June 3, 2014

Our New Data Center at Switch SUPERNAP

Our New Data Center at Switch SUPERNAP

Last year, we told you about plans for a new data center that would provide another layer of redundancy for Shift4’s DOLLARS ON THE NET® payment gateway, which equates to even more reliable payment processing for you, our merchant customers. And now we’re proud to announce the new data center in the Switch SUPERNAP facility is officially up and running! In fact, it has been processing a portion of our hefty transaction volume since the beginning of the year.

Building a new data center requires months of intense planning, strategizing, and analyzing. Then comes the difficult task of actually building and configuring the new servers. Connecting over 100 servers to 100+ networking devices doesn’t sound so bad, but doing it in a way that meets Shift4’s incredibly stringent standards for design, redundancy, and security becomes a little more complicated.

To give you an idea how complicated, let’s take the network cables as an example. Our new data center at Switch SUPERNAP is less than 50 feet long, yet it is home to a little over three miles of network cable. That’s 800+ cables, divided into 13 different color-coded categories and routed to 15+ distinct networks based on the type of data they will carry and the security requirements of that specific type of data.

If that’s not enough to make your head spin, our new data center also boasts:

  • 1,500+ feet of fibre optic cable
  • 650+ power cords that would stretch nearly 2,000 feet if laid end to end
  • 15+ distinct networks running on 100+ devices
  • ¾ of a mile of Velcro wraps to keep thousands of wires bundled together and looking tidy

Why Multiple Data Centers?
Well, the first question we have to answer is, “why do we have multiple data centers to begin with?” Of course, anyone with an IT background knows that it’s for redundancy. Redundancy means we always have a backup, so that no single point of failure can affect our ability to process your transactions.

Shift4 has operated our own redundant data centers for several years, and when we initially added the second location, we made sure that it was far enough away from the first to be on an entirely separate power grid. (Again, no single point of failure. Should a transformer fail or a car knock over a pole, at least one of our data centers would be unaffected.)

After power, the next thing to consider is natural disasters. Now, Vegas is considered a very safe location when it comes to these types of disasters. We don’t get blizzards, tornadoes, hurricanes, or tsunamis, and earthquakes worth worrying about happen maybe once every 50 years. The one thing we do deal with here is heat. We’re talking 115-plus-degree days every summer. That makes climate control a very important proposition when building a data center in Las Vegas.

In order to trust Switch SUPERNAP to host our data center, we had to be sure they could provide the same level of protection for our servers that we do at our onsite data centers. Switch did more than earn our trust – they impressed us. Their founder and CEO actually holds patents on innovative cooling processes and data center designs that create the most stable ecosystem and have set a new standard for the way these environments are controlled. That’s when we realized they were a perfect fit for us, because patenting innovative technologies that set new standards is our specialty, too. (For more on how Switch SUPERNAP controls their ecosystem, click here.)

So, by now you’re probably wondering what SUPERNAP is. According to their website, Switch SUPERNAP “is the world’s leader in data center ecosystem design, development, and mission-critical operations, providing unrivaled independent solutions for colocation, connectivity, cloud, and collaboration ecosystems. Switch SUPERNAP represents innovation, security, and reliability for more than 1,000 global clients, from sophisticated startups to Fortune 100 powerhouses.” Essentially, Switch SUPERNAP is a sophisticated, climate-controlled, protected-like-it’s-the-President, housing facility, specifically designed for extremely important computer servers.

The facility employs 24/7 armed guards, requires two-factor authentication to get inside, and provides additional access controls even after you’re in the building to ensure that you only have access to the machines you own. It’s even built under two separate roofs, so that they can replace or repair one roof without ever exposing the data center to the elements! Perhaps most impressive of all is that thanks to some of the companies/agencies/organizations that also call Switch home, the government has deemed Switch SUPERNAP a critical infrastructure component, which means in the event of an emergency or disaster, the facility receives top priority for restoration of power and/or fuel to run their onsite generators.

What Does All of This Mean to Our Merchant Customers?
In simple terms, it means that DOLLARS ON THE NET is now hosted in one of the world’s most reliable environments, a facility that has become the gold standard for secure data center construction. (There have been magazine articles and white papers written about Switch SUPERNAP, and it holds certifications that no other data center on earth has ever obtained – it really is that good.)

It also means that we can simultaneously perform maintenance on up to half our servers without impacting any of our merchant customers’ ability to process transactions.

Oh, and the best part of this whole experience for Shift4 is that when the Switch team came to review what we had built, they complimented our team for going above and beyond their stringent standards. Maybe we should have warned them that “good enough” is not in the Shift4 vocabulary; we do things bigger, better, stronger, and faster because our merchant customers expect the very best – and that’s what we deliver.