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Switch Communications gambles in Las Vegas

Ashlee Vance of The Register writes about Switch Communications CEO Rob Roy and his quest to create the world's most energy efficient and powerful data center.

It's Sunday morning on Memorial Day weekend in the U.S. The technology industry is relatively quiet. Nothing new has been leaked or announced so far about negotiations between Microsoft and Yahoo or Yahoo and Google, but I ran across a fascinating and in-depth story by Ashlee Vance of The Register on a new data center service, Switch Communications.

The Switch Communications facility will use more energy that three large casinos. Switch Communications

The company is opening a 407,000-square-foot data center in Las Vegas that CEO Rob Roy claims will house four times as much gear as facilities from companies such as Google and Microsoft. He boasts:

"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," Roy said. "I can make this work because I can do things no one else can."

Ashlee described the Switch facility as follows:

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.

Switch Communications is a prime example of the massive data center buildout and the rise of the information utility, as Nick Carr wrote in his book, "The Big Switch: Rewiring the World from Edison to Google." Whether Roy's claims are justified remains to be seen, but he is gambling an estimated $350 million in infrastructure, security, and personnel that his Las Vegas facility will turn into the "big switch."

It turns out that Las Vegas is an ideal location for a big switch, according to this map from Switch Communications. Switch Communications