest of all is the development of use cases. The huge geographic dispersal of user Edge demand is one of the greatest hurdles. And I believe that the Edge will be a largely federated implementation.
How do you see the edge market developing over the next few years?
The Edge market will go through a couple of stages until it will get to a maturity level allowing the full deployment of the new Distributed Cloud topology. This new topology is a game changer for many players in the industry.
While the software stack that will be used for the Edge is almost available the physics of the Edge combined with the associated economics require a complete rethinking of the infrastructure design. And I don’t see that happening in the market, apart from AWS that does few steps in the right direction I don’t see anyone else doing the right steps.
Rack form factor is not suitable for the Edge. Rack form factor assumes the use of the servers in an organized datacenter with controlled physical and as well as logical environment. There is no such thing in the Edge. The simplest example is that there is no 90cm space in a retail shop corridor or in a side of the road cabinet to fit a pizza box server with cold air coming from the front and hot going out in the back side. Telecom equipment for example is all front/front in cooling. There is no depth available bigger than 60cm out in the Edge locations. Another example is that you can’t just open a door in a 10ft edge datacenter container without taking in to account the external weather conditions like humidity, dust, water droplets and temperature.
Today, all players are trying to keep the game within their court, but not all players are suited to this new paradigm. In my opinion Edge needs a complete rethinking on many levels of the deployment of this new technology. There are challenges that are not being taken seriously by the current market players that need to be addressed first.
I foresee a slow adoption of the Edge with winners only among those that can adapt to the needs of the end users and the businesses that will benefit the most of this new technology. Edge Cloud will need to combine the “as a Service” consumption model and at the same time solve all associated physical and logistical problems that arise not only from the “aaS” model but also from the huge scale and geographic disparity of the anticipated user demand.