The recent acceleration in data traffic and cloud-based technologies has changed the data center landscape and forced companies to develop larger facilities – we take you inside the world’s largest – Switch’s Citadel Campus. Now, more than ever, vast amounts of data are being processed. With millions of videos, pictures, audio files and other pieces of information being uploaded, downloaded, and stored, each second.

Switch Inc (NYSE: SWCH) is a company who has the goal to grow internet connectivity both intelligently and sustainably. With the continuous expansion of the company’s Citadel Campus, Switch will meet this goal to be the world’s largest data center.

Globally, the average data center occupies space of 100k sqft. However, with the surge in demand for online connectivity in 2020, a 100k sqft facility is now considered small.

These demand drivers are why Switch is building the Citadel Campus, with each individual facility in the campus occupying up to 1.4 million sqft. Specifically, the Citadel Campus is located near Reno, Nevada. Indeed, it is adjacent to Tesla’s Gigafactory, and facilities from both Apple and Walmart.

The Citadel Campus – World’s Largest Data Center

Inside The World's Largest Data Center Switch Citadel Campus

The Citadel Campus’ largest built facility is known as TAHOE RENO 1, comprising 1.4 million sqft and 130 megawatts of power capacity. Indeed, the Citadel Campus secured the title of the world’s largest colocation data center from the Lakeside Technology Center, at 350 East Cermak in Chicago. Specifically, Lakeside is a 1.1 million sqft data center, owned by Digital Realty.

Overall, the Citadel Campus will add a further 5.9 million sqft and 520 megawatts of power capacity, through seven future facilities built from 2021 onwards. In aggregate, the Citadel Campus will comprise 7.3 million sqft and 650 megawatts of power capacity, when fully built-out, making it the world’s largest data center.

This “Citadel” name also alludes to the data center giant’s focus on security and innovation. Switch’s Citadel defends against threats of unauthorized access to its computer systems, loss or destruction of data, computer viruses, malware, distributed denial-of-service attacks, and other malicious activities.

The Citadel Campus Location and Design

The Citadel Campus is situated in a low-risk area for natural disasters. Wind is one of the few natural elements that poses a risk to the world’s largest data center. This is because the facility finds its home in the Nevada desert. Notably, the company deals with this threat through its redundant data center roofing system, known as the Switch SHIELD.

Switch SHIELD is a patented system consisting of an inner roof and outer roof, with 9-feet separation between the two. Both roofs are solid steel, unpenetrated, watertight, airtight, and able to withstand winds up to 200 miles per hour. If damage occurs to the outer roof, the inner roof still protects the IT equipment of Switch’s customers.

Extreme desert temperatures are also another challenge that Switch’s Citadel Campus faces. However, the company’s leading power and cooling efficiency help mitigate the problem of high temperatures. Overall, Switch’s systems moderate both the extreme temperatures that occur outside, and the heat generated by the numerous computer servers within its data centers.

The Citadel Campus Security

Physical, electronic, and cyber security breaches into the Citadel Campus could be catastrophic. Owing to the vast quantities of data that are both stored and pass through the facility each day. However, the company protects against these potential breaches in a number of different ways.

Firstly, the world’s largest data center has 20-foot-high concrete walls surrounding the campus. Furthermore, highly-experienced security staff patrol the site 24/7. Specifically, the security staff are ex-military or have similar backgrounds.

Secondly, the Citadel Campus also has its own dedicated fire department. This fire department can deal with any incidents in a matter of minutes.

Thirdly, Switch protects against cybersecurity threats to the highly-confidential and mission-critical data of its customers. Specifically, Switch’s data centers are fully redundant systems and have total fault tolerance. The company utilizes the most stringent operational protocols to ensure its customers’ infrastructure is always on.

Switch SUPERLOOP – Fiber Network

The Citadel Campus is connected through a 500-mile network of fiber optic cables, which the company calls the Switch SUPERLOOP. The Switch SUPERLOOP provides 4-millisecond latency from the Citadel Campus to the San Francisco Bay Area. Additionally, the company is able to provide 5-millisecond round-trip latency from its Core Campus, in Las Vegas, to Los Angeles.

The Switch SUPERLOOP gives customers the advantages of a highly available, low-latency fiber network, in close proximity to the major markets of California. Positively, by being located in Nevada, Switch’s customers do not have to deal with the high taxes, high cost of power or the high risk of natural disasters, which are characteristics of California.

Switch is future-proofing its business, and the world’s largest data center, for the future of the internet. Indeed, the direct fiber connectivity services using the Switch SUPERLOOP support next-generation, always-on applications, with stringent service-level agreements (SLAs).

Switch’s Energy Consumption

Inside The World's Largest Data Center Switch Citadel Campus

Switch is currently able to offer its customers 455 megawatts of power capacity, across four different campuses in the U.S. Furthermore, once its pipeline is fully built-out, the company will be able to offer 730 megawatts of power capacity.

What may be surprising is that Switch runs all of its data centers on 100% renewable and green energy. As a result, the company sources its power from a combination of solar and wind farms, in Nevada, at an equivalent cost of 4.9 cents per kilowatt-hour. Whereas in California, power would cost Switch 12 cents to 13 cents per kilowatt-hour. Furthermore, in California, Switch would only be able to source 30% of its power from renewable and green energy sources.

Overall, Switch is one of the most environmentally conscious technology firms in the world. Switch is the only company that Greenpeace recognizes, in its Clicking Clean report, as having a 100% clean energy index. The company’s energy index was higher than every other technology company identified in the report, including Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Salesforce. Additionally, Switch was the only company in the report to receive an “A” grade in all five categories measured by Greenpeace.

Customers of Switch and the World’s Largest Data Center

Key tenants for the world’s largest data center include its largest customer eBay (at 14% of revenues), Microsoft, Google, Amazon, PayPal, FedEx, and Box. Indeed, after only opening its doors in 2016, the Citadel Campus’ TAHOE RENO 1 facility now has 90% utilization, in-part, from these customers.

With Switch’s success at the Citadel Campus, the company is moving forward with plans to build the next phases. Specifically, Switch is building additional sectors at its TAHOE RENO 1 facility for completion in mid-2021. Additionally, the company has also set development milestones for TAHOE RENO 2. The TAHOE RENO 2 project will be fully built-out by early 2023.

Mary Zhang covers Data Centers for Dgtl Infra, including Equinix (NASDAQ: EQIX), Digital Realty (NYSE: DLR), CyrusOne, CoreSite Realty, QTS Realty, Switch Inc, Iron Mountain (NYSE: IRM), Cyxtera (NASDAQ: CYXT), and many more. Within Data Centers, Mary focuses on the sub-sectors of hyperscale, enterprise / colocation, cloud service providers, and edge computing. Mary has over 5 years of experience in research and writing for Data Centers.


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