The Vegas SuperNAP: A Data Center Revolution?

Switch Communications’ SuperNAP, a 400,000 square foot data center under construction in Las Vegas, is a conversation starter. The facility’s operators say the $350 million facility will be the most advanced data center yet, supporting power loads exceeding 1,500 watts per square foot using only air cooling.

Rob Roy, co-founder of Switch Communications, says his company is the best-kept secret in the data center industry. After operating for eight years in stealth mode, serving a client base of military government and military and government customers and large Internet companies, the SuperNAP represents a coming out party for Switch and the data center technologies it has developed.

After years of media silence, Roy has begun discussing Switch’s operations and ambitions for the SuperNAP. The first mention of the SuperNAP leaked out May 5 on the blog for Silverback Migration Solutions, a Switch customer. This past weekend Roy was profiled in The Register, which also received a tour of one of Switch Communications’ five existing Las Vegas data centers. There’s also now a company website, providing information about Switch’s operations and a video preview of the SuperNAP.

We’ve spoken recently with Roy, who was enthusiastic about the data center technologies developed by Switch, and dismissive of those in the industry who might view his claims as improbable. “This is an industry of naysayers,” Roy said.

Roy says Switch operates a room in one of its data centers with cabinets for a name-brand customer running at 1,462 watts per square foot. Roy predicts that the SuperNAP will also be able to support customer power loads of 1,500 watts per square foot.

That’s triple the 450 to 500 watts a square foot that many in the industry view as the upper limit for air cooling. It even exceeds the power loads that Microsoft says it is running inside its CBlox high-density data center containers for cloud computing.

Switch Communications has been operating since 2000. Its business got a huge boost in December 2002, when it acquired a former Enron broadband services facility out of bankruptcy (court records show the 12,000 square foot facility was purchased by Colo Gateways for $930,000). Enron had been seeking to build a commodity bandwidth exchange, and had arranged exceptional connectivity for its Las Vegas center. Switch says it now has more than 20 backbones running through its bandwidth hub.

That connectivity will be one of the primary selling points of the SuperNAP, a 1,100 foot long facility that is under construction in Las Vegas. The data center will be supported by a 250 MVA power substation, and Switch says it will have 146 MVA of generator capacity, suggesting that the building may eventually have as many as 70 two-megawatt generators.

Roy says the SuperNAP will hold 7,000 cabinets once it is fully built out. The facility will be developed in phases, and Roy says the company already has demand for up to 2,000 cabinets from existing customers. A grand opening is scheduled for November.

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About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor at large of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.