The National Security Agency’s new $2 billion Utah data center keeps suffering from costly meltdowns and government officials are not sure of the cause, Siobhan Gorman of The Wall Street Journal reports.
Each meltdown caused as much as $100,000 in damage. The center requires about 65 megawatts of electricity to run, at a cost of more than $1 million a month, and the surges are probably connected to the electrical system’s inability to simultaneously run computers and keep them cool.
The Army Corps of Engineers (ACE), which is overseeing the data center’s construction, disagrees with contractors on a number of issues, noting that the causes of the meltdowns “are not yet sufficiently understood” despite contractors’ assertions the “root cause” had been uncovered.
In a report, an ACE team notes that the government has incomplete information about the design of the electrical system. It also found that regular quality controls in design and construction were bypassed in an effort to “fast track” the Utah project.
The million square-foot data mining complex is meant to serve as “the NSA cloud,” James Bamford, author of the book “The Shadow Factory: The NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America,” wrote in Wired last year. “The center will be fed data from the agency’s eavesdropping satellites, overseas listening posts, and secret monitoring rooms in telecom facilities throughout the U.S.”
One Fox News report said that the center has the potential to store as much as 5 zettabytes (1 zettabyte = 1 billion terabytes = 1 trillion gigabytes). With just 1 zettabyte (1024 exabytes) of space, the NSA can store a year’s worth of the global Internet traffic (which is estimated reached 966 exabytes per year in 2015).
Gorman notes that the agency currently “collects the phone records of nearly all Americans and has built a system with telecommunications companies that provides coverage of roughly 75% of Internet communications in the U.S.”