The US’ most profitable cell tower operator, Crown Castle, has joined the Open19 data center hardware initiative.

LinkedIn launched the open source project last year in collaboration with HPE, GE, Vapor IO, Flex and several other hardware vendors, not as a competitor to the Open Compute Project, but as a parallel initiative aimed at small-scale data center operators.

King of the Castle

Open19 chassis
Open19 chassis – Open19

The project’s objective is to define a form factor allowing for rapid compute deployments. 

The standard chassis leaves the choice of hardware open, so as to protect companies’ intellectual property, but defines the structure: this includes four possible server and storage configurations, a power shelf and a network switch, as well as a rack cage, designed so that the chassis can be slid in rapidly.

Crown Castle’s decision to join Open19 is another indication that the company is widening the scope of its traditional telco operations.

As of last year, it has delved into edge computing, aiming to bring processing power closer to end-users. This makes sense for a telco, as cell towers are located at the edge of the network as it is generally defined, and cellular networks often cater to multiple carriers and have backhaul networks that connect to the data center core.

Last year, Crown Castle invested in Vapor IO, a company which designs and operates cylindrical, all-encompassing rack enclosures for the network edge.

The pair has since entered an agreement whereby Vapor will install its ’vapor chambers’ at the base of Crown Castle cell towers, using Open19 racks, in an initiative named Project Volutus.