Inside the data centre that powers Las Vegas' casinos

Just like Las Vegas itself, the SuperNAP data centre that handles the city's gambling transactions is wonderfully over the top.

Las Vegas may be best known for the glamour of its ostentatious casinos, but behind all the fun there is some serious IT hardware handling the torrent of gambling transactions that flow through all those casinos.

IT Pro managed to snag a fascinating behind-the-scenes tour of the Cisco-powered data centre behind it all.

Switch's intimidating private physical security force patrol the perimeter on foot and in Humvees, all armed with assault rifles.

Data centre company Switch operates seven data centres in the Las Vegas area, but SuperNAP is by far the largest with 400,000 square feet of servers using around 100 megawatts of power. Although purpose-built (retro fitting existing buildings is apparently very expensive) it resembles a non-descript series of warehouse-like structures. However, it's immediately obvious SuperNAP is no ordinary collection of buildings due to Switch's intimidating private physical security force. Comprised mostly ex-US Marines, they patrol the perimeter on foot and in Humvees, all armed with assault rifles.

SuperNAP's security office - the imposing rack of assault rifles is just out of frame.

SuperNAP's security office - the imposing rack of assault rifles is just out of frame.

To gain entry to SuperNAP we had to surrender our passports and the armed guards were almost never out of sight during our entire visit. We were also warned that any attempt at unauthorised photography would result in immediate expulsion from the premises.

The strict security is due to the organisations that use SuperNAP to store and process their data, from government agencies to financial services and technology companies including eBay, Mozy, Cisco itself and Global Cash Access (GCA). GCA, based in Las Vegas, handles almost all the financial transactions in the city's casinos, including on-site ATMs, and even provides those casinos with an Equifax-like service for judging the credit worthiness of a potential casino patron. According to the company's own figures it handled 90 million transactions worth a total of US$18 billion in 2010. GCA's clients include not just Vegas casinos, but gaming institutions in Atlantic City, Macau and the UK too.

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