Feeds

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

Rob Roy seizes Enron's busted dream

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

Look! There in the desert! It's SuperNAP!

The networking operation has helped Switch carve out a significant place in the Nevada technology landscape, but it's the SuperNAP that threatens to take the company global.

Switch has spent years banging away on a data center design that runs contrary to conventional thinking. Most large scale data centers utilize raised floors where cold air is pumped through holes in the floor and picked up by servers and storage systems. This type of architecture often results in the top parts of the computing systems getting very hot. So, companies have developed all manners of weird contraptions ranging from liquid cooling systems, heat socks and even data center robots that seek out warm spots to try and avoid concentrations of warm air.

By contrast, Switch has created its own system called a T-SCIF (Thermal Separate Compartment in a Facility), which lets Switch abandon expensive raised floors altogether.

You basically back a server or storage system into the T-SCIF container and create a seal that separates the cool air pulled in by the front of the system from the hot air exhaled from the rear of the system. Unlike most data centers, Switch does not need to deal with intermingling cool and warm air. The hardware receives only cool air, while the hot air travels out through ducts above the T-SCIF. This design lets Switch run servers at full power and allows it to stack as many systems as possible into a given space whereas many data centers must avoid filling up racks with hardware because of heat and power concerns.

Shot of the TSCIF container

Meet T-SCIF

(For more on the T-SCIFs and the SuperNAP design see this story.)

The SuperNAP will make use of the T-SCIF approach on a grand scale.

The $350m facility will stand as one of the largest data centers on the planet. It will rival anything being built by the likes of Microsoft and Google, which often say that their new centers cost about $500m a pop. Roy, however, believes that he can stack four times as much gear as those companies do in his center.

Switch is bringing in 30 cooling towers and its own power station to fill the SuperNAP with 7,000 cabinets of hardware and 1,500 watts per square foot of energy. All told, the SuperNAP will chew through more energy than three mega casinos. And Switch has room for four SuperNAP-sized buildings on the land that it owns.

While the scale of the center is impressive, it's Roy's ambitions that prove more remarkable.

Rather than selling space in the SuperNAP to a handful of clients, which he could probably do, Roy wants to divide the building up among a number of the world's thriving businesses that operate in various fields. Roy seems to see himself as a type of rainmaker for the internet age, bringing together disparate parties to create digital happiness.

Roy talks about linking the major casinos with the major content providers and carriers to make IPTV a reality. Only a company such as Switch with the bandwidth, data centers and connections could get all these folks to agree on a shared agenda, Roy says.

"This building will be the first super-scale data center where all the new technology in the world merges and therefore creates a better layer of technology than anyone else has been looking at," he said. "I can make this work because I can do things no one else can."

A man must dream big, right?

Today, organizations turn to Switch for black-ops projects, spam filtering of the most serious proportions, utility computing projects, data warehouses at casinos, modeling, online games and old-fashioned e-commerce. Roy wants to convince these clients to keep their most cutting-edge projects at Switch and then wants to work as a go between, telling the various clients where they can help each other out rather than duplicating effort.

This will strike many of you as fanciful talk. Although, as Roy described his vision, I was reminded of Samuel Insull, who created what amounted to the first true electricity grid in Chicago by pulling in customers of different stripes to keep his generators humming away all day and night. By achieving this scale, Insull could lower the price of electricity and make it more feasible for companies to abandon their own power systems.

Could it be that a figure like Roy will be this generation's Insull and actually deliver a utility computing infrastructure? Such an idea seems almost more likely to me than a company like Google, Microsoft, Amazon or IBM pulling it off given Switch's rather more neutral role.

Then again, maybe Roy talks way too big.

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

Next page: Bootnote

More from The Register

next story
The Return of BSOD: Does ANYONE trust Microsoft patches?
Sysadmins, you're either fighting fires or seen as incompetents now
Oracle reveals 32-core, 10 BEEELLION-transistor SPARC M7
New chip scales to 1024 cores, 8192 threads 64 TB RAM, at speeds over 3.6GHz
Microsoft: Azure isn't ready for biz-critical apps … yet
Microsoft will move its own IT to the cloud to avoid $200m server bill
Docker kicks KVM's butt in IBM tests
Big Blue finds containers are speedy, but may not have much room to improve
US regulators OK sale of IBM's x86 server biz to Lenovo
Now all that remains is for gov't offices to ban the boxes
Gartner's Special Report: Should you believe the hype?
Enough hot air to carry a balloon to the Moon
Flash could be CHEAPER than SAS DISK? Come off it, NetApp
Stats analysis reckons we'll hit that point in just three years
Dell The Man shrieks: 'We've got a Bitcoin order, we've got a Bitcoin order'
$50k of PowerEdge servers? That'll be 85 coins in digi-dosh
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.