Not so mega: Blueprints of NSA Utah data center reveal far smaller facility

Not so mega: Blueprints of NSA Utah data center reveal far smaller facility

Summary: Petabytes not zetabytes... but large enough to spy on LA.

TOPICS: Data Centers
NSA Utah data center blueprint obtained by Forbes.


Forbes obtained the blueprints (above) for the NSA's one million square foot data storage facility being build in Utah, and due to open in September.

Kashmir Hill reports that experts have said it's likely not as formidable as some prior estimates: Blueprints Of NSA's Ridiculously Expensive Data Center In Utah Suggest It Holds Less Info Than Thought - Forbes

Brewster Kahle is the engineering genius behind the Internet Archive, which is kind of like the NSA for the public Web… Kahle estimates that a space of that size could hold 10,000 racks of servers (assuming each rack takes up 10 square feet). “One of these racks cost about $100,000,” says Kahle. “So we are talking $1 billion in machines.”

… If Kahle’s estimations and assumptions are correct, the facility could hold up to 12,000 petabytes, or 12 exabytes – which is a lot of information(!) – but is not of the scale previously reported.

The data center’s capacity as calculated by Kahle would only allow the NSA to create Beyonce-style archives for the 13 million people living in the Los Angeles metro area.

Foremski's Take: Those numbers about LA are too close to be a coincidence. It's clear that NSA is targeting Hollywood and surrounding areas, which host large Gay and Iranian populations.

As a byproduct of its investigation, the NSA will be able to boast having the best library of high def digital movies.

Topic: Data Centers

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  • I've got a bridge to sell

    Tom, in what universe is it reasonable for any of us to believe that Kashmir Hill of Forbes operates with sufficient clearance to be granted the actual blueprints for the building of a top-secret signals intelligence facility operated by this country's premier clandestine foreign intelligence gathering service?
    • so fake.

      Can you imagine the outrage if Snowden had leaked the real blueprints of that building? And now Forbes can publish them without any outrage? Obvious leak of false documents to calm the weak minds of stupid people.
    • Kashmir Hill is a moron.

      He's basing his calculations on a traditional data center. Logic tells us that what the NSA does is far from traditional. They use behemoth supercomputers to do their processing and data filtering. They also don't store every tidbit of information they gather on everyone indefinitely. The data stream is filtered down to items flagged by their processing equipment before it's stored for any length of time. I'm sure they eliminate 99.9% of the data prior to storing it, so processing 13 million people would mean potentially storing data on 13 thousand. Storing data on 300 million U.S. citizens would only amount to 300 thousand in long term storage. A center that size could easily store that, given the beyond cutting edge equipment they have covertly developed over the years. Many billions of dollars and recruiting some of the most brilliant minds in the world can buy you a huge edge when it comes to designing and building your own specialized equipment.
    • You'd be amazed what they disclose...

      The NSA seems to be doing a pretty good job of bragging about their capabilities themselves, they really didn't need Snowdon and Forbes to help - or hinder. See Maybe they are trying to scare "the enemy", maybe they are justifying their budget to Congress and maybe they are understating.

      They say how much they plan to store, they say how sort of computers they will be using, what level of encryption they indent to crack - they say they have the "capability to break the AES encryption key within an actionable time period" (this is from 2004).

      On top of that, the US govt contracts rules require that all the contracts are public, to a certain extent, so I have seen the something like the above before on a US govt "here's the contract" website which I can't find now. But, come on, there's really no secrets revealed about a data centre by knowing its construction details... its the equipment that it put it in that counts. And I'm sure its not all normal, run of the mill machinery.
  • and...

    how can it possibly be all right to "only" spy on the citizens of Los Angeles? ONLY?
    Tony Burzio
  • So what?

    Storage density has done nothing be continue to improve.

    And facilities are scalable and expandable. Especially in a desert with lots of empty space.
  • Size Does Not Matter Anymore

    With today's super computer processing power, size is largley irrelevant. I doubt this is their only one too.
  • William Binney, a former NSA technical director

    According to npr dot org, "The estimated power of those computing resources in Utah is so massive it requires use of a little-known unit of storage space: the zettabyte. as the amount of data that would fill 250 billion DVDs.
    The NSA's Utah Data Center will be able to handle and process five zettabytes of data, according to William Binney, a former NSA technical director . Binney's calculation is an estimate. An NSA spokeswoman says the actual data capacity of the center is classified.
    "They would have plenty of space with five zettabytes to store at least something on the order of 100 years worth of the worldwide communications, phones and emails and stuff like that," Binney asserts, "and then have plenty of space left over to do any kind of parallel processing to try to break codes.""
  • You're Kidding?

    Hopefully people reading this are clicking on the link in the 2nd paragraph which contains the full article and shows that the facility is much larger than just the sample of one building that was shown in the pic at the top of this article. I think that Kahle is incorrect in his estimations as he is talking numbers of servers. This facility will primarily house Storage Arrays and with the current density of storage capacity per rack this can potentially reach an amount much higher than what is estimated in this article. As I don't know what type of storage they'll be using (disk type, size, etc.) I can't even estimate it with any accuracy. Whatever it is, I do wonder how they are going to back it all up? Also, I have heard (unconfirmed though), that the facility will be comprised of several levels.
  • Amazing Sheeple!!!

    Not so big ??? If the DC was 2 servers SPYING on Law Abiding Citizens should mean at a Minimum Presidential Impeachment!
    Obama is 1000 times Worst then Nixon and the comment for a Illegal Spying on Americans and Worldwide population is ... no so big after all ???
    WTF if going on you you people!?
    Everyone should be thinking about Storming the DC and making a Reverse taxation process, that is taking all servers from inside and selling online!
    Amazing Sheeple brainwash !
    Oh .. and by the way 400.000 Servers is a HUGE Datacenter, also ... read the news :
    That is even bigger then the Utah ... once again maybe a operation to distract the Tax paying sheeple Americans ...