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Rob Roy seizes Enron's busted dream


Over the years, Roy has acquired quite a number of detractors.

Some of the nay-sayers attack Switch straight on with practical complaints. One of our contacts said that Switch fails to beat out the usually far more expensive Bay Area providers such as Equinix, Savvis and AT&T, which "is pretty sad considering that power in Las Vegas is half of Silicon Valley." 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."

It's the data center old-hands that find Switch's security operations over-the-top and more show than substance. (I had a gun toter follow me around the entire data center tour, which Roy said was a requirement of some of the government contracts. The guard may have been over-the-top, but he was very polite and handy, opening every door.)

Those with closer, rather acrimonious personal relationships with Roy say he tends to over-promise by a country mile. There's plenty of polish to go around, we're told, but the product often fails to live up to its shine. (Look past the Men in Black, and you'll find this guy as the EVP of network operations.)

Having barely opened the door onto Switch, I'm in no position to judge in which direction the see-saw of truth tilts.

I can say that the company's attention to detail comes off as more impressive than any other similar facility that I've encountered. There's a great deal to be said for any company that's willing to apply unique engineering to a large scale problem such as data center operations. And there's a great deal to be said for a company that's vibrant and aggressive.

In addition, the investors behind Switch include some of the most respected institutions and individuals in Las Vegas. This company has plenty of capital to tap as it tries to turn dreams into reality. Large investors outside of Las Vegas have obviously taken note of this and of Switch's success because I spied an investment proposal from one of the world's top banks sitting on Roy's desk.

The workers at Switch - many of them multi-millionaires, including Roy's assistant - look like they've bought into the program as well. I've never seen a happier group of t-shirt and short wearing staff.

Ultimately, it won't matter what outsiders think of Switch once the SuperNAP opens. The computing center will either be just another huge co-location facility or it will turn into something much more significant - a utility computing landmark in the land of Elvis impersonators.

I can assure you that The Register will be monitoring Switch's progress in the months to come. Goodbye golden silence. Hello World. ®

Bootnote

People who work at Switch long enough are awarded their very own comic book character as part of the Switch Blades series. The underlying premise of the comic is that the Dark Ethereals have taken control of the Earth's ionosphere with the intention of controlling all natural disasters and stopping human advancement by disabling the internet. It's the Switch Blades mission to destroy these Dark Ethereals.

Roy, in addition to designing furniture and cooling systems, wrote the plot for the comic strip.


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