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NSA To Build 20-Acre Data Center In Utah 226

Posted by samzenpus
from the data-on-the-horizon dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "The Salt Lake City Tribune reports that the National Security Agency will be building a one million square foot data center at Utah's Camp Williams. The NSA's heavily automated computerized operations have for years been based at Fort Meade, Maryland, but the agency began looking to decentralize its efforts following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 and accelerated their search after the Baltimore Sun reported that the NSA — Baltimore Gas & Electric's biggest customer — had maxed out the local grid and could not bring online several supercomputers it needed to expand its operations. The agency got a taste of the potential for trouble January 24, 2000, when an information overload, rather than a power shortage, caused the NSA's first-ever network crash, taking the agency 3 1/2 days to resume operations. The new data center in Utah will require at least 65 megawatts of power — about the same amount used by every home in Salt Lake City — so a separate power substation will have to be built at Camp Williams to sustain that demand. 'They were looking at secure sites, where there could be a natural nexus between organizations and where space was available,' says Col. Scott Olson, the Utah National Guard's legislative liaison. NSA officials, who have a long-standing relationship with Utah based on the state Guard's unique linguist units, approached state officials about finding land in the state on which to build an additional data center. 'The stars just kind of came into alignment. We could provide them everything they need.'"
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NSA To Build 20-Acre Data Center In Utah

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  • Hmm (Score:5, Interesting)

    by moogied (1175879) on Thursday July 02, 2009 @08:07AM (#28556053)
    Anyone else remember when the announcement of a government facility wasn't met with constant pessimism and assertions of ill-doing? Me either. I suppose thats our job as 'informed' citizens though.. to constantly second guess our government.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 02, 2009 @08:14AM (#28556105)

    I always wondered, what NSA does with all that firepower if not listening to citizen conversations ? Are we supposed to believe they do not monitor and listen in any domestic conversations ? Do serious spies talk over a phone about their stuff so NSA can kick their ass ? I thought serious spy business mostly happens in good old fashion way - guy take few papers/copies, hands over the intermediate, they travel to where ever they want to go or encrypt and send electronically. What do we need NSA for ? What do we need CIA for, if all the money we poured in didnt stop bunch of nut jobs from blowing buildings ?

  • by AHuxley (892839) on Thursday July 02, 2009 @08:16AM (#28556133) Homepage Journal
    Fort Meade was always the end point for what was filtered and sucked up on a global scale by the USA and friends.
    The FBI, US military intelligence, UK, Australia, Canada, NZ where trusted keep tabs on US interests, internal and external.
    Now the NSA is turning inward. Everything that was aimed at "the bad guys" "around the world' is now aimed at you in suburbia.
    If the FBI wants your name, they ask your ISP.
    if the NSA wants your name ... they are your ISP.
  • Re:What? No CFL's? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TheRaven64 (641858) on Thursday July 02, 2009 @08:45AM (#28556347) Journal

    Air conditioning in the summer, heating in the winter. I've only been in SLC in the autumn and spring, but at that time the temperature alternated between being cold enough that water left on my hair after a shower froze a few minutes after going outside, and hot enough that I was too warm even with the air conditioning running. Nice beer, but not a climate I'd like to live in for very long.

    On the other hand, the cold winters mean that they can only run the air conditioning in the data centre half the year. If they're clever, then they'll sell the heat to local inhabitants during the winter.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 02, 2009 @08:55AM (#28556439)

    Nominal 8-core Intel servers use about 88 Watts now, not 500W. I performed a "green power review" for a customer this year. Their really old 8-core boxes used around 450W, before we replaced them for new and put 6 old physical servers onto each new physical server running VMs. We weren't even trying to push the minimal server solution and the new servers had 4GB RAM per core, so these aren't VM-specific servers, just normal current tech boxes. Also, we replaced all the internal drives beyond 2 for RAID1 boots with a redundant GigE SAN. Fairly cheap upgrades. Their old power draw was 18kVA and we dropped it to under 4kVA. Anyone want to trade out APC units? I know someone wasting power keeping their batteries charged.

    Now, these weren't the big 24-128-way servers from HP, Sun, IBM, and Fujitsu with redundant fibre SAN and fibre networking, so your estimate could be very good. Some of those Cisco optics switches and routers can really pull power, especially if you use the power over ethernet features.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 02, 2009 @09:05AM (#28556525)
    By some measures, the U.S. government is the most corrupt in the world.

    The U.S. government spends more on surveillance of its citizens than any country in the entire history of the world.

    The U.S. government has invaded or bombed 25 countries since the end of the 2nd world war, all for profit. In Iraq, oil and weapons investors like Bush and Cheney wanted control over the oil, and didn't care how many people they killed. In Afghanistan, oil investors want to build an oil pipeline.

    The U.S. government has a higher percentage of its people in prison than any country ever in the history of the world, over 6 times higher than in Europe, for example. Some U.S. states, such as Oregon, spend more on prisons than on education!

    This Slashdot comment discusses some of the corruption of the U.S. government concerning financial issues: The Investment Banking cohorts JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs are the **huge** winners. [slashdot.org] That comment links to an important article in Rolling Stone magazine that discusses more about how the financial corruption of the U.S. government is operated.
  • Nothing secret here (Score:4, Interesting)

    by 192939495969798999 (58312) <(moc.eroomnived) (ta) (ofni)> on Thursday July 02, 2009 @09:15AM (#28556605) Homepage Journal

    Anything that's a million square feet is not going to be much of a secret.

    "What's this building that I'm driving past for 5 minutes on the freeway?"

    "Oh, that's just a, uh... big empty warehouse building."

    This is all just a distraction from the "real secret", a 2 million square foot datacenter that they're building in lake Superior's salt mines.

  • by BDPrime (1012761) on Thursday July 02, 2009 @09:17AM (#28556631) Homepage
    That's assuming every watt that goes into the data center gets to the IT load. Though it says in the documents for the facility that they're going to make it energy efficient, power still needs to be used for air conditioning, redundancy, facility lighting, security, etc. Assuming a PUE of 1.5 (PUE is total facility power divided by IT load), which is very efficient, you're talking about 85,000 servers.

    But even that assumes all the IT load will be for servers. Certainly there will be power going to servers, network switches, etc., so the total would be lower than that. And if the NSA is using any larger servers (which considering its history, it most likely is), the number could be substantially lower than that. The average power consumption for a TOP10 supercomputer in 2008, for example, is about 1.3 megawatts, which in itself equals 2,600 500-watt servers.

  • by rgviza (1303161) on Thursday July 02, 2009 @09:40AM (#28556869)

    Of course this is assuming no one on AT&T makes international calls, or no one internationally calls US AT&T customers, like terrorists contacting a cell that is operating here.

    This is probably a small percentage of AT&T's calls... however, if they had any sense the terrorists would get those Go phones that don't require ID to purchase and activate, so yea, it's likely AT&T isn't very interesting to the NSA. But I'm also pretty sure that NSA would never underestimate the stupidity of extremists since you need to be pretty retarded to blow yourself up in the name of a religion that's been twisted to make violence OK.

    Truth be told, nobody really knows what NSA does but NSA and possibly the president so anyone here is talking out of their ass because they don't work there. If they did, they won't be much longer ;)

  • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Thursday July 02, 2009 @10:15AM (#28557305) Homepage Journal

    Interesting that the NSA picked Utah for these "data centers". There's been a very interesting history of the confluence of the intelligence community, mormonism and the "wandering bishops".

    I highly recommend historian Peter Levenda's excellent book on the subject (as well as other fascinating subjects), Sinister Forces - A Grimoire of American Political Witchcraft.

    But if you read it, prepare to lose some sleep.

  • by stewbacca (1033764) on Thursday July 02, 2009 @10:22AM (#28557423)
    Actually, he was right. The NSA has multiple missions. The collection and decryption of signals (voice and non-voice) is one mission, making the guy you are trying to rip correct. You are also correct, as another mission of the NSA is to prevent foreign agencies from intercepting and decrypting our signals (voice and non-voice). There are a few more missions that you are conveniently leaving out in your zeal to look smarter than you might actually be in this instance.
  • by Retric (704075) on Thursday July 02, 2009 @11:23AM (#28558183)

    To give you an idea how much computational power they could have using specilized hardware. Let's compare that to a 9800GTX.

    65 megawatts / 140watts * 432gflops = ~200,000 TeraFlops or 200,000,000,000,000,000 Flops. For something like 40 to 80 million$.

    Granted the accuracy of this estimate sucks as GTX's don't have networking suppport, and we need to cool things ect. But, they could also use more effecent hardware than the GTX.

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