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Huge Data Center Going Up In Sin City 88

pacopico writes "The Register has a report on an intriguing Las Vegas-based company which is building one of the world's largest data centers called the SuperNAP. The company — Switch Communications — claims it will be the most densely packed and power efficient data center ever built. The report notes, 'Legend has it that the company managed to acquire what was once meant to be Enron's broadband trading hub for a song. This gave Switch access to more than twenty of the primary carrier backbones in a single location. Switch tied this vast network to existing data center hosting facilities and attracted military clients, among others, to its Las Vegas shop.'"
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Huge Data Center Going Up In Sin City

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  • Firewall??? (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Whatever happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      The saying used to be "whatever happens in Enron, stays in Enron," but we can all see how well that worked out...

      Maybe the fiber hub has built in packet shredders.
  • They just need to hire Marv. That should work well. Just make sure he doesn't bleed everywhere.
  • They could probably make a fortune just acting as a switching node, routing data between carriers.
  • Heat (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fitten ( 521191 ) on Sunday May 25, 2008 @09:32AM (#23535539)
    Isn't Las Vegas.... warm? Seems like it will require lots of cooling.
    • Re:Heat (Score:5, Informative)

      by Iphtashu Fitz ( 263795 ) on Sunday May 25, 2008 @09:36AM (#23535557)
      True, but so are places like Dallas, San Diego, etc. and they all have huge datacenters. Beside, Vegas as a lot of relative cheap electricity thanks to the likes of the Hoover Dam, etc. That's the main reason why Vegas is so big and always lit up like a friggin' Christmas Tree on steroids. Prior to the power plant at Hoover Dam coming on-line the city was pretty much like any other city in the USA.
      • Re:Heat (Score:5, Interesting)

        by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Sunday May 25, 2008 @09:44AM (#23535587)
        You're right, and it's a real shame what's become of the colorado river. Squandered to power gaudy lighting and air conditioning on overdrive for a locale which by its nature is uninhabitable.
        • by Hankapobe ( 1290722 ) on Sunday May 25, 2008 @10:06AM (#23535671)
          The Indians [], as in Native Americans, didn't seem to have a problem.
        • Re:Heat (Score:5, Interesting)

          by johnrpenner ( 40054 ) on Sunday May 25, 2008 @11:41AM (#23536183) Homepage

          The skylines lit up at dead of night, the air-conditioning systems
          cooling empty hotels in the desert and artificial light in the middle
          of the day all have something both demented and admirable about them.
          The mindless luxury of a rich civilization, and yet of a civilization
          perhaps as scared to see the lights go out as was the hunter in his
          primitive night. (Jean Baudrillard)

        • Re:Heat (Score:4, Insightful)

          by bogjobber ( 880402 ) on Sunday May 25, 2008 @07:55PM (#23539329)

          I agree. Los Angeles should be abandoned and you can give us folks upstream all that water and power back.

          But to make my point a little more seriously, every single city in the country is by nature uninhabitable for the number of people we have there. That's just as true for New York, Chicago, and LA as for Las Vegas and Phoenix. Southern Nevada has a tiny fraction of the population of Southern California, and uses a proportionately small amount of the water and power from the Colorado River. So why is it Las Vegas that gets criticized?

          • Average high in LA in July: 84
            Average low in LA in December: 50
            Annual average precipitation in LA: 14 inches

            Average high in Vegas in July: 104.1
            Average low in Vegas in December: 36.6
            Annual average precipitation in Vegas: 4.5 inches

            The reason Vegas gets criticized more than other desert cities is that it sells itself as a place without a culture, an artificial paradise without the need for traditional morals, where you don't have to worry about anything... and it bathes in that sentiment. How long could a s
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by mbone ( 558574 )
        Prior to the Hoover Dam coming on line (i.e., pre-World-War II), there wasn't a city there.
        • Re:Heat (Score:5, Funny)

          by owlnation ( 858981 ) on Sunday May 25, 2008 @11:05AM (#23536001)

          Prior to the Hoover Dam coming on line (i.e., pre-World-War II), there wasn't a city there.
          Which is one of the great things about Vegas. It's the archetype of artifact, and a wonderful model for future terraforming operations. Especially the hookers and blackjack part. In fact, forget the city...
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          That's not exactly true. Prior to the dam, Boulder City did not exist. It was a town that sprung up entirely for the purpose of housing the workers that built the dam, which was completed in 1935. Las Vegas itself was established in 1905 and officially became a city in 1911. However, the dam did allow it to thrive.
      • Re:Heat (Score:5, Informative)

        by hackstraw ( 262471 ) on Sunday May 25, 2008 @10:17AM (#23535723)

        I thought about heat, cooling, power, all the standard data center stuff, then I thought. Well, Isn't Vegas a great place for solar? Not a mention of it in the article. It mentions needing 3 million gallons of water a day (not a commodity in the desert), they also say that the building was left over from the Enron fiasco.

        I don't know, to me something does not seem to add up here. They are advertising 3x the power density of the typical data center (1500 Watts/sq ft vs 500), and all that. Fortune 100 companies as companies, all that, but also the stuff where they get database feeds from databases that nobody knows about, and that they have a display that will immediately update whenever someone mentions the word bomb on an airplane (are airplanes wired that well now?).

        To me, the article leaves many more questions than answers. Something seems fishy with this, but maybe my tin foil hat is on too tightly today.

        • Re:Heat (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Splab ( 574204 ) on Sunday May 25, 2008 @10:45AM (#23535887)
          Well the article actually explains why they can archive that kind of density. Instead of trying to force cold air up through raised floors which air doesn't want to do they have build it so each rack of servers deliver their hot air into duct and sucks in cold air from the other side. (Isle between racks are cold, backs of racks are hot).

          On top of that the desert is actually a pretty frigging cold place to be at night - which they again can use to their advantage. They talk about 4 different options for cooling what works in different types of conditions during the day/night.

          Theres nothing fishy about it - its all science.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by bilby727 ( 755088 )

            the desert is actually a pretty frigging cold place to be at night - which they again can use to their advantage
            Except it's not cold in the city at night. Daytime heat builds up in the concrete etc and it is released during the night. They are not building the facility out in 'the desert' where they might be able to take advantage of the conditions you suggest.
            • Hmmm well just to reply to myself... I should have read the article since they say "Even though the SwitchNAP is just a few minutes drive from Las Vegas's main airport, it's almost in the middle of nowhere" Still, can't imagine it staying that way for long.
        • by fermion ( 181285 )
          Solar makes no sense because they are receiving subsidies electricity prices. As the article mentions, it is unknown how much the american taxpayer foots to keep Las Vegas running.

          OTOH, Nevada only uses a fraction of the damn, which means that if Las Vegas starts using more power, it might mean that other regions, which are growing also, might be without power. Likewise, the entire region essentially shares the same water, including mexico, and the area is already on the verge of a water war. This at a

        • by wsanders ( 114993 ) on Sunday May 25, 2008 @02:42PM (#23537259) Homepage
          The LA to LV corridor has always been a main rail corridor, it was LV's reason for existence in the first place, and rail lines are where the fiber goes. And except for the 100 miles or so between Barstow and the state line, it's solid suburbia all the way from the coast to LV. LA and LV are twin cities!

          California is basically out of electricity capacity, has earthquakes, and land and taxes are expensive, so Nevada is not only an economy unto itself, but a nearby tax haven. No coincidence that Las Vegas and Reno, the only two cities of any size in NV, are right across the border.
      • Vegas uses very little power from Hoover Dam.

        Will there be a lot of web based gameing set up hear at a later time when the laws change?
      • Re:Heat (Score:4, Insightful)

        by chamont ( 25273 ) * <monty&fullmonty,org> on Sunday May 25, 2008 @12:02PM (#23536301) Homepage
        Sorry, but Vegas only gets small percentage of the power from Hoover Dam, like around 20%. That, and the fact that there won't be enough water to support its population in 10-20 years means it's a bad place for a datacenter. I'm not trying to diss Vegas, I was born and raised there, but this sounds like a bad idea.
      • Re:Heat (Score:4, Informative)

        by jo42 ( 227475 ) on Sunday May 25, 2008 @12:05PM (#23536311) Homepage

        Hoover Dam
        Yeah, great, except Lake Mead is at its lowest level ever since it was made by the dam. The South-West is in a serious multi-year drought and predictions have it that if it continues, in 10-15 years there won't be enough water running through the dam to turn a single turbine. What then?
        • by amsr ( 125191 )
          Well, they could build a solar field. I mean it is the middle of the frickin desert.

      • Wrong.
        Back when the Hoover-dam was build, Las Vegas was a small worker town. The mayor back then didnt want to sign up for it, believing that LasVegas would never grow enough to need it.
        Now they get soem of their electricity form the dam, but only a small fraction.

        The reason why its so big, and always lit up, etc, is gambling. And the fact that 50 million or so people go there per year to spend money.
        Who cares about the electricity bill if you also pay a billion for a new hotel?
      • Re:Heat (Score:5, Interesting)

        by canuck57 ( 662392 ) on Sunday May 25, 2008 @12:14PM (#23536347)

        I do not understand why these mega data centers are mostly situated in hot areas. Not only is 1500 watts per square foot a lot of electricity, it takes a lot of cooling to counter the wattage.

        And Hoover Dam, last time I saw it was near idle only running one turbine and the lake water was low.

        It makes more sense to pick a location like Revelstoke BC. Near the Mica Dam []. I have reasons:

        • 1/2 the year, cool air is cheap
        • Electricity is cheap, Mica @ 1800MW is comparable to Hoover without a city like Vega using it.
        • Not all technical and support staff want to live in a concrete jungle
        • There are fiber thought he area for Vancouver and Calgary NAPs and response is good for the mid-west and the east cost.

        Ya, I know I am dreaming. Would be nice to drive 5-10 miles from work on a open not crowded highway to the boat launch on the way home. Ski-do in the winters. Maybe catch a Dolly Varden or Kokanee salmon. Maybe call it Google City, BC -- ah dreaming.

        • If it weren't for latency, Iceland would be the killer place to host datacenters.

          Pretty cold all year round. And for further power needs, just hook into some hydroelectric or geothermal niftiness.

        • by Washii ( 925112 )
          If you're going to that point, I'll point out the Rocky Reach [], Rock Island [] and Wells Dams []. I'll just go ahead and add on Grand Coulee [] as well.

          Sure, our summers are warm too (max 110 degF for less than a week), but our power is also ridiculously cheap. Quite a bit of it is piped/lined to California, and we're still settling cases after Enron's fiasco.

          In addition, we've got a nice fiber pipe that already runs through the area, with three local PUDs [] that have quite a lot of fiber-to-the-home available in
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by LiNT_ ( 65569 )
        Las Vegas does not get any power from Hoover Dam unless it's purchased on the open market. The power generated by the Hoover Dam belongs to California and Arizona. If Nevada receives any power generated by the Hoover Dam, it's because it's purchased through the energy market just the same as if it was purchased from any other energy provider.
      • by Monkey ( 16966 )
        Ironically, Vegas gets around 4% of its power from the Hoover Dam. Most of the Hoover's power generation goes to southern California and Arizona. Vegas is powered mostly by coal and some nuclear power purchased from other states.
  • SuperNAP? (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    And here I thought a SuperNAP is what Chuck Norris takes after eating an AwesomeBar!
  • by owlnation ( 858981 ) on Sunday May 25, 2008 @09:41AM (#23535577)
    Just in case we ever forget...

    "In Houston this week they had an auction for Enron. They sold all kinds of things that were once property of Enron. Lots of good deals -- in fact I picked up 2 senators and a congressman. Hell of a deal."
    -- Jay Leno
  • Switch and Data is already in the colo-exchange point business in a big way. I wonder if Switch Communications has already received their cease and desist letter.
  • by Hankapobe ( 1290722 ) on Sunday May 25, 2008 @10:09AM (#23535683)
    where folks bet on:

    • Down time.
    • Data loss.
    • Which server goes down.
    • Who gets a sale.
    • and on and on.

    There's big betting bucks here!

  • by bastion_xx ( 233612 ) on Sunday May 25, 2008 @10:15AM (#23535709)
    I've done due diligence visits to a couple of their sites in Las Vegas. Professional facilities and they host for a lot of Las Vegas casinos and companies.

    I didn't get too far into the peering side of things, but I remember them talking up the amount of fiber that runs through the Las Vegas valley.

    • I've done due diligence visits to a couple of their sites in Las Vegas. Professional facilities and they host for a lot of Las Vegas casinos and companies.

      It's a little early in the morning for me - but there just has to be joke in here somewhere.

      Los Vegas.

      Due Diligence.

      Hooker's and Blackjack?

      Likely no sharks... No that's not right ....

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by inKubus ( 199753 )
      The thing about vegas is the town quadrupled in size in the last 10-15 years. So all the infrastructure is new. And the city was good about zoning everything underground. So there are giant 32" conduits running everywhere. Most of these are owned by the city or by Nevada Power. The city basically got the conduit in return for permitting the NV Power lines. So along every major street (and it's nicely gridded out), there is a TON of conduit space. The only person to really make use of them has been CO
  • Ocean's 2^11

  • by Anonymous Coward
    It belongs to those defrauded by Enron until it is sold off at a fair market price. "For a song" is not a fair market price.

    The only worse outcome would be to find out that those with insider information on Enron (former executives, management, etc.), fully aware of how this asset would be sold off, were found to be the new "owners".
    • Easy. Make a list of the top 50 wealthiest governors and senators, put their names on a wheel of fortune, and spin it.

      I bet 20 on the bald guy from Arkansas with bad teeth.

      Whadya mean they all look the same ?
    • FTFA:

      Page 1: "Legend has it that the company managed to acquire what was once meant to be Enron's broadband trading hub for a song."

      Page 3: "Enron had already built a lot of the infrastructure needed for its facility and brought the major carriers on board just as its business started to collapse. So, the broadband center went up for sale.
      "We were the only ones that bid on it," Roy said. "It should have been the $200bn companies that owned it. We got it for a Cinderella story type of figure."

      If the faci
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I work very close to where is data center is going in, and the area is horrible for telecommunications. With all the construction, lines are accidentally cut on a regular basis. A few weeks ago, all data/telco lines in the area went down for most of the day.
    • Where might this area be? Since I actually live in Las Vegas (yes.. people actually DO *live* in Las Vegas...), I'd love to check it out as its built.. yes, I know, colos are pretty drab looking buildings usually.. I see what seems to be one over on Sahara between Nellis and Lamb, or at least it has a big "Level 3" sign on the side...
  • The same contact - a data center expert - suspects that Switch will struggle to power the SuperNAP. "They're in the middle of the desert and will need almost 3 million gallons of water per day for blowdown and evaporation for their 30,000 ton evaporative cooling plant." This is all very fascinating, but is there any way this place really needs 3 million gallons of water per day? That just seems extreme. That can't be right. Can it?
    • My calculation is closer to 2 million gallons, assuming they do everything they can to reduce drift and operate at a very high delta-t. You could also drop that down by half most of the year if you use the cooling towers as dry coolers at night.

      Still, that is a huge amount of water storage even to run for a single day. Usually we try to have 72 hours of water storage on-site. You can use the dry coolers (or air cooled chillers), but the efficiency goes to hell in the Las Vegas climate.

      For a more human sc
      • You could also drop that down by half most of the year if you use the cooling towers as dry coolers at night.

        Small nitpick here, you mean Water-Side Economizer, not dry cooler. There is no way to use a cooling tower as a dry cooler since the condenser water is exposed to the atmosphere and thus subject to evaporation. A dry cooler, on the other hand, circulates a fluid through sealed coils which in turn have air forced across them to encourage heat exchange. The ability to use a water-side economizer would definitely be dependent on outdoor temperature.

        • Actually, someone is making the closed-circuit cooling towers with coils oversized for dry operation again. The one company doing it died in the dot-bomb, but someone more mainstream has picked it up again.

          This type of system is really interesting when you look at optimizing power and water usage dynamically based on rates, approach, and plant efficiency, as there is no loss in reliability. (just cost...)
    • by Washii ( 925112 )
      Would the "freeze ice blocks, heat-exchanger, melt, repeat" cycle be too inefficient for this?

      Or just not enough capacity as associated with the evaporative plant? Because the freeze-and-exchange method could use mostly the same water for a good long time.
  • by Locutus ( 9039 ) on Sunday May 25, 2008 @12:05PM (#23536305)
    earlier this year there were numerous reports of how Lake Mead could become so low that power generation becomes impossible. Something was said about the last 10 or so years being over 1 million acre feet of water less than normal per year. Keeping that trend for another 10 showed the Colorado River dam systems too low to sustain populations with power and drinking water.

    So these people may have a huge data center but they might want either a 10 year exit strategy or start building their own solar and/or wind power generation systems to sustain their operation.

  • Had a bit of trouble figuring out which one was sin city.....Tel Aviv? Moscow?, must be Las Vegas. I suppose it's comforting to know that the US doesn't have a monopoly on 'sin', although arguably some other places might laugh at the idea that gambling is sin.
    • Had a bit of trouble figuring out which one was sin city.....Tel Aviv? Moscow?, must be Las Vegas. I suppose it's comforting to know that the US doesn't have a monopoly on 'sin', although arguably some other places might laugh at the idea that gambling is sin.
      Here's a hint. It's the only one of the 3 Sin Cities you list where the natives call it "Sin City." Why? Because they speak English in Vegas.
  • I cant wait to see their in-house production of TRON produced by Cirque Du Soleil!
  • by yabos ( 719499 ) on Sunday May 25, 2008 @01:40PM (#23536857)
    They claim to be cutting edge & everything yet they are using the same old evaporative cooling that every other commercial building uses. How about using something more sustainable in the long run like geothermal. Commercial geothermal may be more expensive up front but dumping the heat in the ground will save so much money and water in the long run. 3 MILLION gallons a day is retarded. Talk about wasteful, especially in a desert area.
    • They are not using the same cooling methods - it looks like custom cooling devices on the outside. I wll be very interested to learn how they plan to cool that facility.
      • by yabos ( 719499 )
        I don't know but it says evaporative cooling which is just the typical cooling you see on commercial buildings. Those big square things on the roofs are the cooling towers.
    • by suffe ( 72090 )
      I don't know though. They should be able to turn around and sell that water to someone else. It's not like it's poisonous or anything. I'm sure there is a hotel less than 500 meters away in need of water for their pools.

      Now, if keeping that pool with water is wasteful or not is another question, but not one that is made worse by the data center's use of water.
      • by yabos ( 719499 )
        No you can't do that though because the water evaporates into the air. Doing that removes heat from the circulating fluid in the heat exchanger.
    • It sounds more like a cult of personality claiming they are high-tech. Their cold-aisle containment system has been around for years and produced by several vendors and engineers. It does work pretty well; our CFD models suggested a 30-50% reduction in fan energy.

      There are a lot of neat ways to provide cooling, but unless you get heat directly off the chip to a coolant, it isn't easy to do anything but evaporative cooling in the desert... at least not without a huge thermal mass.
  • by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Sunday May 25, 2008 @03:42PM (#23537713) Homepage Journal
    I thought that maybe someone set up a Vegas sim in SecondLife, and built a simple API to SecondLife's Real Life APIs (that program SecondLife world functions from real world computers) that avatars (not their human players) could program easily in-game. Maybe by sitting at animated PC in the game, or just by waving around some "magic" items and saying some "magic spells" (or picking up a phone and talking to "Central Services").

    A virtual machine that avatars could program, which converts or interprets the avatars' "programming" actions into "real" code that runs in SecondLife's real datacenters.

    I think such a service could crank out quite a few LindenDollars.
  • I always do a double take to see Vegas referred to as Sin City, when the original [] is a suburb of Cincinnati, which makes much more sense, as a play on words.
  • I guess this means a new server for World of Warcraft! Maybe I can get my Shaman moved over and I won't have to wait in queue....LOL
  • A recent article (Feb 2008) in National Geographic magazine [] reports: "a comprehensive study of climate models reported in Science predicted the Southwest's gradual descent into persistent Dust Bowl conditions by mid-century" I have to question the wisdom of investing large amounts in desert areas.

Logic is the chastity belt of the mind!