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Cellphones Wireless Networking Hardware

Inside a Verizon Wireless Superswitch 107

Posted by Soulskill
from the before-the-iphone-ruins-it dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Geek.com has posted a walkthrough of a Verizon Wireless Superswitch, a 45,000 square foot, $50 million facility. From the article: 'The Superswitch we visited, located in Orlando, Fl., is one of about 25 across the US. These control centers are designed to handle mobile calls, SMS, MMS, and mobile broadband for their respective regions. This particular Superswitch faces a somewhat unique problem given its unfortunate proximity to extreme weather conditions, and as such is re-enforced to survive a Category 5 hurricane and still provide service to its area. While definite numbers were unavailable, this center handles millions of calls and texts, as well as tens of thousands of gigabytes of mobile data on an average day, and is designed to scale up rapidly for large events or emergencies.'"
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Inside a Verizon Wireless Superswitch

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  • "While finite numbers were unavailable," WTF does that mean?

    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      by GameboyRMH (1153867)

      Somebody divided by zero...

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      "While finite numbers were unavailable," WTF does that mean?

      It means they wanted to sound smart about not having an answer despite being in charge of it.

    • They also had the incredibly strange line "... only secure persons are allowed onto the facility..." I guess I'd be too insecure to get onto the facility. Maybe they'd let me go inside instead.

      But, to be honest, when I looked at the slide show... meh... It's a stupid ugly room inside a stupid ugly building with stupid ugly suburban business park landscaping outside with a bunch of wire, boxes, batteries and generators inside the room. And not even pretty or unusual ones at that. Oh yeah... there are a

      • They didn't want to crush your spirit if you accidentally saw the cable connection they use to connect up to the internet.

    • by idji (984038)
      He thought "definite" and wrote something else.
    • by cyberfin (1454265)
      Visitor: "So exactly how many calls and data do you handle during an average day?"

      Tourguide: "Ehm... your guess is as good as mine. A badjillion? Squared."
  • Hire a copy editor (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 25, 2011 @01:56PM (#35613866)

    Look, I know these articles are user submitted, but there's really no harm in correcting spelling and grammar; in fact it would make this site look more professional.

    The word is reinforced. "re-enforced" sounds like the enforcement of a rule didn't work well enough the first time, so it had to be enforced again.

    • by Thud457 (234763)
      It's not the submission, it's TFA, I looked. The only thing I can think of to explain that mess is that the writing guy that writes isn't a native English-maker, is trying gamely to writing in a conversational style, and is using a out-of-date edition of "English as She is Spoke" as a style guide.
    • Look, I know these articles are user submitted, but there's really no harm in correcting spelling and grammar; in fact it would make this site look more professional.

      It needs more than spelling and grammar corrections - it pretty much needs a top-to-bottom rewrite. My 5th grade English teacher would have just put a big red "F" on the page about halfway through and given up.

    • by antdude (79039)

      /. is probably too cheap. Maybe ask for volunteers.

  • Man ... (Score:3, Funny)

    by gstoddart (321705) on Friday March 25, 2011 @02:05PM (#35614062) Homepage

    Wow, I looked at that headline and my brain saw "Inside a Verizon Wireless Sandwich".

    Must eat lunch on time.

  • by peter303 (12292) on Friday March 25, 2011 @02:16PM (#35614210)
    The solar super-storm, like the one 1859, should make life interesting. Imagine being unable to use your cell phone or internet for week - and you have the Japan situation.
  • I love the vernacular "switch". It's a telco switch. Not to be confused with the more nerdy (and hopefully slashdot-friendly) network switch. As in Layer 2 of the OSI model. Because the $50 gigabit switch sitting on my desk can handle "tens of thousands of gigabytes of data a day" as well. Maybe I'm just not impressed with telco stuff, being a network nerd and overall "virtual protocol" kinda guy. Just wanted to point out if you're thinking network switch like I was, you won't be comparing apples to a
    • by jgrahn (181062)

      I love the vernacular "switch". It's a telco switch. Not to be confused with the more nerdy (and hopefully slashdot-friendly) network switch. As in Layer 2 of the OSI model. Because the $50 gigabit switch sitting on my desk can handle "tens of thousands of gigabytes of data a day" as well. Maybe I'm just not impressed with telco stuff, being a network nerd and overall "virtual protocol" kinda guy. Just wanted to point out if you're thinking network switch like I was, you won't be comparing apples to apples.

      The article mentioned LTE, which implies mobile broadband. That's not too far away from normal IP networking.

  • by snspdaarf (1314399) on Friday March 25, 2011 @02:22PM (#35614328)

    Two of the generators run simultaneously when not relying on battery live to power the facility in an emergency, and the third generator acts up in case of failure. In the event that another facility is unable to keep two generators running, a mobile generator that has been built into a large trailer is able to be delivered and used to keep the lights on. With two very large gasoline tanks underneath the facility, the generators are able to work with the batteries to keep the facility running as smooth as possible during a crisis.

    Man, they need a new third generator if it acts up in case of failure. Also, how many large facilities use gasoline to fuel their generators? the whole thing reads like someone a little too star struck about being allowed inside the fence.

    • the whole thing reads like someone a little too star struck about being allowed inside the fence.

      Welcome to "citizen journalism" - I have the same problem with all of those tech websites like Anand and Tom's Hardware, etc. The writers are all just hobbyists and the best they can do is amateur level analysis.

      It's not just tech sites though, go to somewhere like jihadwatch or most any anti-global-warming website and you'll get all kinds of pontification by people with zero big picture understanding - utterly lacking the ability to evaluate a piece of information with respect to any serious amount of con

      • I'm curious where you would suggest a hobbyist like myself get tech news, if not from Anand. It sounds like you have some better sources.

        • I'm curious where you would suggest a hobbyist like myself get tech news, if not from Anand. It sounds like you have some better sources.

          Anand's ok for news, as are almost all of them. Just not analysis. The problem is that the people who are able to do good analysis frequently have more lucrative things to do than blog about it on a regular basis. I've found that if you want expertise you have to find the niches. RISKS Digest is great for analysis of tech news with respect to, well, risks. The comp.arch usenet newsgroup can get pretty in-depth about chip and system architecture.

          The one-stop shop for general tech analysis probably doesn

    • If it's anything like any of the other telco installations I've seen, the facility is *always* running on battery power. Telcos run just about everything off 48 volts DC. City power runs rectifiers to keep the batteries charged. If city power fails, the batteries just begin discharging. The generators come online if city power is out for more than a minute or so.

      This is a much better system that most "data" centers, with multiple conversions from AC to DC and back, automatic transfer switches, etc.

      Addit

      • Ok, fine. I am either missing your point, or you are missing mine. When someone writes "and the third generator acts up in case of failure", they are not paying attention to what they are writing. Also, I seriously doubt that they have gasoline tanks under the facility. Diesel or propane is far more likely to be the fuel. At no point did I question 48VDC operation (I would have loved to convert our facility over, but I could not justify the cost). I was expecting a story about the technology, and what I go
        • by DragonHawk (21256)

          I wasn't really responding to you so much as the quote from TFA.

          I certainly wasn't defending TFA.

  • ...were all the AT&T ads being shown as I viewed the pictures.

  • This article does not appear to have gone through any sort of editing process, it also does not appear to have been written by someone familiar with the subject matter.

    Additionally, if you are a tech news site and have the opportunity to tour a Verizon data center, maybe come back with more than 9 pictures from a cell phone camera.
    • by MrLogic17 (233498)

      And somebody tell that guy to clean off his cell phone's camera lens. Every single picture had a hazy blur - like fingerprints over the lens.

  • If I were building a superswitch, it would easily be category 5e or category 6 ready.
  • by timster (32400) on Friday March 25, 2011 @02:27PM (#35614422)

    If you're invited inside a big datacenter and want to take good pictures, at least rent an ultra-wide-angle lens. These pedestrian shots of individual wiring cabinets feel extremely flat.

    • If you're invited inside a big datacenter and want to take good pictures, at least rent an ultra-wide-angle lens. These pedestrian shots of individual wiring cabinets feel extremely flat.

      I doubt the article's author is a photographer. Even so, no need for an ultra wide lens, just something better than a pocket point-and-shoot and a little knowledge of photography. Actually, if you know what you're doing even a little point-and-shoot can produce better photographs than those in TFA.

      • by adolf (21054)

        I doubt the article's author is a photographer.

        I, myself, doubt that the author is a good writer.

        If the author is neither a decent writer nor even a mediocre photographer, what business does he have publishing anything involving both of these concepts at once?

        Don't get me wrong. I think anyone should be allowed to publish anything, no matter how insipid, inane, or even purposefully incorrect it might be. But I also feel that editors exist for a reason, and that this particular FA should've been edited int

  • by TonTonKill (907928) on Friday March 25, 2011 @02:31PM (#35614486)
    That's huge! I wish we had a word to describe such a large figure. I will attempt to create one. I will call this value "ginorbyte". One ginorbyte of mobile data is approximately equal to one terabyte of regular data.
  • Any of those pictures could easily have come from the itsy-bitsy Rural LEC I used to work for. None of those photos really show me anything SUPER! It just looks like any other CO in the world. That said, I'm sure it's massive and there were opportunities to take much more impressive photos than this. Close ups of telco racks will always look like close ups of telco racks, no matter where they're at.
  • must be a recent setup, as it seems that there have been no "temporary" quick-fixes applied.

  • You mean like a MSC?

    This looks like it was written by someone who knows nothing of how cell phones work.

    • by DragonHawk (21256)

      "You mean like a MSC?"

      Well, it's Verizon. They're a CDMA (IS-95/2000) carrier, so they prolly have a different acronym. MSC is a GSM term, and it seems like the competing standards have to come up with their own terminology for everything.

      I do agree that this article and its author were lacking.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    all of verizon's central offices look like this in a major city.
    been in one... you have seen them all...

  • ...in this wireless superswitch :)
  • by Slutticus (1237534) on Friday March 25, 2011 @03:27PM (#35615412)
    ...to picture # 3, you can see one of the cables says "to NSA". They really are pulling out all the stops to compete with AT&T.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      ...to picture # 3, you can see one of the cables says "to NSA".

      This is a lie.

  • We donâ(TM)t just want our mobile devices to work, we demand it.

    Tell me why the cruel, popular kids were spit-balling the geeks, when this human pocket protector with the swank haircut was roaming free? Sense of priorities in life: off scale low.

    Actually, what we really demand are subsidized handsets. After that deal with the devil, we're pretty much powerless to influence any other aspect of how the system works.

    • by matfud (464184)

      In many parts of the world mobile phones are quite cheap and there is no requirement to sign a contract. It is an american thing which seems odd to most of us. Choose not to get roped into a contract and perhaps the companies will change. Not much hope there.

  • I expected to see a bunch of pictures of random wiring cabinets, and I did see a bunch of pictures of random wiring cabinets, and somehow failed to get excited about it.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    You haven't had a real walk-through of a communications complex unless you're hurried past the unobtrusive "storage room" that has weird electronic humming coming from it.

  • Anybody else notice the array of cellphone on a rack in one of those pictures? What was that about? TFA didn't seem to say (I only skimmed it)
  • ... Ernestine (Lily Tomlin) with a plugboard and an attitude.

  • by rduke15 (721841)

    Finally, I understand why we need Category 6 Ethernet cable. Because it "is re-enforced to survive a Category 5 hurricane".

    And that's also why IPv4 is not good enough and we need IPv6, I guess.

  • And they have a busted old Nortel phone sitting on the desk. I guess the telcos really do have VoIP.
  • Can anybody explain the mobile handsets wired up to the rack in what look like hand-free brackets in picture #3?

    I'm just really curious that they do that (why actual handsets?), and what for?

    • by illtud (115152)

      Sorry, just replying to my own post. Slightly larger version of the image here:

      http://www.geek.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/verizon_superswitch_geek_01.jpg [geek.com]

    • by danlock4 (1026420)

      They look like the "free" handsets you can get when you sign up for a contract. They're probably pre-owned and being purged of anything that isn't part of the vanilla handset. Perhaps it's a part of a refurbishing process, too. Loading newest firmware and preparing them for use as "like-new" phones.

      • by illtud (115152)

        They look like the "free" handsets you can get when you sign up for a contract. They're probably pre-owned and being purged of anything that isn't part of the vanilla handset. Perhaps it's a part of a refurbishing process, too. Loading newest firmware and preparing them for use as "like-new" phones.

        But that would never be done in a data centre, that's a service centre activity. They must be signalling or something. I wonder if it's part of testing/monitoring - you can't be sure that your network is working

        • by danlock4 (1026420)

          They look like the "free" handsets you can get when you sign up for a contract. They're probably pre-owned and being purged of anything that isn't part of the vanilla handset. Perhaps it's a part of a refurbishing process, too. Loading newest firmware and preparing them for use as "like-new" phones.

          But that would never be done in a data centre, that's a service centre activity. They must be signalling or something. I wonder if it's part of testing/monitoring - you can't be sure that your network is working without end-to-end testing from a handset.

          You're right. My message was pure speculation; I noticed that someone had responded to a similar question about the same picture elsewhere in the discussion which stated that it was part of testing the network and included a link, the URL of which seemed to indicate that it referenced an explanation of cell phone network testing.

          I didn't follow the link, but here [slashdot.org] is a link to that message and here is a clickable version of the link [geek.com] in that message, which I've now clicked--it contains a video and explains t

          • by illtud (115152)

            I didn't follow the link, but here is a link to that message and here is a clickable version of the link in that message, which I've now clicked--it contains a video and explains that a script tests the handsets "every couple of minutes" for SMS and wireless-broadband functionality, whereas mobile technicians have the job of testing the off-site network.

            Hey thanks, very informative.

  • And it'll be curtains for the data center's infrastructure.

    Very, very poor location for a high level center people.

    • by nxtw (866177)

      And it'll be curtains for the data center's infrastructure.

      Very, very poor location for a high level center people.

      According to the article, the datacenter handles mobile traffic for the region it's in. Assuming the region is Florida (or most of it), where else would you put such a center?

      • And it'll be curtains for the data center's infrastructure.

        Very, very poor location for a high level center people.

        According to the article, the datacenter handles mobile traffic for the region it's in. Assuming the region is Florida (or most of it), where else would you put such a center?

        Orlando, at least the center, is about 50 miles from the coast. Katrina made (Gulf Coast) landfall as a Cat 3. Even stronger windstorms degrade quickly due to frictional forces as the storm encounters terrain. So the probability of Cat 5 storm force winds being encountered at the data center are quite remote.

        BTW, Katrina's most famous devastation was due to water, not wind.

  • A triple shot of powerful, room-sized generators as well as four massive rows of very large batteries are in place should the lights go out. . .

    . . . the whole (generator) room is sunk a bit deeper than the rest of the facility to ensure anything that could happen would be contained to the room.

    So the batteries and generators are below the level of all other flooring.

    During flooding, won't water flow first to the lowest point in the building?

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