back to article Welcome to Las Vegas - Home of the technology superpower you've never heard of

Drive a couple of blocks past the Loose Caboose and the Carburetor Shop on E. Sahara Avenue in Las Vegas, and you'll find one of the world's leading technology companies. The name of the company - Switch Communications - will go unrecognized by almost all of you. That's because it has operated in near total secrecy for the last …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Ah, to dream...

    Maybe we can get big people like this to just drop the spam traffic on the floor. Then we all might invest in the procedure.

    There must be bunches of traffic going thru the place, so it is a good place to start.

    Other than that, I'm sure that any good BOFH worth their salt would LOVE to work in a place like this. It would make the BatCave look miniscule by comparison, and Los Vegas! The thoughts abound.

  2. Fuion
    Alert

    Datacenter Fusion without the Fuion ?

    Why was I not invited to such a place?

    Sheesh...

  3. heystoopid
    Paris Hilton

    Scary

    Scary , a concentrated civilian version of NSA switch rooms in almost every Telephone exchange in the land of the paranoid on steroids and then some other trickery !

  4. arran

    puts...

    certain UK Projects to shame thats for sure

  5. Big Al
    Alien

    Attention to detail

    "...because I spied an investment proposal from one of the world's top banks sitting on Roy's desk."

    Had to grin when I read this, the 'leaving things on the desk for the visitor to see' trick is a classic negotiator's tactic... employed by those with a keen eye for detail!

    The other point not explicitly mentioned is that Las Vegas is handy, one way or another, for a number of military installations of the more secretive kind. Staff at Roswell are reputed to be flown into and out of the site from Las Vegas, for example (well, the human staff, anyway...)

  6. Frank Silver badge
    Happy

    Investment Proposal

    Ashlee,

    If you come to interview me, I'll make sure that you spy an investment proposal from one of the world's top banks sitting on my desk :)

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Alien

    pigdogs

    capitalist pigs, only interesting in stifling the working man ;)

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Alert

    Why is it...

    ...that I detect the not so faint smell of bullshit?

    It just seems that there's an excess of things for appearance sake, but some of the practical realities seem just a bit, well, inconsistent?

    A bit like that big empty shed in the desert they've built. For some reason I'd believe it more if it was a finished working data centre rather than a relatively cheap shed.

    And all those statements from Rob, they just sound a bit off?

    But hey, they might be real.

    Even though there seems to be a gulf between their attempts to hide their business from the world and their not particularly subtle attempts to promote a particular image to customers.

    I guess it's easier to fool small numbers of people than the whole world.

    You'd almost think it was some sort of scam to pretend to have some fantastic business, drag in money quietly, then run before it all goes wrong. Maybe the parallels to Enron go beyond just using their building...

  9. amanfromMars Silver badge
    Alien

    The Greatest of Great Games ..... the Love Match.

    "Ashlee,

    If you come to interview me, I'll make sure that you spy an investment proposal from one of the world's top banks sitting on my desk :)" ....... By Frank Posted Saturday 24th May 2008 11:17 GMT

    That would read Beta ..."If you come to interview me, I'll make sure that you spy an investment proposal to the world's top banks sitting on my desk :)" :-) ... especially when Earnest, Frank.

  10. trackSuit
    Linux

    What the eye does and does not wish 42see & be seen

    "...because I spied an investment proposal from one of the world's top banks sitting on Roy's desk."

    And I spied a picture holder with no picture. Which can be seen behind Roy's left shoulder.

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/05/24/switch_switchnap_rob_roy/page3.html

    A tiny example of things which cannot be seen directly, yet which can be Rendered Intelligible with Rather Astute Shared NeuReal Quantum dDatabases and their sturdy trusty staff.

    PS. we know the missing picture was Tux :).

  11. Lol Whibley
    Paris Hilton

    strikes me..

    that if all else fails, he could run it as a Disney-style attraction for Geeks....

    Slow moving carosel carts drift gently past the gently roaring Stacks as the chill in the , the perrdy glowing activity lights flickering.. Kind of like a Niagra Falls for Data-freaks.. a voice-over and display of stats to make them all a-quiver..

    it's even got the Turnstlies in place..

    Paris? <enter pun ref Blowing air on Geeky Stacks here..>

  12. charlie wallace
    Coat

    tsk

    damn i thought this was going to be a story about my beowulf cluster.

  13. Luther Blissett

    A picture holder with no picture - the missing Magritte?

    In a grey, brown and red room. Or if you prefer corridors, grey, red, and blue. Such schemes are not harmonic, and require an additional datum for sense perception. Treated symbolically they tell an interesting story ("Businessmen, they drink my wine, plowmen dig my earth, None of them along the line know what any of it is worth"). The ornaments also will repay some Rendering Intelligible.

    Koyaanisqatsi. There are 3 types of equilibrium - stable, neutral, and unstable. Place your bets, and roll the dice.

  14. alex d

    I GET IT

    They're connected to 20 carriers, and play them off one-another to get the cheapest deals. Ohhh. Why didn't you just say so?

  15. Tim Blair
    Happy

    WOW!

    WOW! with a setup like that you might even get a decent frame rate in Crysis!

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    Data analazying centers....

    Data analazying centers are fun. Specally when they are reading onces email or lisening to onces phone calls.

    However, only small part of that DoD ops are at Switchnap. What DoD has at Switchnap is mostly sat tracking among other "small" projects (Some AI development I belive) and other minor stuff.

    I post anonymously for a reason, but I don't think it is going to help me if things get hard out there.

  17. Silly Me
    Happy

    Pirates Life For Me...

    There sure are a lot of pirate statues and pictures in Robs office. With all that security, it sure would be a nice place to keep a "Pirates" Treasures at "bay"

  18. Kevin Kitts
    Paris Hilton

    Brilliant...

    this kind of concept centralizes a vital high-speed, high-capacity communications hub, and makes it an instant terrorist target. Either it's a dummy facility, or it's the stupidest thing I've heard all year.

    Come on, people, you don't need to get into a building to blow it up, set it on fire, or otherwise render it useless. This is elementary physical security and anti-terrorism. If this guy had any notion of security, you wouldn't have gotten in there in the first place - you have no need to know how the inside looks. An off-site interview would have been fine for what you needed to know.

    I'm leaning towards it being inane stupidity (powered by Greed[tm]).

    Paris, because, she knows all about being loose, security and otherwise.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Had to be said....

    ...will it run Vista?

  20. Matt Bryant Silver badge
    Happy

    Nice to see something good came out of Enronn!

    Sounds like this guy is quite a salesman, but the tech behind this looks very cool (especially the multi-option cooling stacks). I suppose if his electrickery bill ever gets too steep he can just cover the massive area of the facility roof with solar panels! I'd be very keen to look at how the "seal" between the hot air and cold air areas of the rack design work and if it restricts access to the rear of the systems (e.g., do you have to climb into a "duct" at the back to pull a network card?). I've messed around with custom ducting on the back of racks to pipe heat away from blades before and it was tricky to say the least!

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What's in a name?

    The company isn't called centripiss, or Elipsibull, or Centroid, or any of those other off-putting bullshit-stink names.

    That *has* to be a good sign!

  22. Matt Morgan

    link to the network map

    link typo--try

    http://www.switchnap.com/pages/products/sinap-tix.php

  23. RW
    Alien

    Let the ten points of failure bloom!

    My immediate reaction to reading about so much bandwidth and connectivity under one roof was that it automagically becomes a target for certain anti-social movements that have "back to the stone age" as their motto.

    Ten such installations around the world just provides a few more sitting ducks for such über-destructive types.

    Then a little voice says "it doesn't matter, though; it's all boastfulness, b.s, and vaporware..."

    Ashlee Vance would be well advised to keep a detailed dossier on this outfit. There's a feel to the situation that suggests Switch will go bust sooner than you think, in the most spectacular of styles, and the cunning reporter who has all the facts at his (her) fingertips will have a leg up on the dozier ones who paid no attention and, worse, didn't publish in El Reg.

    .

    Extraterrestrial in honor of Roswell. [That's a little too obvious, I s'pose.]

  24. skeptical i

    Water?

    If this project requires, as was asserted by one of Roy's detractors, "almost 3 million gallons of water PER DAY" [emphasis added], how is this going to square with Nevada's rights to Colorado River water (which is claimed by a half- dozen or so southwest states)? Much of the southwest is in drought- like condition, and projections for future water availability- to- usage ratios don't look optimistic.

  25. Christian Berger Silver badge

    Maybe a dinosaur

    Maybe in the not so distant future we will look back at such projects and laught. Surely now it makes sense so build such large datacenters, but how will the future look like.

    I guess the number of internet connected computers will level at about 10 billion. (there's only so many computers a person can have)

    Currently our routing algorithms can work with a few thousand nodes at max.

    Maybe future algorithms, combined with increased bandwidth and CPU-power will be able to actually take every internet connected computer into account.

    Suddenly large peering points would be irrelevant as every ISP could peer with it's competitors at every POP they share.

  26. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge
    Flame

    It'll be a cold day in Nevada...

    Umm...

    Most of this fawning article addresses the cooling issues of a data centre. If they are so important - why put it in the Nevada desert?

    Why not put it on the Alaskan coast, near a constant supply of iced water....

    And when are we going to get some more icons? I bet some have never been used!

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    hot air

    their "special hot air whatever blah blah" is old news, APC started pushing this years ago. go have a look at globix in old street, london.

    http://www.apc.com/products/family/index.cfm?id=275

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Joke

    Anyone else thinking

    Aquinas Hub? I mean this guy's name's Bob, it's set in Nevada... he wasn't by any chance a mile underground with a growing AI was he?

    Here's to the Great Collapse when it gets bombed!

  29. Captain DaFt
    Coat

    Is it just me?

    Or does this whole article sound like it was lifted straight from a James Bond Novel? Seriously, Mystery company, run by a genius with a troubled past, massive compound with decor designed by said genius....

    The only part missing at the end was the revelation of his world conquering plan!

  30. SImon Hobson Silver badge

    @ Matt Bryant

    If you look at the picture, there is a door on the end of the 'duct' - it's just a corridor with some hot air in it.

    I can't see what's special about that, it's just normal thermal management - a variation on 'cold aisle, hot aisle' where racks are back to back so that there are cold aisle fed with cold air, and hot aisles where the hot air is sucked out - and a means of keeping the two flows apart over the top of the racks.

  31. joe
    Stop

    1500 watts a foot?

    If they are really at 1500 watts per foot they have to be using something other than cold air and hot aisle containment. Cold air stops being effective, even in a pressurized environment, between 350 and 400 watts a foot. Perhaps they're using DC power. Or perhaps they're building out mechanical and electrical plant only and will let customers install portable units which tap into the Switch power and cold water infrastructure and convert the power to DC in the portable, allowing them to get to 1500 watts per foot. The power bill alone at $.07 per kw hr would be around $3k a month. How much money are they spending to build this super nap? There is no way they are able to offer lower pricing on a per rack basis if they are really 1500 watts a foot. That is 7X more dense than Equinix's most dense site. In theory it should be priced 7X what Equinix charges. The other thing that doesn't make sense is that Vegas is not a big peering location....most of the traffic is backhauled to LA or the SFBay.

  32. Rich
    Black Helicopters

    Failure modes

    I don't think a data centre has ever been stormed by terrorists. The only thing armed gunman might be useful is to stop crackheads stealing the servers, as occasionally happens when people are dumb enough to locate in Peckham.

    A much more common failure mode is plain accident. Like an electrician shorting two phases of the UPS output together - big bang, no more servers for a few days. And what happens when a minimum-wage heavily armed war veteran with bits of his brain missing goes postal?

    Also a cynic says to me that a data centre built by Enron, with lots of top secret customers they won't tell us about, black projects, all that stuff - could add up to a big shed full of servers and aircon gear bought on credit with no actual customers?

  33. amanfromMars Silver badge

    @Failure modes

    "Also a cynic says to me that a data centre built by Enron, with lots of top secret customers they won't tell us about, black projects, all that stuff - could add up to a big shed full of servers and aircon gear bought on credit with no actual customers?" ..... By Rich Posted Monday 26th May 2008 22:50 GMT

    Rich,

    In a fun town like Las Vegas, with all of its alternate/underground/black economy wealth, having a Switch SuperNAP tending to your needs and spreading your feeds would cut out the parasitic middle tier of oversight/involvement, which invariably only milks the system adding grief to no benefit.

    Build a Cool Hip Hot Server Virtualisation Plant and the SMARTer customer will rest all of their Eggs in ITs Hedge Facility. It is all very Promising without the Added Burden of carrying all the Lame Ducks who Abuse Hacks rather than develop CrackerJack of All Trades Master CodeXXXX for themselves.

    And, by the way, Battles are not won on the Field of Casualties, they are lost as Wars between Armchair Soldiers who really should know Beta and who need to grow Up into Men, their Mothers and Sisters can be Proud of, and could never Fear. Until such Times, do they remain with the Sad and the Bad Losers.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Alert

    @Is it just me?

    My thoughts as well .... high tech centre just outside Las Vegas with over-the-top security + premises on the Strip ... anyone know if they have a penchant for diamonds or spot a fluffy white kitten anywhere?

  35. Edward Noad
    Coat

    Is it just a coincidence...

    ...that this guy is named Rob Roy (who is often mis-attributed as being a kind of Scottish Robin Hood), this amazing facility was previously owned by a company involved in the biggest fraud scandal of all time and "Rob Roy" has lots of pirate memorabilia in his office. He doesn't happen to have a parrot that says "Twelve and a Half Percent!" as well, does he?

    Mine's the coat with the three-corned hat on it

  36. Simon Greenwood
    Black Helicopters

    Two stories about the same company on the front page?

    Is there something you want to tell us, Mr Vance?

  37. Mike
    Black Helicopters

    I can just see.....

    The boss of Sun phoning the boss of Switch and saying... "Hey, I've just had the most gulible jorno I know asking about you guys, I'll send them straight over! Have fun"

    Black helicopters because they use the downdraught to cool the data centre apparantly.....

  38. Donald Best
    Coat

    Does anyone else see something fishy with the building?

    They are showing you the "building" in the video but if you look at it carefully you can see what appears to be "dead" spots. Makes me wonder just HOW far underground they are going with this as well? Specially since they have "military" clients - and we all know how anal the US military is about putting things "underground".

    /me grabs coat.. its the conspiracy white hat/trenchcoat combo.

  39. amanfromMars Silver badge
    Pirate

    Having Fun ......

    "Twelve and a Half Percent!" ...... By Edward Noad Posted Tuesday 27th May 2008 10:38 GMT

    That would the Value Added INCentive for Proprietary InfraStructure Spend, Edward Noad, ....for Programmer Control Accomodations in InterNetworking Channels at the Binary Level ....... with Las Vegas Vying for the AdultsXXXXOnly Crown....... and Championing for the Genre/Group

  40. PC6300

    build you own enclosed hot isle

    I'm having a little difficulty understanding the marketing hype on this one. How is it different than the enclosed hot isle that APC has been selling for years? It sounds like they pulled a Google and simple made their own version of the product.

  41. Andrew S.
    IT Angle

    This is a joke, right?

    The interviewer seems all taken with the security. Jeez, get out and do a little research next time.

    Switch actually let him drive his car up to the building. Security risk! One place in Virginia, USA, - Server Vault - has the Rambo wannabe guards, and everything he mentioned (plus metal detectors to even get to the man trap). But they don't even let guests drive onto the lot. Park outside, and walk in.

    Heck, I can point to six datacenters run by Equinix, Savvis, ATT, Verizon within 5 miles of one another, who all have similar security and network access. Duh, big deal.

    Shoot, if you are in Vegas, you missed out on the most secure datacenters around - those that the casinos use! Casinos have money, and have some of the most interesting IT shops around.

  42. Brad
    Alien

    "No one lives in Nevada. So, you don't have locals pulling on the bandwidth."

    Are they forgetting something? Aren't these so called "locals", better known as customers, the ones these data centres are meant to serve? Doesn't it make more sense to keep them nearest to your customers?

    But sure, it's a great place for the US military to keep their flying saucer schematics.

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    amanfromMars

    Hey - I think you need to up your meds, amanfromMars - you write like a fruit loop. Go rant and rave somewhere else.

  44. amanfromMars Silver badge
    Flame

    Thinking was obviously Optional?

    "Hey - I think you need to up your meds, amanfromMars - you write like a fruit loop. Go rant and rave somewhere else." ..... By Anonymous Coward Posted Wednesday 28th May 2008 04:55 GMT

    You have more than just a little to learn, AC, about the Stealthy Cracking of Source CodeXXXX, Right to the very Heart of Operating Systems and the Unlimited Cover Afforded by Third Party Ignorance even in the Face of Full Disclosure/WebSharing.

    However, I thank you for your concern but all is as planned and perfectly normal although you may wish to consider taking a Chill Pill yourself to relieve an obvious problem pressure build up.

  45. auser
    Happy

    This is just a show...

    like everything is las vegas. They bought an unused datacenter, painted it nicely and connected it to all sorts of networks. The thermal management system is a decorated version of the standard equipment everybody uses. Not to mention the cooling system, which could be based upon a cheap closed cycle system, especially when the site is in the middle of a desert. I watched their cartoon too and it looks like the owner is just playing the big boy and trying to attract customers.

    Actually, i've seen better built datacenters in eastern europe. The ones used in hungary for the government's communications monitoring system is: more secure, almost always based underground, secured against terrorists and nuclear attacks, have their own backup power plants and separte network backbone (not the small 40Gbps links switch uses, which is just a 4 color 10Gbps optical cable), fully distributed across the country and officially nobody would admit they exist. (except the funny failures, like the 'phographing is prohibited' sign before a plain mountain in one place and when one of the elder congressman said 'of course we record everything' and the government's ability to pull out of their hat phone and internet records and gsm location data months after a crime when it's finally discovered by the police)

    ps: Did you know that the easiest way to collect personal information from the people taking part in an antigovernment protest is to cross reference the gsm cell location info with the residential database of the area? As seen from the political trials currently under way, this results in a small 3% error rate. (a few tourists were accoused too because they were in the same area)

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Boffin

    1.5 KW/sqF? ....Thats a lot of grow lights.

    In fact thats twice as hot as the sun, which in Las Vegas peaks at about .777... KW/sqF.

    And whats that skunky smell?

  47. amanfromMars Silver badge
    Gates Halo

    Papal Shenanigans

    With Universal Studios gone up in a Puff House Smoked, it would seem Ideally Placed 42 Server Temporal Dream Needs & Feeds.

    Sweet Ambrosia IndDeed . Manna for Heavens

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