Construction is underway for a sprawling and seriously expensive National Security Agency data center in the Utah desert, and a set of floor plans just hit the web. It all looks appropriately intimidating.
Wrapped in what we’re guessing is going to be a heavily policed perimeter row, the facility contains four data halls over several building as well as the power sources, batteries and back up generators to keep them on. There are also a couple of ponds and a row of administrative buildings, including an infirmary, and at least one kennel. (Yes, they’re using guard dogs.)
But what doesn’t show up on the floor plan are the servers themselves. Everybody’s been placing bets on how many millions of minutes of Americans’ phone conversations the NSA will be able to store in its new facility, and the estimates so far are pretty extreme. Wired put the figure in the yottabyte range — a yottabyte is a trillion terabytes — while an NPR estimate had it at 5 zettabytes which is roughly 5 billion terabytes. Forbes, however, thinks it will be much less based on the floor plan, perhaps as little as 12,000 petabytes, or 12 million terabytes. You can almost picture a stack of external hard drives that high, huh?
Truth be told that’s not much storage. In Forbes‘ words, it’s only enough “to create Beyonce-style archives for the 13 million people living in the Los Angeles metro area.” But what does Forbes know? It’s terribly speculative to estimate how much storage can go into a space based on the size of the space alone, especially when we’re talking about the most secretive government agency out there. We don’t even know how the NSA is planning on storing all of this info! What if they have some superservers that store a million times what the ones on the market can? Maybe not, but we just don’t know.
We do know what the buildings look like now! So, pore over the designs. Draw up estimates. Plot the ultimate prank. Enjoy these floor plans and understand that they’re probably as much of this data centre as you’ll ever see. And we’ll probably never know the extent of its capabilities. [Forbes]