Las Vegas Data Center Is Low on Glitz

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A first-time visitor to the data center of a Las Vegas casino might expect it to look like the one featured in the movie Ocean's Eleven: gleaming corridors with mysterious lighting and sophisticated sensors capable of detecting an intruder's pulse rate.

But Steve Vollmer, chief technology officer and vice president of IT at Las Vegas Sands Corp., quickly dashed those expectations on a recent tour of the data center that runs The Venetian resort and casino.

It's just "another data center," Vollmer said, except that part of its mission is to run strictly regulated gambling operations.

Like many businesses, Sands is moving its worldwide operations to IP for everything connected to a network -- telephones, televisions and even slot machines.

What's the advantage of having slots on IP? It's the transaction speed, Vollmer said. Every action on a slot machine is recorded, producing a small amount of data that is sent to the server. "We know exactly what's in that slot machine right now," Vollmer said.

Winners and losers on a slot machine are determined by algorithms -- inside the machine itself -- that generate millions of random numeric combinations, he explained. A slot machine is essentially a PC running a "very hardened Unix-type code," he added.

One person on the tour asked about the sophisticated penny slot machines, noting that he had won $7 on one of them. Hearing this, Vollmer smiled and delivered the eternal Vegas truth: "We'll get it back."

This version of this story was originally published in Computerworld's print edition. It was adapted from an earlier version that first appeared on Computerworld.com.

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