Skip to main content

A Day in the Cloud

LAS VEGAS -- I recently found myself attending a session on cloud computing in Las Vegas. The speaker had my full attention, as he was explaining how storage, connectivity, and processing could now be purchased as a service. He even had a slide of his personal account bill for the year showing how these services are billed on actual use, not “cookie cutter” pricing.

Needless to say, the manager in me was interested, but I still had doubts about this “cloud thing.” Placing my career in the hands of someone who lives in a cloud kind of reminded me of a story about “magic beans.” About midway through his presentation though, he made a passing remark about a large cloud facility opening up in Las Vegas, and that free tours were available.

SuperNAP 7 is heavily guarded

The facility, SuperNAP 7, is owned by Switch, a Las Vegas-based owner/operator of high security data centers. The tour was hosted by Strategic Blue and CloudSigma, cloud service broker/dealers.

Approaching the facility, site security was evident as we arrived at the block wall with a motorized gate. Behind the wall was a very large building, with a row of generators and air handling units, almost as far as you could see. Our attention was diverted by one of two large black Hummers pulling up with what looked like clones of “The Rock” piling out of the vehicle. “Rock 1,” I’ll call him here, boarded the bus and collected all of the visitors’ ID’s and took them into the security entrance of the building. After a few minutes, we were escorted in.

At 407,000 square feet, the SuperNAP 7 facility is the largest of the Switch SuperNAP campus.

Once inside the security entrance area, there was about a 20-minute wait while I’m guessing ID’s were checked and visitor badges were created for everyone. During my wait, I noticed no less than six security personnel (clones of “Rock 1”), escorting contractors and site personnel through very secure “finger” type revolving gates. When my name was called to come to the security window, the Kentucky boy in me spotted a half dozen each riot guns and M4-type rifles in the middle of the security center. While the guards weren’t visibly armed with firearms, they were adorned with many battle accoutrements, and the firearms were definitely in close proximity. Compliments to the security staff, they carried themselves in a most professional manner and were both polite and courteous during bag searches and interviews.

Once I got past the finger gate, we walked down numerous hallways, with a guard at each end of the halls, watching for “wanderers.” The inside walls were wire fencing or glass, with acres of servers behind them, and the facility had an almost surreal look. After a briefing at a very nice meeting room, the actual tour began.

At 407,000 square feet, the SuperNAP 7 facility is the largest of the Switch SuperNAP campus, which includes facilities around Las Vegas, totaling more than 2 million square feet of data center space. While generating 100 Megawatts of heat, cooling is a large part of keeping SuperNAP 7 online. According to my guide, 70 percent of the time the outside temperature in Las Vegas is 72 degrees or lower. Utilizing that fact, the 74 TSC6000 environment control units operate in four different modes, and each unit handles 128,000 cfm, recycling air in about three minutes. In addition to the large air handlers, there are several innovative technologies utilized at the facility, including Wattage Density Modular Design, T-scif (heat containment), Living Data Center technology, and the TSC 600’s. In all, Switch and its owner, Rob Roy, have been awarded 42 patents with another 83 pending in 2012.

While generating 100 Megawatts of heat, cooling is a large part of keeping SuperNAP 7 online. For secure power, there are fifty 2.8 Megawatt generators onsite, with each having a fuel reserve of 7,000 gallons. Fuel is supplied by three different vendors, and backup UPS keep all data online in the event of a power failure. If power were ever lost to the facility for more than four seconds, a reboot would take approximately 17 hours!

To supply all of the servers, there are 4,000 fibers feeding the facility and all cabling is overhead, as there is no raised floor.

According to Jason Mendenhall, executive vice president for Switch, “Las Vegas is in the U.S. Safety Zone, with no natural, or manmade, facility disaster threats.” Mendenhall added “broadcasters are embracing the cloud on a large scale, Fox is operating numerous O & O’s from our SuperNAP7 site, and movies such as Tron and Madagascar 3 have been rendered here.”